ISLAMABAD: The Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq, Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan and other senators Friday expressed deep concern over alleged violence against Baloch and Pakhtun students in Lahore, calling for immediate release of over 180 students lodged in Kot Lakhpat Jail.
As senators, belonging to Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata blamed the Punjab and Punjabi sentiments for at least five attacks on Pakhtun and Baloch students in last three years, Aitzaz rose to clarify that it had nothing to do with Punjabi sentiments or people of Punjab or any political party, and it was an issue of a religious group, who had also attacked his party in the past. “But we never raised the slogan of rise Punjabi rise,” he noted.
Raza Rabbani asked Zafarul Haq and Aitzaz to get the matter resolved. However, Aitzaz insisted that the chairman Senate should straightaway talk to Punjab chief minister, get the jailed students released and the wounded shifted to hospital and cases against them quashed. Raza Rabbani wanted both to get involved and ensure its early resolution and tell him, if his intervention was needed.
During the question hour, ANP Senator Shahi Syed staged walkout from the House after he was not allowed to speak over the matter, and he was joined by some PPP and PTI senators, including Nauman Wazir Khattak and Ahmad Hassan.
“Raymond Davis killed Pakistanis and Ehsanullah Ehsan resorted to terrorist acts, yet no terrorism cases were filed against them, whereas Baloch and Pakhtun students have been booked under anti-terrorism law and jailed in Kot Lakhpat Jail and being denied medical treatment for their broken limbs even,” said the PkMAP Senator Usman Khan Kakar after the question hour.
Kakar charged that they were being treated as if they were prisoners of war, or belonged to a foreign country and faced acute racial discrimination, while the Punjab government, its police and opposition looked the other way.
He even alleged that the provincial government and the police were also a party to the matter. He alleged that the Punjab University had been made hostage by the militant Jamiat, which wanted to impose its own brand of politics on students, which the Pakhtuns and Balochs resisted.
Other senators, who also gave vent to their anger and anguish over the way Pakhtun and Baloch students were treated, included Mir Kabeer, Ilyas Ahmad Bilour, Azam Swati and Aurangzeb Khan. They condemned what they called sowing the seeds of hatred and lamented that the students had timely informed the police about the impending attacks on them by the Jamiat, but the police did not act or intervene. They noted that the IJT had unleashed six such attacks. They asserted that such behaviour was against the spirit of federation.
Raza Rabbani wondered what line of action the inspector general of police was following as more than 180 children were in jail, they were being denied legal services and not being shifted to hospital, who were injured and terrorist cases registered against them.
Aitzaz warned that a new history would be written if they spent five nights in the jail and this would be like giving a new impetus to the nationalists’ struggle. He demanded their immediate release and mitigation of their sufferings.
“They are welcome in Punjab, which belongs to them. They are children of Pakistan. We are ready to extend any kind of assistance needed, even their boarding,” he maintained. However, he advised Kakar and other nationalist senators to grill Punjab government and take up the matter with them, as the PkMAP was the government’s ally. “It was an issue relating to Jamiat. Everybody should be free to hold cultural events. Jamiat has brought this kind of politics in Lahore and Karachi as well. The government must take action against them and protect the students,” he emphasised.
Zafarul Haq said that on the chairman Senate’s direction, he had talked to the provincial government and IG Punjab. He said none should try to spoil the environment at universities, as the Punjab government had taken initiatives to finance education of students from Balochistan and Fata. He said the matter would be resolved within a day or two.
Ilyas Bilour asserted that the students were at the university for studies and not for fights. The senators wanted the chairman Senate to form a committee on the matter. Mir Kabeer wondered what could be the repercussions if these 500 students, studying in Punjab, left for their respective areas without completing their education just because of a few bad elements.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said the chief minister was trying to summon all the concerned and resolve the issue as early as possible and said students from other provinces, including Gilgit-Baltistan, come to Punjab under the chief minister’s policy of extending best possible facilities to them, enabling them to contribute to nation-building afterwards.
However, he emphasised that maintaining discipline was very important and could not be ignored. To this, Rabbani insisted that the law should be applied to all with even-handedness. The interior minister, who also takes care of Ministry of Planning and Development, and Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal had to face tough time at the hands of Raza Rabbani and opposition senators over the issue of giving tax exemptions to the tune of Rs10.9 billion through an SRO on January 23, 2018 to a Chinese company building Sukkur-Multan Motorway. The senators alleged this was an example of favouritism and preferential treatment that too, to a foreign firm, leasing aside locals.
The chairman Senate referred this matter to the House panel on finance for consideration and sought report during the next Senate session in February. The matter was raised through a calling attention notice by PPP’s Murtaza Wahab, Saleem Mandviwala, Nauman Wazir of the PTI, Kamil Ali Agha of the PML and ANP’s Ilyas Bilour. They pointed out that Ishaq Dar had declared on the floor of the Senate, putting an end to issuance of SROs in future and questioned what was the logic of issuing SRO 47 (1) this month. Ahsan Iqbal and Rana Afzal insisted that the SRO was issued after the approval of the ECC and endorsement of the Federal Cabinet, which the chairman Senate and other senators strongly disputed and sought proof of the same.
Raza Rabbani read out the notification thrice to point out that there was no mention of the cabinet in it. Then he also read out related portion of the SC judgement, as to what exactly was the federal government, which said neither the prime minister, nor ministers nor the secretary was the federal government. Senators alleged corruption in the issue, which the ministers out rightly denied and said that it was a bid to undermine CPEC and discourage investment.
The senators rejected the minister’s rationale that the exemptions were given, as otherwise, tax payments would have been an added burden on the national exchequer, as CPEC was mainly a project of Chinese loans.
The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution to express complete solidarity with the people of Kashmir in their just struggle for freedom and to strongly condemn the Indian human rights abuses in Indian Held Kashmir. The resolution was moved by MQM’s Senator Nareen Jalil. The solidarity is observed every year on February 05. The House called for implementation of the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir.
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