ISLAMABAD: Concerns over the country’s financial deterioration echoed in the Senate on Tuesday, with a treasury lawmaker calling for a parliamentary probe into the causes of economic downfall over the past 10 years.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Irfan Siddiqui suggested forming a committee comprising lawmakers to review the causes of economic downfall since 2013.

In a wide-ranging speech on the floor of the house, Mr Siddiqui chided political parties for indulging in “blame game” as he called for “introspection beyond political divisions”.

He said the parties kept criticising each other but were not ready to examine the real causes behind problems faced by the country today.

The senator added that ex-dictator retired General Pervez Musharraf suspended the Constitution twice, but did not go to jail for even a single day.

PML-N’s Irfan Siddiqui calls on political parties for ‘introspection’; senators angered by Lt Gen Ghafoor’s alleged remarks

“We [politicians] keep telling stories of each other’s corruption but nobody asks how many millions of dollars Musharraf deposited in his accounts,” he said as he questioned the prices of the former president’s “palaces”.

Talking about the deteriorating economic situation, Senator Siddiqui said in his opinion, the decline started with the ouster of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2017.

He added that GDP growth was good at that time with an inflation rate of around three per cent and a stable rupee.

“But then Nawaz Sharif was removed, and through the 2018 elections, a system was imposed which led to disaster,” he said in an apparent reference to the previous PTI-led government that came into power after the polls.

He also referred to the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which he had presented in the house.

He claimed that the bill “disappe­a­red” after it was passed by both houses of parliament seven months ago.

“This is not an insult to me, but an insult to this house and the entire parliament,” he said.

The bill sought to do away with judicial powers of the district administration in line with the Constitution.

Upon the lawmaker’s insistence, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani directed the Senate secretary to investigate the bill’s whereabouts and submit a report.

Alleged remarks by Lt Gen Ghafoor

JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza raised objections over the purported remarks of Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor about the recent protests led by Haq Do Tehreek in Gwadar.

Speaking on a point of public concern, he said protest was everyone’s right and the demands of the locals were neither unconstitutional nor illegal.

Last week, some social media reports claimed that Lt Gen Ghafoor, at a gathering in Gwadar, warned that anyone who protested in Gwadar in future would be sent to jail.

Senator Murtaza said he was appalled by the remarks of an officer who heads the security set-up in Balochistan.

“Is Gwadar some occupied territory?” asked Senator Murtaza.

He said the officer had no right to talk in such a manner and threaten the people. “We reject such behaviour and threats.”

He said if the officer continued with such threats, while in uniform, he would meet the fate of former army chiefs Gen Musharraf and Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa who had to face public criticism after retirement.

Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) Senator Danesh Kumar objected to the remarks of his fellows and expressed his surprise that unverified social media reports were being discussed in the house.

He said Jamat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad had also raised his concerns over the unconfirmed statement a day ago.

He questioned why the Pakistan Army was being dragged into such matters unnecessarily when the institution was saying that it wanted to remain apolitical.

Senator Ahmad on a point of personal explanation said Lt Gen Ghafoor should clarify the statement attributed to him.

“If he clarifies, then I will withdraw my statement,” Mr Ahmad said, adding that no member of the house should become a spokesperson of a military officer.

He also said the demands of the people of Gwadar were genuine and the HDT chief Maulana Hadayatur Rehman was the voice of the poor people of Balochistan.

Senator Murtaza also said the statement attributed to the military commander was widely reported and the general should have contradicted it if it was incorrect.

Earlier, Senator Naseebullah Bazai accused Maulana Rehman of using the people of Gwadar for “vested interests”.

He said the port city had international importance and that the HDT chief was blackmailing the authorities in the name of protests.

Speaking on a point of public importance, independent Senator Naseema Ehsan from Balochistan alleged that the navy was involved in land grabbing in Balochistan.

“We think that if the navy or any other institution comes to Balochistan, we will be safe and the province will progress,” she said while blaming the navy for “occupying the lands of the poor”.

She insisted that people’s grievances should be heard and the matter of land grabbing should be referred to the revelation committee.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2023

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