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January 13, 2021

Govt under fire in Senate over nationwide power blackout

Top Story

January 13, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The government came under scathing criticism in the Senate Tuesday from the opposition for the weekend’s countrywide power breakdown and demanded a parliamentary probe into the incident, asking Minister for Power Omar Ayub to step down.

Taking part in the discussion on the ‘alarming propensity of the federal government to usurp and subvert parliamentary and provincial rights guaranteed in the Constitution by attempting to rule the country by ordinances’, PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said that the incompetent rulers, whom she called the ‘Tabahi Sarkar’ had miserably failed to run the country and the Parliament was being continuously ignored.

“Pakistan needs to be run by the Parliament and key decisions taken here but this government has tried its best to make it redundant by bypassing the Parliament. This session was also called on our requisition. We don’t come here just to take salaries. This government has made a record of passing around 40 ordinances and 38 bills.

They are focused on ordinances, which is a clear indication of their preference towards a presidential system. The ordinances keep expiring, just like how the PIDA Ordinance expired recently. If it has expired, then why are they defending it?” she questioned. She said that she was in Malakand yesterday and the people there have given a referendum against this incompetent government. Despite PTI’s government in KP for eight years, it was shocking to see their state of affairs. Their hospitals are in such a bad condition that patients are being taken to Sindh. Doctors are helpless at their situation after what has been done to PMDC. “We are well aware of how the government has their eyes set on Sindh’s hospitals. Forget Sindh, what have they done in their province? We all know what is going on with the BRT buses but why is NAB blind towards it?” she said.

The senator said, “This government’s non-serious attitude is shocking. How many times has the PM attended a Senate session? Hardly once. What is he scared off? Through which executive authority do they want to run the country? Forget the country, they have not been able to run a single organisation. Only the cronies are being awarded. How can the PM talk about blackmailing and bargaining with the Hazara community who have suffered so much?”

Former chairman Senate and PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, taking part in the debate, said that this Parliament is dead and this is because neither the government talks on the public interest issues in the Parliament nor is ready to take either houses into confidence on the matter,” he said.

About the power breakdown, he pointed out that the incident shed lights how the country’s power sector was crumbling and how it has exposed the poor governance and incompetence of powerful bureaucracy. He continued that the ruling PTI should have given a policy statement over this fiasco in the House and told the reasons of this breakdown. “But neither this happened not major heads were rolled,” he regretted.

Rabbani said the reason of the sorry state of affairs in power sector was that heads of all major institutions dealing with the electricity were working on ad-hoc basis for years. He continued that the government was talking about the privatisation of energy sector but it should first see the bad conditions of K-Electric in Karachi; the government is going to private 10 out of 16 power distribution companies and alarmed that the situation would worsen with this decision.

He urged Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani that the matter of this countrywide blackout should be referred to the parliamentary committee to inquire as to who was involved in this major failure and shut down of national grid. He contended that in fact, the minister should have resigned if we talk about accountability but he even did not bother to give a statement on the floor of the House.

PTI Senator Waleed Iqbal rejected the allegations of the opposition that the government was ruling thorough ordinances and said that 954 ordinances were promulgated by the 16 elected governments in 33 years consecutively before PTI came into power. He said that this can be translated that each government promulgated 24 ordinances on average every year. “In first two years of our government, we on average promulgated less than 20 ordinances,” he explained.

On this occasion, PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid challenged the government on inflation and price spiral of commodities and said he was ready to go to the bazaar of any city with the government people. He would ask the people on the state TV camera whether the goods are more expensive or cheaper than in the past. The answer will be aired on state TV. He asked whether the federation should take the form of a snake which starts feeding its children when it is hungry. If it tries to take over the provinces, there will be resistance from the people and no one will be able to stop it.

“The Broadsheet Company goes to the court of London and states that it was assigned the responsibility to search the assets of Pakistani politicians in London. Musharraf had said in his time that the company had failed,” he said.

He said that the government of Pakistan has to pay an amount of $29 million to Broadsheet LLC, an international asset recovery firm, on the order of a court of London. He reminded that the firm was assigned during then military ruler General (R) Pervez Musharraf to dig out hidden wealth of Pakistani politicians. He pointed out that the government had to pay Rs7000 million from the national kitty to pay fee to lawyers and company, which was under liquidation, claims only due to the mistake of Musharraf and wrong allegations of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Senator Pervaiz Rashid quipped, “You only did this for political victimisation that whether anyone would hold any accountability or raise question with chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and incumbent government about this mismanagement and corruption as a result of which we have to pay billions from the tax payers’ money”. He alleged the government was resorting to political vendetta against top political parties’ leaders.

To this, Communications Minister Murad Saeed rose to quoting an interview of Broadsheet LLC owner Kaveh Moussavi, who said that the Sharif family approached him for a bribe to drop probe of hidden assets against him.

State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, concluding the debate said that the opposition was legally incorrect that the federal government wanted to occupy properties of the smaller provinces as Pakistan Islands Development Authority Ordinance 2020 has lapsed. He criticized both last PPP and PML-N governments and said that president was fully empowered to issue ordinance under Article 89 of the Constitution, insisting that if promulgation of ordinance is subversion of the Constitution, then Article 89 should be excluded from the Constitution. He then questioned why both parties did not do this while passing 18th Amendment.

He said that PM Imran Khan wanted to make a fish harbour, and fish storage, establish a water treatment plant and initiate green housing project on the island that will benefit the local fishermen. He regretted the PPP government despite ruling Sindh for years, did not develop the island and now was resisting the federal government for doing so, which would take it along and do it with its consultation.