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February 14, 2018

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NA rejects continuous rise in prices of petroleum products

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday unanimously rejected continuous increase in the prices of petroleum products during the last few months.

The Lower House of the Parliament, which executed private members business on Tuesday, passed a unanimous resolution demanding of the government to take immediate steps for reduction in prices of the petroleum products. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) parliamentarian Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqoob moved the resolution.

Through another resolution, moved by Belum Hasnain, the National Assembly asked the government to take immediate steps for promotion of interfaith harmony in the country.

Speaking on the resolution, the parliamentarians were of the view that measures like celebration of Eidul Fitr on the same day and start of holy month of Ramzan-ul-Mubarak simultaneously across the country and control on hatred literature could be helpful in promotion of interfaith harmony. Sher Akbar Khan of JI and Ghulam Ahmad Bilour from Awami National Party (ANP) suggested that Pakistan should follow Saudi Arabia in celebration and observance of holy month of Ramazan as being done in Afghanistan.

Shahzia Marri of Pakistan said the National Action Plan (NAP) also demanded complete ban on all the hateful literature which has been the main hurdle in promotion of interfaith harmony. Aisha Gulalai, the dissident PTI member, said that extremism should not be linked with seminaries or any religion, saying that Mishal Khan was murdered in a university. She also called for recognising the role of minorities in the creation of Pakistan, saying their names should also be included in the Pakistan-related syllabi.

Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousuf told the House that Pakistan would soon host an international conference on interfaith harmony. He said in order to promote interfaith, the minister said that festivals of minorities like ‘Christmas’ and ‘Holi’ are also celebrated at the official level.

The opposition members, while speaking on a calling attention notice, protested against discrimination among the provinces in distribution of agricultural loans. PPP members Syed Naveed Qamar and Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah drew the attention of the House towards huge disparity in disbursement of farm loans between Punjab and rest of the provinces.

Naveed Qamar said that agriculturalists of all the provinces other than Punjab are considered as thieves and that was why they were not being given farm loans saying that the ongoing treatment was tantamount to break-up the country. “Why the other provinces are being punished if the Zarai Bank is not performing its duty professionally,” he said.

On that, the Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal said they were not calling anybody thief but it was a fact that the Zarai Bank could work properly if its loans are returned timely. He pointed out that agricultural growth in Punjab was more than rest of the provinces. However, while quoting some cases, he said other provinces were also given farm loans.

However, Dr. Azra Fazal immediately rejected statistics given by the cabinet member. The opposition leader Syed Khurshid Shah said they had no objection on release of loans to agriculturalists of Punjab but other provinces should also not be ignored.

He regretted that the industrial loans are given on 9% interest rate while 14% loan is applied on agricultural loans. Rana Muhammad Afzal told the House the government has allocated Rs1001 billion this year for provision of loans to the farmers. He said the loans are disbursed on the basis of cultivable land, recovery rate and credit requirements of the provinces. He rejected the impression that there is disparity in disbursement of farm loans between Punjab and the rest of the country.

He pointed out that as compared to Punjab's 41.23 &, the loan disbursement growth in Sindh stood at 60.3%, Balochistan 62% and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 43% during the first six months of current fiscal year.

The opposition leader proposed that a committee of the House should be constituted to consider matters pertaining to reducing the interest rate on agri loans and improving the disbursement method.

In his response, Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan stated that the agriculture subject stands devolved and responsibility also rests with the provinces to take a leading role in the development of the important sector.

Khurshid Shah, however, said the minister should correct his information that the agriculture subject was devolved to province and not the Zarai Bank. The National Assembly also passed the Federal Public Service Commission, Amendment Bill 2017, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

The House also passed The National Assembly Secretariat Employees Bill, 2018 which is meant to regulate recruitment and the conditions of the persons appointed in the National Assembly secretariat.

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