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January 27, 2021

Opp protests increase in power tariff in NA

Top Story

January 27, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The opposition members in the National Assembly on Tuesday protested the increase in power tariffs by Rs 1.95 per unit, demanding that the chair allow discussion on the issue on an adjournment motion already moved to the National Assembly Secretariat.

The two sides indulged in verbal clash on the issue before the House admitted the adjournment motion for discussion.

“The government has dropped a bomb on the already inflation-stricken masses,” the adjournment motion moved by Naveed Qamar said, adding that the government’s decision would further increase inflation in the country. The adjournment motion pointed out that due to incompetence of the government, the circular debt has increased to Rs 2.3 trillion and is still rising. Speaking on a point of order, Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) regretted that the adjournment motion submitted to the secretariat was on order of the day. He said the National Assembly is the appropriate forum to discuss such matters but it seems that the public issues are killed here. “The masses will send this house packing if we do not address their problems,” he said.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi assured the opposition member that any valid adjournment motion according to rules would be entertained after following the due process. He said the government is ready to allow the adjournment motion, saying that the minister for Power would expose misdeeds of the past government. He accused the Sindh government of rigging in the recent by-election in Umarkot, adding that it does not suit the opposition to talk about democratic values.

Raja Parvaiz Ashraf said they raised the issue with the chair, questioning as to why the foreign minister responded to the point of order. He said they want to keep environment of the House pleasant, but the government does not want to discuss public issues. The former prime minister said the speaker should remain impartial. “If you act on dictation of ministers, there will be no respect for this seat,” he said. He questioned whether the opposition members should join the protesting teachers outside the Parliament House and the protesting staff of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS). “You have done away with the Wedlock Policy for government employees, which is an internationally accepted law while the PIMS is closed due to protest,” he said.

He regretted that the government has decided to privatize government hospitals like PIMS and Jinnah Hospital. “Who has advised you to take such steps without discussing such issues in the parliament,” he said, adding that people are forced to commit suicide due to hunger, price hike and unemployment. He insisted the adjournment motion should be taken up immediately to discuss the important issue of increase in tariffs of electricity. He reminded the chair to refrain from becoming a party, saying that the opposition wants to ensure sanctity of the parliament. “If you become controversial, the house will become dysfunctional,” he said.

Minister for Power Omar Ayub did not oppose the adjournment motion and said he would place bitter facts before the House. “The opposition should remain seated in the House while I bring facts before the House,” he said.

Raja Parvaiz Ashraf said the opposition would respond to the harsh language of ministers in the same tone.

PML-N parliamentarian Ahsan Iqbal raised an objection that why the foreign minister is responding to issues pertaining to parliamentary affairs. “There is a minister of state and an advisor on parliamentary affairs but the foreign minister is speaking on parliamentary issues,” he said. It is due to failure of the foreign policy of the government that Indian troops are suppressing the people of Occupied Kashmir, a PIA plane was seized in Malaysia and the UN imposed ban on PIA flights,” he said.

As the House began proceedings on Tuesday evening, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri ruled that the members of the National Assembly whose membership was suspended by the ECP for not filing statements of assets and liabilities would not be allowed to attend proceedings. “You will be allowed to sit in the House after the ECP issues a notification for the restoration of membership of the suspended members,” he said.

The House also allowed introduction of four bills on the Private Members Day and the speaker referred them to relevant standing committees for deliberation. The NCS-Institute of Science Bill 2020, the Ibadat International University Islamabad Bill 2020, the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Prohibition of Kite Flying Bill 2020 were introduced in the House. The House rejected eight bills including the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2020 about forced disappearances and the Legal Practitioners and Bar Council (Amendment) Bill 2020 moved by Mohsin Dawar.