ISLAMABAD: Senators on Monday raised the alarm over the rising tide of terrorism, price hike and shortage of wheat flour in the country.

Taking part in a debate on a surge in terrorist attacks, with a particular reference to the Peshawar blast, they observed that a joint sitting of parliament should be convened to thrash out a way forward to address the issue.

Members from both sides of the aisle spoke about the whopping increase in the prices of petroleum products and the alarming economic situation.

The Jamaat-i-Islami’s Mushtaq Ahmad called for summoning a joint sitting of parliament, suggesting that an in-camera session be convened where the authorities concerned should be held answerable for the prevalent law and order situation.

Upper house witnesses heated debate over increasing attacks, petrol price hike, flour shortage; minister urges major reforms to eradicate terror

He said since the poor nation was giving away billions to the armed forces, the judiciary and the police, it has a right to ask the security institutions to explain why such incidents were happening and why the intelligence agencies were unable to pre-empt them.

“The sleeper cells of terrorists were unearthed, but who will eliminate them and when,” he wondered.

Had the Bannu jailbreak, the kidnapping of a major and a DSP and the CTD Bannu attack been probed, the Peshawar blast would never have occurred, the JI lawmaker insisted.

Endorsing the call for the joint session, Senator Fida Muhammad Khan asked how long the Pakhtuns would continue to carry coffins.

He claimed that there was a link between the series of terrorist attacks and the conduct of elections.

Senator Rubina Khalid said that the political parties, whose ministers had backchannel communications with terrorists, paid extortion money and made compromises with them, should introspect.

At the outset, Leader of Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem said the government’s decision to increase the petrol price by Rs35 per litre came like a bombshell for the citizens. The irony is that this would not stop and the government would continue to give such bitter pills, he claimed.

He pointed out that the government had already indicated to increase the gas and electricity tariffs while a mini-budget is also being introduced to levy new taxes amounting to Rs200 billion.

“How long will you keep on killing the poor?” he questioned.

Mr Waseem chided PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif for merely expressing his displeasure every time fuel prices are increased. He also criticised the government over continuing devaluation of rupee against the dollar.

He cautioned that the ruling coalition would be violating the Constitution if it delayed the election of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies. He said the system would work only if the Constitution was followed.

“There is no other way to take the country forward expect for holding free and fair elections,” he concluded.

Minister for Law Azam Nazeer Tarar said major reforms would be needed to root out the menace of terrorism.

Lashing out at the PTI, he said the party itself had remained involved in violation of Constitution and therefore it should not give lessons of abiding by the sacred document.

“The destruction that you are seeing today is a result of the ‘dictatorship’ of last four years (when PTI was in power),” he said.

Mr Tarar appealed to the PTI to have mercy on the state and sit with them in parliament and talk to them to pull the country out of the crisis.

During the speech of PML-N’s Syed Asif Kirmani, Senator Haji Hidayatullah of ANP passed some remarks against the founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, but after strong protest by Mr Kirmani and others he retracted his words.

Haji Hidayat not only apologised to Mr Kirmani and other senators, but also praised the Quaid-i-Azam as a great leader.

Many members expressed concern over the shortage of wheat flour across the country.

In response, the Minister for National Food Security Tariq Basheer Cheema said the Centre had met the demands of the all the provinces, adding it was the provinces’ duty to ensure uninterrupted supply of the staple.

Legislation

The Senate passed “The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2022” and “The Federal Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022”. The first bill seeks to stop individuals and factory owners from throwing any amount of untreated wet waste directly into the rivers.

The other bill seeks to provide powers to the academic council to prioritise practical learning, requiring all students to take part in some sort of internship experience.

Besides, “The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) (Amendment) Bill, 2023”, “The Pakistan Halal Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2022”, “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2022”, “The Christian Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2023”, and “The National Commission on the Rights of Child (Amendment) Bill, 2023” were introduced in the house.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2023

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