ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani told the house Thursday that he had written to the president for summoning of the joint sitting of parliament’s to take up Sindh’s concerns on the 2017 census approval by the Council of Common Interests.
He said this in response to a point of public importance raised by ex-chairman and PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani who said that the Sindh chief minister had written to the CCI chairman that his province was not satisfied with the procedure adopted by the forum with regards to the census.
Rabbani pointed out that under Article 154 of the Constitution if the centre or a province was not satisfied with the council decision, the matter had to be referred to the joint sitting of the parliament. Likewise, the Senate chairman and NA speaker were also moved in this connection by the chief minister.
He continued that when the census matter was presented before the council on April 07 the Sindh chief minister raised objections and then on Balochistan CM’s request it was deferred and then again taken up on April 12 and the prime minister went for voting, whereas the tradition had been that all CII decisions were taken with a consensus. He also said that the census was not conducted correctly and the population of Sindh was undercounted.
Then again, Rabbani said that neither the three federal ministers were included in the voting nor was their opinion sought on the matter. And, expressing his dissatisfaction over it, the chief minister had then written to the prime minister for the joint sitting.
Responding to the concerns of the opposition regarding the new media regulatory law, particularly PPP parliamentary leader Sherry Rehman, Leader of the House Dr. Shahzad Waseem and State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad regretted that it had become a trend to bash the national security institutions without proofs.
“Levelling baseless charges against the state institutions is a part of the fifth generation war and many friends are trapped without knowing about it. To weaken the security institutions and other entities like the judiciary is a part of the fifth generation war,” he said.
He said that none was above the law and that injustice would be done to none with regards to the new media law.
“The impression is being given that Islamabad has become dangerous for journalists. The ordinances are presented in the House under the constitution, and if they are not presented, they will be repealed,” he said.
Ali Muhammad Khan said that naming national security agencies without a proof has become a trend and added these institutions are yours and ours while making allegations without evidence is neither journalism nor politics.
Earlier, Sherry Rehman said: “We have no objections to regulating the media but trying to control the narrative and quashing all sane and critical voices is another issue which needs to be addressed. It’s a matter of shame and embarrassment that the world now sees Islamabad as the most dangerous place for journalism. Silencing the media means silencing us. This ordinance needs to be laid in the House so we can regulate it.”
She explained that the government has now come up with the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) Ordinance 2021, which will now be used as a tool to institutionalise censorship and curbing media freedom. This is a combination of Zia and Musharraf’s black laws. Is this the direction the government wants to take us towards?” she questioned.
She recalled that it was the PPP that had ensured that Zia and Musharraf’s black laws were repealed but this government is bringing the same laws back under the guise of this new ordinance. A lot of our hard work and struggle had gone into this to ensure that our democracy can flourish but the government wants to suppress the media.
Ms Rehman said: “If you disagree with the government, you are labelled as a traitor. Constructive criticism needs to be tolerated. We already have penalties in Pakistan but the penalties that they want to bring through this ordinance are atrocious. We already have IT and regulation committees, let them do their job.”
She pointed out that Pakistan was ranked 139th on the World Press Freedom Index when this government came into power and three years later, we are 145th on the list. The voices of the opposition and media are being stifled. “Through this ordinance, the government is saying that you will not be able to get a licence if you don’t become a mouthpiece for us. Any kind of independent reporting will lead to your channel being shut down.”
Ms Rehman said: “Organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists have taken notice of the journalists being attacked in Pakistan. In 2020, Pakistan was ranked ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalist’s annual Global Impunity Index. The shrinking space for dissent is being noticed by everyone”.
“In case they need a reminder, it was the ruling party which started the tradition of trolling on social media. People with their party flags are involved in using abusive language, ridiculing politicians, and harassing women online. The government does not realise the repercussions this PMDA Ordinance will have and it is something they seriously need to review. This is our country and we will do whatever it takes to protect democracy in Pakistan,” she stressed
She said: “The Higher Education Commission Ordinance is not being laid in the Senate nor is it becoming a bill. What is the purpose of this Parliament if they want to run the country through ordinances? This is extremely worrying. Our rights and responsibilities are being compromised. The President House has become an ordinance factory.”
During the question hour, replying to a supplementary question, Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan defended what he called the cleansing of the national airline and noted that more than 700 employees recruited with fake degrees had been sent home.
He said that the House should have appreciated PIA cleansing and explained that he took full responsibility on the floor of the House about PIA 262 pilots having suspicious licenses and when an inquiry was held, 50 of them were terminated for having fake degrees, whereas 32 were suspended and the rest were facing cases in courts. He regretted pilots with fake licences had been flying our planes.
Senators Afnan Ullah Khan of PMLN and Quratulain Marri of PPP came hard on the government for placing images of PM Imran Khan on the Ehsaas Programme and questioned the logic behind misusing public money for this purpose. Fears were expressed about closure of the Benazir Income Support Programme.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said the government had no intention to close the programme and insisted the nation should stop spending money in the name of political leaders while pictures of the Quaid-e-Azam or Allama Iqbal should be displayed on the programme. The House also adopted the Public Private Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
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