ISLAMABAD: The Parliament and legislators’ apartments are running live with rats and crawling with cockroaches, senior Senators and MNAs admitted yesterday. The scurrying creatures however are unelected, “uninvited guests” and must be driven out as a matter of urgency, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, his deputy Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and leading members of the National Assembly said. They vented their dismay in a Senate committee where senior officials were grilled over the squalor of parliament’s buildings. The scale of rate infestation was first noticed earlier this year.

Federal Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed said he had seen rats and cockroaches while visiting the infested flat of a fellow parliamentarian. “The MNA requested me to take notice of the filth in the lodges. He told me the lodges are home to rats and cockroaches,” the minister said. A bad smell greets visitors as they enter the lodges and its hallways are littered with trash, he added. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani vented his anger at the Capital Development Authority, which is responsible for maintenance in the parliament, and accused it of failing to keep basic standards of hygiene.

“I have seen parliaments of several countries and I have found them perfectly clean. But ours is perhaps the dirtiest in terms of maintenance. Even the grass is not trimmed,” Mr Rabbani fumed. Their hopes of a Spring clean were dampened by officials who said they were powerless to stop the assault of the pests on the home of Pakistan’s democracy. Several measures had been taken to expel the invaders but they had all failed. The rodents and insects enter the buildings by scaling the walls and climbing in through the roofs and ceilings.

“The existing building of the parliament lodges has some engineering faults particularly the drainage system. Rats use the pipes to climb the rooftops from where they enter the rooms,” said Maroof Afzal, the CDA chairman. Traps had been laid but had been given a wide berth by their targets.

Lack of funds had hampered the maintenance drive but the poor hygiene of parliamentarians themselves was another factor, he said. Too many of them and their aides leave unfinished snacks in their rooms and offices which attract pests. “We should strictly direct officials in Senate and National Assembly not to order food in offices to prevent rats and cockroaches,” MNA Tariq Fazal Chaudhry told the meeting. The Senate Secretary Amjad Pervaiz said poor maintenance of the buildings had also caused a number of embarrassing incidents recently, including the Saudi Arabia ambassador becoming trapped in a faulty lift for 25 minutes on Tuesday. Ishaq Dar, the finance minister had been trapped in a similar incident.

“CDA is certainly responsible for maintenance of the parliamentary estates,” he said. In frustration, the Senate chairman asked the CDA chief what could be done to end the siege and find a “permanent solution to get rid of this nuisance?” There was no solution, he replied. They would simply have to speed up construction of new residential block but the pests in the National Assembly hall may be there forever.