ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif assured the National Assembly on Wednesday that the government has not decided to export wheat from the country, even as the State-Owned Enterprises (Governance and Operations) Bill, 2024 was rushed through the legislature.

This controversial ame­n­dment, which allows the government to remove board members of SOEs based on recommendat­ions from the board nomination committee, had been passed by the Senate the previous week and will become law upon President Asif Ali Zardari’s assent.

“I want to bring it on record before the House that there is no such decision on wheat exports,” the PM said while responding to the opposition leader’s accusations against Inte­r­ior Minister Mohsin Naqvi.

Earlier, Omar Ayub had accused Mr Naqvi of making hundreds of billions in an alleged wheat import scam during his days as caretaker Punjab chief minister. The opposition leader also expressed concerns about potential wheat export plans. PM Shehbaz, however, said that it was a matter of record that wheat and sugar were first exported and later imported during PTI’s days in power. “Where the billions and trillions of rupees went is a part of history,” he remarked.

The prime minister praised National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq for being generous in giving time to the opposition, contrasting it with PTI’s tenure under Asad Qaiser, who he claimed often denied him permission to speak as opposition leader. Former speaker Asad Qaiser refuted these claims and challenged the premier to verify the facts from record.

Mr Qaiser pointed out that during his term, the opposition leader used to speak for hours and had even been given the floor before the finance minister’s budget speech, a first in the country’s parliamentary history.

He said the National Assembly proceedings were telecast live at the time, insisting that the current parliament faces censorship and has become a mere debating club.

Mr Qaiser also drew attention to a recent raid on the opposition leader’s residence and the harassment of lawmakers. In response, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif recalled the arrest of various PML-N lawmakers during the PTI rule, lamenting that Mr Qaiser never issued production orders for them.

SOE Governance Bill

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, on behalf of Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, introduced the bill through a supplementary agenda after suspending the rules for immediate consideration. Earlier, Chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue Syed Naveed Qamar presented the committee’s report on the bill.

Leader of the Opposition Omar Ayub criticised the process, alleging that amendments were not shared with committee members beforehand. “There should be certain quantitative matrixes and criteria to appoint the board of directors based on their performance,” he said.

Mr Ayub noted that he and party members Shahram Khan, Mobeen Arif and Ali Sarfaraz had written a note of dissent.

Citizenship Amendment Bill

The Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2024, also landed in the House. Law Minister Tarar moved it on behalf of the interior minister.

He explained that under the previous law, citizenship was granted to every child of foreign nationals born in Pakistan. The amendment proposes that at least one parent must be a Pakistani national for their child to obtain citizenship.

The minister said some refugees claimed citizenship, even though it was written in their contract that they would not be entitled to citizenship. He said hundreds of such cases were pending before courts, causing a lot of expenditure.

He said that after the amendment, only those children would be entitled to citizenship who were born in Pakistan and at least one of their parents is a Pakistan national.

The National Assembly speaker referred the bill to the Standing Committee on Interior for deliberations. The House was later prorogued indefinitely.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2024

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