Monday December 04, 2023

Govt couldn’t keep institutions in their ambit: Bilawal

PPP chairman tells parliamentarians that youth who comprises 65% of the country’s population “sick of the old politics”

By Our Correspondent
August 08, 2023
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is addressing the National Assembly on August 7, 2022. — Screengrab/YouTube/PTV
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is addressing the National Assembly on August 7, 2022. — Screengrab/YouTube/PTV

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman and Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Monday said the incumbent regime in its 16 months tenure could not make the institutions work within their ambit.

Speaking on floor of the National Assembly, he called for a concerted effort towards reconciliation to mitigate animosity and enmity in the political scene.

He underscored the significance of a constructive opposition while advocating for such brand of politics that does not fuel hatred, division, and hostility. The PPP chairman said it was imperative for all political parties to frame rules of the game and a code of conduct for future political endeavours.

“We also wanted to expose a selected regime like Imran Khan but it was kept in view no such action is taken which could give opportunity to a third force,” he said, adding that they opted for constitutional option of sending selected government packing through vote of no-confidence.

He said that the incumbent regime got such an opposition which crossed such red lines which were not even crossed when a prime minister was hanged. “Unfortunately this opposition is not ready to learn lessons from and their politics revolves around settling personal scores,” he said. He stressed that Charter of Democracy should be formulated, wherein political parties “collectively outline the ‘rules of the game’ and the ‘code of conduct’ for their political affairs and interactions with institutions”.

“If not a new Charter of Democracy, we can agree on the old charter,” he said. The PPP chairman said that other institutions would have to accept the same charter or become part of that dialogue.

“We will have to decide whether Wapda will be run by a justice of the Supreme Court,” he said. The minister urged all the institutions to operate within their defined domains, admitting that the desired progress could not be fully achieved during 15 to 16 month tenure in the coalition government.

He stressed the need for political unity and reconciliation from all to steer the democratic system to continue its smooth journey.

The minister appealed to the key political figures, including Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, to make decisions that would help create a conducive political environment, mainly for PMLN leader Maryam Nawaz and himself.

“Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari should take such decisions which could make politics for me and Maryam Nawaz easy in future,” he said.

“What I am seeing is that our elders want us to follow the same politics which they did in the last 30 years,” he said, adding that however, the young generation is sick of such traditional politics. He said the political leadership should take care of aspirations of young generation who makes 65 percent of population.

Highlighting the significant influence of the youth, who constitute 65 percent of the population, Bilawal emphasised that the future of the nation rested on their shoulders. There was need for a political approach that “inspires hope and empowers the younger generation to lead the country”.

“The upcoming elections would be dedicated to fulfill the aspirations of the youth,” he said. Talking about his first term in the National Assembly, Bilawal recalled his inaugural speech with pride, acknowledging the legacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose foundational role in the Assembly he had honoured.

He fondly recounted his interactions and collaborations with his colleagues during the period. He underlined that the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) remained committed to upholding the philosophy and the teachings of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

While opposing policies through constitutional means, the party refrained from abusing its political rivals and maintained a principled stance.

He asserted that the PPPP’s efforts were aimed at preserving democratic institutions and ensuring the continuous journey of democracy. While in the opposition, their actions, including protests, long marches, and a no-confidence motion, were conducted within the limits of the Constitution.

“The verdict of history would ultimately determine the impact of their endeavours,” he added. He lamented that the PTI had damaged the Jinnah House and attacked military installations.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly, just two days prior to planned dissolution, okayed the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill 2023 after adopting an amendment from the Senate which omitted a provision that could have granted intelligence agencies the power to search premises or a person without warrants.

The Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill 2023 in the first instance, last week, was passed by the National Assembly including insertion of Section 2A and in Clause 11 of the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill 2023 which empowered intelligence agencies to search premises or a permission without any search warrants.

As the bill landed in the Upper House of Parliament it was opposed by Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan and others. On Sunday the Senate passed revised version of the bill. “The objection has been removed and clause which regarding search without warrant also stands withdrawn,” Law Minister Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar who re-tabled the bill with amendments received from the Senate said.

Now the revised version empowers the Federal Investigation Agency to conduct investigations into individuals suspected of violating the Official Secrets Act. The amended bill also excludes the amendment which labelled an individual as enemy for engaging with foreign agents.

The minister pointed out the word knowingly had been added to a clause which in its original form “a person may be presumed to be in communication with an enemy or foreign agent if he has either within or outside Pakistan visited the address”.

An important insertion in the Official Secrets Act 1923 says that under this Act “the Investigation Officer shall be an officer of the FIA not below the rank of BPS-17 or equivalent and he shall be designated by Director General FIA. If Director General FIA deems necessary, he may appoint Joint Investigation Team consisting of officers of intelligence agen­cies as he may appoint.”

According to the bill, the JIT will complete its inquiry within 30 days. The case relating to civil espionage will be investigated by the FIA or JIT. However, according to an amendment in Clause-B of Section 12, the punishment for an offence has been reduced from 14 to 10 years.

The House also passed the Pakistan International Airline Corporation (Conversion) (Amendment)Bill 2023 which amends the Pakistan International Airline Corporation (Conversion) Act 2016 amid opposition from Pakistan Peoples Party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and others. Those who opposed the bill said it was aimed at privatisation of the national flag careers.

Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali made some interesting remarks saying as to why they were not going for privatisation of the Election Commission of Pakistan which is unable to conduct elections on time.

The bill which was passed by the Senate on Sunday was what Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said was aimed at revitalising the national flag carrier and align it with international aviation safety and regulatory standards.

The minister highlighted the adverse impact of disinformation disseminated by a former government minister, leading to an annual loss of Rs71 billion. He emphasised that this misleading statement not only incurred severe financial losses on national exchequer but also negatively affected Pakistani pilots employed by international airlines such as Emirates.

He said that out of the total loss of Rs71 billion experienced by the PIA, a substantial portion of Rs59 billion was attributed to revenue generated from the United Kingdom (UK). The minister assured the House that neither the PIA was being privatised nor none of over 7,500 employees would be rendered jobless.

Meanwhile, the joint sitting of the Parliament, earlier on Monday passed two bills including The Trade Organisations (Amendment) Bill 2023 and the Trade Dispute Resolution Bill 2023. The two bills which were passed by the National Assembly and not passed by Senate within 90 days were taken into consideration under Article 70 (3) of the Constitution.