ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Monday witnessed a war of words between PPP and PTI lawmakers over President Dr Arif Alvi’s refusal to summon the inaugural session of the National Assembly.

Former Senate Chairman and PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani accused President Alvi of not only violating the Constitution but also trying to derail the democratic system.

Speaking in the House on a point of public concern, Senator Rabbani said that the Presidency was openly violating Article 91 of the Constitution, which binds the president to summon the session of the NA within 21 days of the general polls. “It is very unfortunate that the Constitution is being subjected to terrorism, and the latest attack on it is unfortunately from the Presidency,” said Senator Rabbani.

He added that the president, throughout his tenure, had been violating the Constitution during different periods. Senator Rabbani expressed surprise that the president was taking an unconstitutional step by refusing to summon the NA. He added that caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar had sent a summary to the president under Article 48 of the Constitution to summon the session, which was time-bound.

PML-N lawmaker seeks amnesty to legalise black money

He underlined that the president had to act in accordance with the advice of PM.

“President is part of the parliament under Article 58 of the Constitution and I, through the floor of the house, would like to convey to him not to violate the Constitution and summon the session to ensure that democratic process continues in the country,” he said.

In an instant retort, PTI Senator Saifullah Abro said that seasoned politician Mr Rabbani should first advise the ECP to allocate reserved seats to SIC.

He pointed out that the issue was the main cause behind the president’s refusal to summon the lower house of parliament. He added that the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Sindh had elected their chief ministers, but SIC has not been allocated reserved seats there. “All parties should ask the ECP to allocate these reserved seats to PTI-backed SIC,” he said, adding that the president would then immediately summon the session.

Senator Abro said that the ECP was bound to upload Form-45 on its website within 14 days of the election under Clause 95 of the Elections Act 2017, but the electoral watchdog has failed to do so despite the passage of 18 days. He added that the electoral watchdog was violating the law. He advised other parties that they should censure the ECP instead of the president.

Black money

“The black economy should be given a way,” PML-N lawmaker and former chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Pir Sabir Shah said while speaking on a motion. The motion was moved by Senator Mushtaq Ahmad of JI to discuss the performance of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which, according to a World Bank report, was the worst in Asia despite the fact that these entities receive a huge amount of Rs458 billion annually from the government.

Another highlight of the day was a call by a PML-N senator for the introduction of an amnesty scheme allowing the whitening of black money to boost the national economy.

Senator Shah referred to the recovery of billions of rupees earned by corrupt means by bureaucrats and businessmen and said while the white economy was on a downslide, the black economy was flourishing. He said the black money stashed in godowns and houses should be given way and allowed to be brought into the mainstream. “We will have to take bitter decisions to strengthen the economy,” he remarked.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, while speaking on his motion, said that the SOEs running in losses were a threat to sovereignty of the country. He mentioned that the World Bank, in a report, termed Pakistan’s economic model as failed and ineffective.

“This model is part of the problem and not part of the solution,” he remarked. He added that, according to a World Bank report, tax evasion, concessions and subsidies to the elite class cost $70.4bn.

Senator Kamil Ali Agha of PML-Q suggested a discussion on the performance of each and every SOE one by one to chalk out a future course of action.

Senator Humayun Mohmand of PTI said that, besides corrupt bureaucrats, decision-makers from the political leadership backing them should also be held accountable.

Senator Danesh Kumar said the amount that was being wasted on SOEs every year was equivalent to three years’ budget of Balochistan. He advocated for closing down these burdening SOEs.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed seven bills, including the Christian Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2023, moved by PML-N Senator Kamran Michael, with an adopted amendment proposed by the mover.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

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