Friday July 19, 2024

Senators demand debate on terrorism in joint session of Parliament

By Mumtaz Alvi
January 31, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The legislators in the Senate Monday called for summoning a joint sitting of the Parliament’s two chambers over the ongoing wave of terror attacks, as the federal government came under scathing criticism for the unprecedented increase in prices of petroleum products.

It was a private members but the chair gave floor to members to give vent their feelings after Leader of the Opposition and Law and Justice minister spoke on the POL prices and acts of terrorism, following the disposal of the agenda items. Members of the House expressed grave concern over the wheat and flour crisis in the country despite enough stocks available in the country.

National Food Security Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema said that it was the prime responsibility of the provinces to keep an eye on the supply and prices of the commodity, as he claimed the Centre had given what was demanded by the provinces and even an additional demand of wheat by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was met.

Referring to the hike in petroleum products rates, some senators wondered why it was the poor to suffer more and more and the elite classes enjoyed subsidies worth trillions of rupees. On the issue of terrorism, they wanted the government to share with the Parliament its security plan and related details and the way forward.

They expressed grief and anguish over the latest tragedies the country has witnessed from two transport accidents that left at least 54 people dead and then a bomb explosion at a Police Line mosque in Peshawar, which claimed at least 59 innocent lives.

Again, the treasury and the opposition blamed each other for the ongoing political and economic crises in the country with the former putting the blame on the last PTI government for the mess and the latter, claiming that the government had no plan to bring down the inflation and it found the easy way to further burden masses.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem, taking the floor at the very outset, said that the government’s decision to increase Rs35 per-liter price in petrol fell on the people like lightning. “The irony is that this increase in price is the first installment and the government would continue to give this bitter pill in the form of increase in phases,” he said.

He pointed out that the government had already indicated to increase the gas and electricity tariff while a mini-budget is also being intruded to levy new taxes amounting to Rs200 billion. “How long will you keeping on killing the poor,” he questioned.

Indirectly referring to ex-premier and PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif, who is living in self-exile in London, the opposition leader said that former prime minister used to give a lip service by showing his displeasure every time when fuel prices are increased.

He blamed the government for the flight of dollar against rupee and charged the ruling coalition would be committing violation of the Constitution, if it wanted to delay the election of provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The system, he cautioned, would work only if the Constitution was followed and that there is no other way to move forward the country expect holding free and fair elections.

In his response, Federal Minister for Law Azam Nazir Tarar, first spoke on the terrorist hit in Peshawar masjid and emphasized that major reforms were the imperative to ending the menace of terrorism, the nation had been witnessing for the last four decades.

“It is not the job of a single government, the entire nation will have to unite to get rid of this menace. PTI is the party that had remained involved in violation of the Constitution and it should not give them (rulers) the lessons of abiding by the sacred document. “The destruction you are seeing today is a result of dictatorship of last four years (of PTI),” he said.

He appealed to the PTI to have mercy on the state and sit with the government in the parliament and talk on how to bring the country out of the present crises. He added mere lectures and issuing statements will not serve any purpose.

PML-N Senator Dr Asif Kirmani rose to say that the menace of terrorism was raising its ugly head again and blamed the country’s elite and different mafias for all the wrongs for which the masses were always made to pay and suffer. He said that people had been giving sacrifices for the country and now it was the turn of elite and mafias to do the same.

During his speech, Senator Haji Hidayat Ullah of ANP passed a remark, and both exchanged hot words in relation to the elections held in 1945-46, prompting some senators on both sides of the aisle to rise and protest.

However, a better sense prevailed afterwards, and Haji Hidayat apologised to Kirmani and other senators, who had agitated on his remarks. Later, he again rose to clarify his statement and showered praise on the Quaid-e-Azam and said that he gave this country to us and ‘we broke it up and were guilty’, he wished every country had such leader.

Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad urged for the joint sitting of the Parliament and added if necessary, then the session might be held in-camera to hold all the concerned answerable for the present situation of law and order. He claimed that the poor nation was giving away Rs2000 billion for the armed forces, the judiciary and police.

He demanded of the security institutions to explain as to why such incidents were happening and why the intelligence agencies were unable to pre-empt them, which happening one after the other. “The sleep cells of terrorists were unearthed, but who will eliminate them and when,” he wondered.

Former chief minister Mahmood Khan had said that from May to December last, 376 terror hits had happened in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

JI lawmaker insisted that had the Bannu jailbreak, the kidnapping of a major and DSP and CTD Bannu occupation been probed, the police lines masjid attack would have not occurred.

Senator Fida Muhammad Khan also demanded a parliamentary joint session and asked for how long, Pakhtuns would carry funerals. He regretted five years down the road, in the Parliament, ministers and members would condemn such attacks and the matter would end while they come out. He traced a link between the series of terror attacks and the conduct of elections.

Senator Rubina Khalid said that the parties, whose ministers had back channel communications with terrorists and also paid them extortion and struck compromises with them, should have some retrospection.

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

Whereas, the Federal Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022 seeks to provide powers to the academic council to prioritise practical learning, requiring all students to take part in some sort of internship experience: This will give students options to get experiential learning opportunity that offers an invaluable edge before they even graduate.

“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. The Senate will now resume proceedings today (Tuesday) at 11:00am.