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NA session ends amid grief

September 13, 2012

A view of National Assembly. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Amid sorrow over a “national disaster” of two killer factory fires in Karachi and Lahore and political suspense, the National Assembly ended its monsoon session a day early on Thursday, missing important legislative business days before a crucial court appearance by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

Neither a new accountability law, which has been hanging fire for over three years, nor a new anti-terrorism bill approved by the cabinet last week was taken up.

Even a bill to provide for the establishment of an intellectual property organisation, which the treasury and opposition benches had agreed to rush through the sitting, missed a vote by a whisker as Speaker Fehmida Mirza had read out most of the presidential prorogation order when Law and Justice Minister Farooq H. Naek rose to move for consideration of the draft.

The speaker earlier allowed the minister to resolve some unspecified differences voiced by Pakistan Muslim League-N’s Zahid Hamid and the adjournment of the house came in a bit of a hurry after it unanimously adopted two resolutions expressing sorrow over the Karachi and Lahore infernos and condemning a defamatory film made by a US-based Israeli about the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

The session which began on Sept 3 was earlier set to last until Friday.

The prime minister is due to appear before the Supreme Court on Sept 18 to respond to its latest demand that the government write to Swiss authorities to reopen disputed money-laundering charges against President Asif Ali Zardari or to disregard a Musharraf-era letter that asked them to drop the charges dating to 1990s.

Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan made his only speech of the session, which he had almost regularly missed on earlier days, to endorse the resolution moved by the law minister that declared Tuesday’s burning to death of at least 258 people at a Karachi garment factory and 21 at a Lahore shoe factory a “national disaster” and suggested remedial measures to the Sindh and Punjab governments, although he said it would merely be an “eyewash” in light of past experience.

The resolution called upon the provincial governments to immediately form judicial commissions with tasks like probing the incidents’ causes and fixing responsibility, specially on owners of factories and buildings for insufficient facilities to the employees and not following and implementing relevant rules and laws.

Other tasks proposed for the commissions were: fixing responsibility on government servants for “not enforcing and implementing relevant rules and laws in letter and spirit”, proposing necessary legislation, if needed, to prevent such tragedies in the future, ordering registration of first information reports against “culprits in order to bring them to justice” and recommending grant of compensation to the heirs of the dead and to the injured.

Through the second resolution, also moved by the law minister, the house strongly condemned what it called “the airing of a defamatory video clip” in the United States and said: “Such actions, synchronised with commemoration of atrocious events like 9/11, provoke hatred, discord and enmity within societies and between peoples of various faiths.”

It said the event had “deeply hurt the feelings of the people of Pakistan and Muslims all over the world” and added that Pakistan “is a strong proponent of interfaith harmony and believes that all manifestations of extremist tendencies must be opposed”.

The two issues were taken up by suspending other business midway through the question hour on a suggestion from PPP chief whip and Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Ahmed Shah.

A bill on the agenda for several days for setting up a Gwadar Port Authority was also not taken up, while a government-sought debate on the law and order situation remained inconclusive after only a few speeches.