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August 31, 2018
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Senate Question-Hour: Gwadar Port to be made fully operational, says minister

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August 31, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Adviser to PM on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan has said that certain steps would be taken to make the Gwadar Port fully operational as he believed that it is a big national asset and conceded that currently limited exports and commercial imports were taking place from the port.

Earlier, senators from Balochistan, including Usman Kakar, said that the port was called a game-changer but surprisingly, in five years, only 99 ships anchored there. Babar said it was alarming that the port was readied in 2006 but shipments were limited. Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak said that businessmen did not find the port viable and hardly had any attraction for them, as only the government cargo was being handled.

The matter was referred to the committee concerned for deliberations and report.  The Senate was informed that a total of 71 toll plazas on the national highways and motorways across Pakistan were handed over to various operators; of these the contract of 31 was awarded to the National Logistics Cell.

During the Question-Hour, in a written reply to a question by PTI Senator Muhammad Azam Swati, the Minister for Communications said that the contracts were in currency, as the contract period was up to June 30, 2018. It is pertinent that the notice was received by the Senate Secretariat from Senator Swati on April 25 this year.

He pointed out that the overall contract amount was Rs14.37 billion, whereas up to April 2018, Rs10.85 billion were paid, showing that still about Rs4 billion were to be paid to the government by the operators.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that a total of 34 political and non-career ambassadors were appointed since June 2013 and the contract of 16 of these had expired, who included 11 retired personnel from the armed forces (five retired Lt. Generals, four Major Generals one Brigadier and one Air Marshal).

He explained that currently there were 18 ambassadors and consul generals on contract on similar grounds. They included 12 retired senior officers from the armed forces (one retired Lt. General, six Major Generals, one Brigadier, two Vice Admirals, one Air Chief Marshal and one Air Marshal). He added that according to the appointment letter, a non-career ambassador or high commissioner would offer his or her resignation when the government appointing him or her goes.

Ambassadors to Doha, Havana and Rabat, Shahzad Ahmad, Kamrani Shafi and Nadir Chaudhri respectively, he noted, had resigned due to the change of government. To a question by Senator Mohsin Aziz of PTI, the minister said that the total number of Pakistani prisoners in India was 594, whereas India had freed 420 Pakistani prisoners during the last five years. He added there were 471 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails while Pakistan had released 1,997 Indian prisoners in five years.

In reply to another question by Senator Aziz, Minister for Health Aamir Mehmood Kayani said that seven senior government officers and legislators had availed the facility of medical treatment abroad during the last five years. However, similar information about the judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and high court judges was not available with this ministry, the minister pointed out.

Those who availed the facility included: Rashid Godel, amount Rs3,180,000, Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan, amount Rs2,755,208 and Pounds 22,000, wife of MNA Sahibzada Nazeer Sultan, amount US dollars 30,000, retired IG police Wajahat Latif, amount Rs2,655,496, Deputy Secretary Liaqat Ali Naqvi, amount US dollars 15,000, Secretary Federal Ombudsman Abdul Malik Ghuri, amount US dollars 1,623.47 and wife of retired Director President Secretariat Parveen Sagheer, amount Rs500,000.

Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari assured the House a holistic approach would be adopted to provide full legal and humanitarian assistance to the Pakistani prisoners languishing in foreign jails. She explained that consular services of Pakistani missions abroad would be upgraded for this purpose. She said a policy decision would also be taken to get in touch with different countries for repatriation of Pakistani prisoners.

The government, she continued, would bolster efforts to produce skilled workforce keeping in the view the demand of jobs in the gulf and other countries. In a written reply, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the House that safeguarding national security, promoting Pakistan’s economic interests and strengthening international partnerships have been some of the overarching themes of country’s foreign policy. He said the foreign policy in any other democratic country was formulated by the government. He, however, said the parliament, security agencies and some other ministries play an equally important role in providing crucial inputs. This practice, he said, was also followed in other countries as well.

The minister informed the House that as many as 6,450 Pakistanis had been incarcerated in jails of seven Gulf countries in 2017-18. In a written reply to the question by Senator Bahramand Tangi, he said 2,970 Pakistanis had been incarcerated in various jails of Saudi Arabia, 2,600 in the United Arab Emirates, 657 in Oman, 128 in Bahrain, 54 Pakistanis in Qatari jails, 38 Pakistanis were in jails of Kuwait and 3 Pakistanis in Yemen in 2017-18.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed a unanimous resolution urging the government to immediately enact legislation to criminalise enforced disappearances. The resolution was moved by Mian Raza Rabbani of PPP.

The resolution called on the government to join the international campaign to end enforced disappearances by ratifying the international convention on protection of all persons against enforced disappearances.

The resolution expressed solidarity with the families of missing persons and those who are victims of enforced disappearances. It assured the families of disappeared persons that the Upper House will be their voice in ensuring justice, recovery and punishment to the perpetrators.

The chair also admitted for discussion an adjournment motion regarding alleged rigging in the general elections. It was moved by Muhammad Javed Abbassi of PML-N. However, despite time was fixed for the debate after finishing the orders of the day, however, it could not be held Thursday, as no minister was around to take notes.

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