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Anger in NA over UN missing persons probe

September 10, 2012

— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: While a junior federal minister was furious in the National Assembly on Monday over the visit to Pakistan of a UN team to collect data about the so-called missing persons, a senior cabinet member agreed to have a debate in the house over this “matter of national security”.

But there was no immediate government response a senior opposition lawmaker had sought over information given to the house Public Accounts Committee on Friday that the army had recalled three retired generals to active service to face an inquiry by itself instead of the National Accountability Bureau for the alleged financial corruption in the National Logistics Cell (NLC).

Minister of State for Housing and Works Mohammad Raza Hayat Hiraj saw a sinister interference in the 10-day visit of the delegation of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances that arrived on Sunday to probe an issue already being investigated at home by the Supreme Court and a parliamentary committee on national security.

“There are other motives behind this,” said Mr Hiraj, who belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the main ally in the Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government, and, while calling the trip a foreign ministry “failure”, angrily asked: “Is this (Pakistan) a banana republic?”

He said he feared the report of the UN team would be used to highlight the views of “one per cent” separatists of Balochistan — emphasising that 99 per cent people of the province were loyal to Pakistan — and demanded that the house debate the issue for which he said he could move an adjournment motion or a house committee deliberate on what he described as an issue more important than those of electricity and floods that were earlier raised in the house.

In the absence of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Kashmir Affairs Minister Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo appreciated Mr Hiraj’s concern and agreed with him for a debate on what he called “a matter of national security”.

But Mr Wattoo’s suggestion that Mr Hiraj bring an adjournment motion for a debate came too in the day just before Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi adjourned the house until 10am on Wednesday, allowing a break for Tuesday to mark the 63rd death anniversary of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Earlier, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N, speaking on a point of order, described the recall of the three retired generals to escape a NAB investigation at the call of the PAC as a manifestation of an old “mindset” that he regretted was not changing.

Asking “with whose permission they (army) are doing this”, the member from Lahore said the National Assembly and democratic forces of the country “should take notice of this” and advised the military leadership “not to make it a matter of its ego”.

Independent member Zafar Beg Bhittani from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas endorsed Mr Rafiq’s views, wondering why retired army officers should not face accountability like civilians.

In the absence of Defence Minister Naveed Qamar as well as PPP chief whip Khursheed Ahmed Shah, who usually responds to important issues raised by the opposition in the absence of concerned ministers, the treasury benches and PAC chairman Nadeem Afzal Gondal of the PPP, who was present in the house at the time, preferred silence on the alleged scam in the NLC, which is run by military authorities but is under the administrative control of the federal government’s Planning Commission.