Published in The Nation newspaper on 04-Feb-2012
ISLAMABAD – The treasury benches in the National Assembly on Friday once again deferred the 20th Amendment Bill till Monday (February 6) because of the Eid Miladun Nabi (12th of Rabi-ul-Awal) on Sunday.
Speaking in the house, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the National Assembly (NA) was scheduled to meet today (Saturday) to pass the proposed legislation, but it had bee been postponed in respect of the Eid Miladun Nabi).
Announcing the delay, PPP Chief Whip Minister for Religious Affairs Khursheed Shah said, “With this amendment, we want to establish an Election Commission, which would help in organising free and fair polls in future,” he added.
Earlier on a point of order, Sahibzada Fazal Karim from PML-N maintained that the session should not be convened today (February 4), as a majority of the legislators would leave for their constituencies to celebrate the religious festivity.
The house also witnessed a rare development, when State Minister Human Resource Development Sheikh Waqas Akram severely criticised Interior Minister Rehman Malik for lying before the federal cabinet.
On a point of order, Sheikh Waqas said banned religious outfits were holding public meetings under the banner of ‘Difa-e-Pakistan Council’. “I want to register my protest that the interior minister lied to me and the federal cabinet as he told the cabinet that the provincial governments were violating the law by allowing these banned outfits to hold public rallies,” he said, adding that Rehman had also claimed that he would write a letter to the provincial governments to control these elements and a copy of the said letter had also been provided to him.
“I was stunned to read in the newspapers that the same banned outfits are holding a rally in the federal capital. This is shameful. Banned outfits cannot hold public meeting. People falling under 4th Schedule cannot visit cinema, parks and others public places,” he added.
Sahibzada Fazal Karim said Sunni Ittehad Council was not allowed to hold a public meeting in Lahore but those, who had killed around 40,000 Pakistanis, permitted to hold a rally in the city.
In his response, Rehman Malik cited a government bill, which is pending with the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice for the past two years, as an excuse.
“Terrorists are arrested but later released by courts due to certain lacunae in the law,” he said, adding that he had been informed by the members of the Senate committee that the proposed bill carried offensive provisions and, if passed, the same could be misused against politicians. “I have told them if these amendments are not suitable then it should be passed only for three years,” he added.
About banned outfits, he said the house should form a committee on the matter, which would give message to the provincial government to move against such culprits.
About public meeting of banned outfit in Islamabad, he assured Shaikh Waqas Akram to probe the matter. He said that it was only a news item report as he would probe it thoroughly and would submit a report in next session.
Earlier, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani gave policy statement on a point of order raised by JUI-F legislator Aasia Nasir about the strike by doctors and paramedical staff at the PIMS Islamabad, and announced a grant of one basic salary in addition to existing salaries from previous month (January). Gilani said a number of meetings were convened to provide facilities to paramedics and doctors.
PML-N legislator Hanif Abbasi, on point of order, expressed doubts on the disbursement of Rs 60 billion through Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and demanded a detailed investigation on the issue.
But Nadeem Afzal Gondal of the ruling party described the BISP as the biggest achievement of the incumbent government.
“A large number of poor people from different parts of the country are being facilitated by the programme. What kind of message is being given to the donors agencies by raising objections on a transparent mechanism. This issue should not be politicised,” he added.
Criticising the Punjab government, Gondal said they (the PPP) had never asked to constitute commission on spurious drugs, the Bank of Punjab scandal and Ring Road issue.
Responding to the call-attention notice on increase in the number of quacks in Islamabad, Minister for Professional and Technical Training Riaz Pirzada said the Health Ministry had been devolved after the 18th Amendment, but a legislation to control quackery was imperative.
To another call-attention notice on stopping the disbursement of funds to the Federal Directorate of Education for hiring the houses for its employees, Pirzada said he had requested the finance minister to issue the required amount. “Supplementary grant will be received within a month or so,” he maintained, adding that overall financial crisis was also one of the reasons behind the delay.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 04-Feb-2012