ISLAMABAD - Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday, in response to some members’ allegations, took a strident note which many present in the National Assembly felt was a reaction to the army chief’s statement.
Kh Asif said: “All institutions protect themselves and when members vilify their own institutions, how the others will have any respect for them.” He said the Parliament was a supreme organ of the state and would preserve its dignity besides respecting all the other institutions. He said no institution should violate sanctity of the other. “Every institution protects its dignity and its personnel, but the Parliament is the supreme institution of the country,” said Khawaja Asif in the National Assembly.
The minister’s remarks came a day after Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s statement in which he had said the army would resolutely preserve its institutional pride and dignity.
The National Assembly Tuesday witnessed a verbal brawl between treasury and opposition benches as the latter sought the names of tax-evading parliamentarians, whereas the former focused on accountability under a certain framework to dispel a negative impression against the dignity of the Parliament.
The house, on the last private member day of the 10th session, after briefly debating the matter of nonpayment of taxes by a number of parliamentarians, adopted a motion authorising the speaker to form a 10-member body to investigate the allegation.
The 10-member committee belonging to major political parties will investigate the accusation of nonpayment of taxes by some parliamentarians and present its report within 90 days.
Taking the floor, PTI Chairman Imran Khan underlined the need for accountability of tax-evading parliamentarians. “We should start with ourselves as tax collection could be improved this way. All of my assets are in my name and I am ready for audit,” said Imran Khan, sharing the economic deterioration by pointing out that debt servicing of the country had reached Rs 1.3 trillion.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah also openly presented himself for accountability. “The government can seize my bank account or flats if found out of the country,” he said, adding this motion would help exposing tax evaders.
The third largest opposition party’s senior lawmaker Rashid Godil remarked that all those involved in shifting their money to other countries should be nabbed.
Sahibzada Tariq Ullah from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) also put weight behind the motion to investigate the allegation of nonpayment of taxes.
PTI lawmaker Asad Umar, mover of the motion, was of the view that it would help dispel the impression about the parliamentarians, as some ‘black sheep’ would be exposed.
Responding to the concerns raised by the opposition members, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid made it clear that the people of the country had full confidence in the parliamentarians. “Because of their confidence, they use their right to vote to elect parliamentarians,” he noted.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif supported the accountability of the parliamentarians, but under a certain framework. “Indeed, the Parliament is the supreme institution and it is our responsibility to take care of its sanctity,” he said, adding each institution of the state preserved its dignity and the people associated with it.
He asserted the Parliament was the most stable and powerful decision-making institution in democracy. “Impression should not be taken that the Parliament is not a respectable institution,” he said, mentioning that the war of words between the government and the opposition should also have some code of conduct. “It is testimony to the fact that the people fully participated in the May 2013 elections, as they trust us,” he added.
However, senior PTI lawmaker Javed Hashmi said all the MPs should declare their assets without any discrimination. “There is an impression that parliamentarians have much more money as compared to their sources of income,” he added.
Earlier, 10 bills, including ‘The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2014’, ‘The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2014’, ‘The National Air Transportation Safety Board Bill, 2014’, ‘The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014’, ‘the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014, ‘The Acid and Burn Crime, 2014’ and others, were introduced. All the bills were referred to the standing committees concerned.
About the YouTube issue, Raja Javed Akhlas said the Information Technology Ministry would give its recommendations to the court till the end of April. YouTube has been suspended in Pakistan for a long time now.
Imran Shah, on a point of order, drew the attention of the house that a Canadian company was selling chips and other items mixing them with some ingredients of pork. “These products are available in stores, which requires the attention of the authorities concerned,” he added.
Responding to a call-attention notice about slum areas, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad said action would be taken against the encroachers.