ISLAMABAD -  Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah on Tuesday proposed to form a parliamentary committee to look into the interest rates being charged on agriculture loans.

“Industrial loans are given on nine percent interest rates whereas 14 percent interest is applied on agricultural loans,” said the opposition leader while speaking on a call-attention notice during the assembly session.

Shah said that they had no objection to the release of loans to agriculturalists of Punjab but other provinces should not be ignored in this regard.

Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Syed Naveed Qamar said that other than Punjab, other provinces are considered as thieves. “Why this discrimination with the other provinces, as they (except for Punjab) are not being provided farmland loans,” said Qamar, strongly objecting to the disparity with other provinces. He also criticized Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) for not executing its duty properly.

Another PPP MNA Ghulam Mustafa Shah also termed it a discrimination against other provinces. “Like Punjab, the rest of the provinces should also be given farm loans,” Shah said.

Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal, responding to the concerns raised by the opposition lawmakers, defended that the agricultural growth in Punjab was higher than the other provinces.

About the concerns raised against the ZTBL, he said that loans should be returned on time. “They are not blaming anyone as a thief but the bank will work properly if its loans are returned timely,” he said.

The minister informed the House that the government has allocated Rs1001 billion this year in loans for the farmers. “The loans are given on the basis of cultivable lands, recovery rate and credit requirements of the provinces,” he enumerated some of the prerequisites for the disbursement of agriculture loans.

He also compared the disbursement of loans in Punjab with other provinces. The minister pointed out that it was a devolved subject and provinces should play their role in the development of the important sector.

On it, the opposition leader immediately took the floor saying that the agriculture subject was devolved to provinces and not the ZTBL.

Earlier, the opposition rejected the recent increase in prices of petroleum products.

The National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution moved by Jamaat-e-Islami MNA Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqoob demanding of the government to take immediate steps to cut prices of petroleum products.

The House passed another resolution moved by Belum Hasnain asking the government to take immediate steps for the promotion of inter-faith harmony in the country.

The lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, speaking on the resolution, stressed the need to do away with hatred literature to promote the inter-faith harmony. PPP’s Shahzia Marri said the National Action Plan also demands a complete ban on all hatred literature which was the main hurdle in the promotion of inter-faith harmony.

Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousuf told the House that Pakistan would soon host an international conference on the inter-faith harmony.

Other MNAs suggested that Pakistan should follow Saudi Arabia in the observance the holy month of Ramazan as being done in Afghanistan.

The National Assembly also passed the Federal Public Service Commission, Amendment Bill 2017 and The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

The House also passed The National Assembly Secretariat Employees Bill, 2018 which is meant to regulate the recruitment and the conditions of the persons appointed in the National Assembly Secretariat.