Wednesday June 19, 2024

Senate seeks legislation to bring secret agencies under parliament’s control

By Mumtaz Alvi
December 29, 2015

Sartaj likely to brief Senate on visits of Gen Raheel, Modi today; Senator Sehar asks what was status of Jati Umra that Nawaz met Modi there; senators say govt turning Pakistan into an import regime by closing down industries and TSML is a case in point

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Monday made a consensus recommendation on introducing a legislation to bring the secret agencies under the control of parliament. The legislation will help regulate the working and responsibilities of secret agencies with regard to the missing persons. After legislation, secret agencies won’t be able to abduct citizens and any agency indulging in this unlawful practice will face action.

Meanwhile, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz is expected to brief the Senate today (Tuesday) on the recently-concluded visit of the army chief General Raheel Sharif to Kabul and Indian premier Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore on December 25.

The Senate Chairman, Mian Raza Rabbani, directed the ruling PML-N’s Iqbal Zafar Jhagra to convey this to the adviser through the Leader of the House Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq.

The government came under fire from the opposition senators on circular debt accumulation despite the fact that oil prices have fallen massively. The senators wanted its referral to the House committee concerned while others wished it should be taken up by the National Accountability Bureau, calling for the power plants’ performance audit.

The issue relating to the Modi’s trip was raised by the PPP Senator Sehar Kamran just before the adjournment of proceedings. She questioned what was the status of Jati Umra that the prime minister met his Indian counterpart there, saying he could have reached Islamabad within no time to receive him here or the meeting could have been held at the Governor’s House. She also contended that the adviser on foreign affairs and national security should also have been present while only the foreign secretary was seen sitting next to the PM’s son.

The senator asked if such a meeting was justified when Modi was seen strongly opposing the CPEC in China, claiming his role in the break-up of Pakistan. She said it would have been justified had India stopped the human rights abuses in Held Kashmir and halted its involvement in subversive acts inside Pakistan.

The senator claimed the public was concerned about this surprise visit and the explanation given by the foreign secretary that a call was received at 11:00am and then the meeting was held at the prime minister’s residence.

Meanwhile, the Senate chairman reserved his ruling on the proposal made by senators for referral of the issue of sponsors of Tuwairqi Steel Mills Limited (TSML) to dismantle the project due to the dispute on imposition of JIDC by the federal government.

The chair said that the matter pertained to an individual company and involved pecuniary interests and if he referred it to a House committee, then it would become a precedent for future.

Speaking on the adjournment motion, PPP Senator Taj, Mohsin Aziz of PTI and MQM’s Mian Attique alleged that the government was pursuing a policy of turning Pakistan into an import regime by closing down industries and the TSML was a case in point and the rulers appeared to be under pressure from the strong import lobby.

They said the Tuwairqi Group was a major investment group, having invested in many countries, set up the steel mill in Karachi’s export processing zone with dollars 340 million and noted that the TSML produced 1.28 million tonnes of steel annually and it was more than the full capacity of the Pakistan Steel Mills.

The investment was to reach $1.2 billion in three years, but the mill ran for three months and then was shut down after GIDC was imposed on it in violation of the MoU signed with it by the federal government.The senators contended that oil and gas being part of the Legislative List-II could only be taken up by the Council of Common Interests but instead the ECC was dealing with it. The imposition of GIDC and apparent dismantling of the mill, they warned, would send wrong signals to the outside world, besides serving a massive blow to steel production and job opportunities.

They questioned the logic of prime minister’s frequent visits abroad for foreign investment, when the already made investment was being neutralised by the government. The senators said that GIDC was instrumental in closure of many mills and factories in Gujranwala, Faisalabad and elsewhere.

Ruling PML-N Senator Muhammad Hamza said steel industry was the basis of industrial growth in any country and it gave energy and impetus to many other industries. He questioned the logic of destroying the mill set up by foreign investors.

He urged the government to reverse its policy and push for revival of the institutions and setting up new ones.

Responding to senators’ concerns, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi claimed GIDC had nothing to do with the TSML and said gas was available for the mill even today.

The minister said the MOU signed in 2004 was replaced by another MOU in 2007 under which the mill wanted gas tariff on the line of fertiliser industry and under this who would pay Rs6 billion annually.

He said no decision had been made yet on this count, as the ECC had considered it and the element of Council of Common Interests could also come in. He contended that he had no problem if the matter was referred to a House committee.

Earlier, the House passed The Islamabad Compulsory Vaccination and Protection of Health Workers Bill, 2015, besides adopting recommendations on the Money Bill, further to amend the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.

The Senate adopted a resolution by PML-N Senator Nisar Muhammad recommending to the government to evolve a mechanism to take care of families of the martyrs of terrorist incidents in the country. It recommended that they should be provided with reasonable financial assistance on monthly basis to help meet their day to day needs.

Minister of State for Interior Muhammad Balighur Rehman said the campaign against human trafficking was successfully continuing and its momentum would be maintained, as many achievements had been made and encouraging results achieved.

The minister was winding up the debate on a motion moved by PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi. He said a large number of culprits had been apprehended with 10 most wanted criminals during 250 raids conducted by the FIA.

Senators, including PML-N’s Abdul Qayyum, Rehman Malik of PPP, Mohsin Aziz of PTI, Sirajul Haq of JI, Muhammad Ali Saif of MQM and Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of JUI-F called for drastic measures to stem the menace, a cause of embarrassment for Pakistan. They noted that there should be a piece of legislation and revision of rules, if needed to ensure the scourge was effectively combated. They also called for creating an awareness among the masses about it.   He said the Inter-Agency Task Force made 6,138 interceptions during the first 11 months of the current year.On another motion moved by the PTI Senator Azam Swati, Balighur Rehman said that currently the circular debt stood at Rs310 billion. He said recovery of electricity dues had improved by 91 percent while line losses had come down from 19.2 to 17 percent.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar asked for a parliamentary debate on the Supreme Court’s verdict calling for consulting the CJP on the appointment of chairman and members of the Federal Service Tribunal as well as on the August 5 judgment in the 18th Amendment so as to raise a respectful but powerful voice to protect the domain of parliament which, he said, was fast eroding. He contended this while speaking on his motion on appointments in the FST, a body set up through legislation under Article 212 of the 1973 Constitution. Neither the Constitution nor the 1973 FST Act provided for consultation with the CJP in the appointments of its chairman and members, he said.

Babar said by the same logic, it may be asked that appointments of federal and provincial ombudsmen, and other ombudsmen such as for tax, banking, women and insurance should also be made in consultation with the CJP even though neither the Constitution nor the law requires such consultation.

Directions to amend the law to make consultation with the CJP mandatory even if the constitution did not so require appeared beyond comprehension, he said.

Law-making, he said, was the prerogative of parliament and not of any other state organ. That the Supreme Court can review legislation on the touchstone of the Constitution is a settled practice but to ask parliament to make a law for which there was no provision in the Constitution was another matter.

He said in the August 5 verdict of the SC on the 18th Amendment, the SC had held by a majority of 13 to 4 that it can strike down or review a constitutional amendment as the powers of parliament to amend are limited had a direct bearing on the issue and also needed to be discussed.

Babar referred to Article 239(5) and (6) that state “no amendment to the Constitution shall be called in question in any court on any ground whatsoever”, and even more categorically, “for the removal of doubt, it is hereby declared that there is no limitation whatever on the power of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) to amend any of the provisions of the Constitution.”

He said that a larger parliamentary debate was necessary to examine the issues of parliamentary sovereignty and to appropriately raise voice for the protection of parliament’s constitutional duties and domain.

Responding to his contention, Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid informed the House that the matter regarding procedure for appointment of chairman and members of the Federal Service Tribunal was sub judice as the case was before the Supreme Court, which was forming a larger bench.