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Tough time in Senate: Govt feels the heat on inflation, India issue

By Our Correspondent
September 25, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Opposition legislators in the Senate Monday asked the government not to further burden masses with additional taxes and increased gas and power tariffs, as this ran contrary to the promises it had made to its voters.

Opening debate on the motion with regards to the Finance Supplementary (Amendment) Bill, 2018, PML-N Senator Abdul Qayyum counted achievements of the previous government and the things, which could not do.

He also floated some proposals, which included launching of efforts for debt rescheduling, as was done in 2002 with 15 countries, the World Bank, IMF and Paris Club, which offered dollars 12 billion with zero interest payments for initial 15 years.

PML-Functional Senator Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah advocated compensation to farmers, who had suffered due to non-availability of enough water in rabi and kharif seasons. He also called for giving support price to growers of cotton, sugarcane, wheat and some other crops, keeping in view their cost of production every year.

Earlier, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said visa problems being faced by Pakistani citizens in Kuwait would be taken up with Kuwaiti authorities. She explained that the matter was to figure in a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah mehmood Qureshi and his Kuwaiti counterpart on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

Responding to another calling attention notice by Sana Jamali and Kalsoom Perveen , Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad said the government was focusing on the development of Balochistan to bring the province at a par with other federating units.

He denied that a UNDP report had declared Balochistan as the poorest province in the world, conceding the largest province was the most backward in Pakistan among the four federating units. He added previous governments had tried to lift the standard of people there and the incumbent government would also accord priority to bring it at par with other provinces.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for a well-coordinated strategy to deal with the circular debt issue, as the Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz said in the House that circular debt had hit Rs1.2 trillion while presenting a report of the House Special Committee on Circular Debt.

Senator Shibli is convener of the committee. Legislators traced lack of coordination among the related companies and departments in the energy sector and also blamed the menace of corruption for the woes of the power sector, besides mismanagement and misgovernance.

Senator Shibli pointed out that the circular debt had rendered the national economy its hostage, as there was increase in it with each passing moment. He said that the previous government paid Rs470 billion to end circular debt, whereas the actual figure of the debt was Rs585 billion, which had now reached Rs1.2 trillion.

Leader of the House said that loadshedding of electricity was a reality and wondered why truth was not told to the nation in Pakistan. He noted that during the last five years, attention was paid to power generation only but in the process no attention was paid to legislation and implementation of laws. “Out of Rs100, Rs66 are recovered and the rest becomes part of circular debt,” he maintained.

The report, he noted, had identified all the problems and suggested their solutions as well. He said it was quite surprising that there were extremely kind of problems in power companies and Kesco, Pesco and Qesco were among those, facing so many problems.

Senators Kauda Babar, Behramand Tangi, Rukhsana Zuberi, Ameer Kabir advocated concrete measures to stop pilferage of electricity and rampant corruption from lineman to the chief. They also called for introduction of latest technology in energy sector.

The government also faced criticism in the Senate for making an offer for resumption of talks merely in response to a letter of congratulation to Prime Minister Imran Khan by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Senators also sought explanation from the government on media reports of re-alignment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and one legislator questioned Saudi Arabian intention to be part of this project.

Ex-chairman of the Senate, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, termed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer to India to come to dialogue table as ridiculous and contended the lethal use of force by the Indian occupation forces against the innocent Kashmiri people was the worst example of human right violations and in such in such circumstances, it could not hold talks, having nothing to defend its on-going atrocities on innocent Kashmiris.

He maintained, “The offer by the prime minister to invite India talks in response to a congratulatory letter by the Indian prime minister, which is a formality, should not have been reciprocated like this…our PM says he is ready for holding talks on terrorism, Kashmir [and] it is like the bull fighter inviting a bull to attack,” he lamented.

Rabbani pointed out another blunder by the government was that it should have owned the special commemorative postal to honour a freedom fighter Burhan Wani instead of saying that stamps were released by the caretaker government.

About a recent visit to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to India and Pakistan, he said that top US official issued a joint communiqué after meeting top Indian officials, while there was no such move when he met his counterpart in Pakistan, which was again a willful attempt that US wanted to give India a role in region that was not acceptable to Pakistan.

“We are aware that US wants to make India a policeman, but I would like to make it crystal clear that it is its wishful thinking as we will never accept India as the policeman of the region no matter what…,” he reiterated.

A nationalist Baloch Senator of Balochistan National Party-Mengal Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini questioned Saudi government’s intentions to join the multi billions dollars China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, saying it could be a ploy to counter Iran on the dictates of US.

On a point of public importance in the House order, Senator Jamaldini asked that what were the reasons behind government decision to allow Saudi Arabia to build an ‘oil city’ despite the fact it had already been given to China.

“We want to know why Saudi Arabia wants to become part of CPEC…Is the country doing so on dictates of US to counter Iran,” questioned Jamaldini. He continued, “It is a very serious issue and either the prime minister or the foreign minister must brief the House on this development, as we cannot allow our country to be used against any other country.”