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February 15, 2020

PM Imran under fire over statement on Reko Diq, Fazl

Top Story

February 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statements of proceedings under Article 6 of the Constitution against JUI-Fazl Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and clearing Pakistan’s debt through Reko Diq gold reserves came under fire in the Senate on Friday.

Legislators from Balochistan province, where lie these reserves, asserted that as per the Constitution, these resources belonged to their province but Prime Minister was ignorant of this fact, vowing to resist any such move. Senator Mir Kabir Shahi also filed an adjournment motion in the Senate Secretariat.

Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani asked the government to share the report on recent flour and sugar crisis with the House and fixed next Monday for debate on this issue and price hike. Former health minister was also referred in the House for increasing drug prices by 400 per cent and after having being relieved, as a reward he was made PTI secretary general.

The government also faced scathing criticism from the opposition senators for new rules for the social media and uncontrollable price hike of essential commodities. The treasury legislators hit back, alleging that it were the wrong policies of the previous regimes, particularly in relation to costly agreements with private power producers, which was the reason behind inflation.

PPP Senator Rubina Khalid raised the matter of social media and claimed that as members of the House standing committee, they were assured by the Information Technology Ministry that the new rules regarding digital media would be brought before the Senate committee but they were never brought before them.

She said the ministry had promised that the committee would be made aware of the new rules before they were taken to the federal cabinet but that was also not done. She emphasised that notice should be taken of the matter and protest should be registered against the rules. She alleged the biggest problem of this government was that it just could not bear with criticism.

Instead of working on parental guidance, she charged, the government had tried to scuttle the voice of dissent and criticism.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator Muhammad Usman Kakar strongly opposed what he called the government move to control social media and asserted that people were not being allowed to use social media in the country.

Some of his remarks about certain countries were exempted by Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani.

“There is Parliament, the Constitution and the law here, how can you clamp ban this way. Bring those rules to the Parliament and then see what comes out,” he said.

He alleged that media outlets, including official TV were told that nothing against the government should go on air. About Prime Minister’s remarks against JUI-F chief, was there a law of the jungle in Pakistan that the monarch would simply issue a statement from the Prime Minister Office. He condemned the statement and said the law of the jungle was being imposed. He referred to some journalists, who were airing content on social media and cited the European Parliament on media ban in Pakistan.

Senator Kakar said why not the Prime Minister and the cabinet applying Article 6 on someone, who deserved it. He asserted that this law of the jungle was not acceptable to them. He demanded release of PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen and others and wondered that Ehsanullah Ehsan, who was involved in killing of APS school children, was set free from a safe house and peaceful political activists being arrested and punished.

PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz said those talking of democracy, law and constitution were allowed to stage sit-in and they had promised to bring along 1 million people, but could gather a few hundreds and those who had catapulted them, backed off and did not be part of the sit-in.

He blamed previous governments for gas shortage and costly electricity in the country while PTI government was trying to provide relief to people.

JUI-F Senator Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi rose and took exception to the prime minister’s statement regarding Maulana Fazlur Rehman and remarked, “they have lost their mind. If the prime minister says this then the Article-6 should be applicable, who is the obstacle?”

He recalled that such cases had been made against them in the past as well and noted Musharraf charged them with treason and where is he today?

Senator Haideri claimed that the prime minister was not qualified for elections and had come to power through fake elections. He alleged that he would resign if proved the prime minister fulfilled the conditions of Article 62 of the Constitution.

Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz said that Maulana Fazl had talked about certain assurances that he had been given to wrap up the Azadi March. The PTI Senator demanded that the Senate be told what assurances had been given to him and by whom. He said how he could sabotage an elected government and impede the democratic process through his mode of agitation.

The National Party Senator Mir Kabir asserted that Reko Diq was the property of Balochistan’s people and that he had filed an adjournment motion regarding a recent speech by Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he talked about the Reko Diq gold reserves usage for retiring of loans.

He contended that Prime Minister’s statements had no legal basis and said the federal government had no right to sell Reko Diq’s resources to pay off the country’s debts. He called for a discussion in the House on the matter.

Leader of the Opposition Raj Muhammad Zafarul Haq reminded the chair about allowing the opposition to speak in detail on the ‘back-breaking’ price hike, citing their requisition. He noted the government was constantly getting stricter against the opposition and wanted to push to the wall, everyone. He said the social media was being subjected to harsh curbs and burdened with financial implications.

“It appears the government is trying to make ours into a regimental society. We are not in its favour and there will be huge reaction to such curbs,” he warned.

“FIA has given its report, but action is not being taken. The government is silent on real issues. Prime Minister is not taking actions against the mafia, he talks about…are those close to him that is why he is not taking any action?,” asked Senator Mushahidullah Khan.

He decried the report that IMF team had called for review of CPEC agreements and said they would have to face stiff resistance and ‘we curse the IMF agents’. MQM-P Senator Mian Ateeq Sheikh claimed that those who had made billions during recent crisis of flour and sugar and increasing prices of other commodities from Rawalpindi had gone abroad for celebrations after looting the people.

PTI Senator Naumn Wazir Khattak claimed that agreements with IPPs were signed during PML-N regime and their profit was fixed at 15 per cent in Pak rupee but then quietly it was converted into 15 per cent in terms of dollar. He alleged through political appointments, state entities, including Pakistan Steel Mills and PIA were destroyed by the past governments.

He challenged the opposition Senator to take him to the ethics committee, if what he said was wrong.