ISLAMABAD - Lawmakers from both sides of the political divide in National Assembly joined hands to protest over being dubbed as tax evaders, and some of them took to clarifying their positions while others demanded curbs on the media.

Following a report on tax dodging by the MPs (members of parliament), which stir heated debate in print and electronic media, the senators too are criticising ‘careless’ and ‘indiscriminate’ bashing of the politicians for past two days.

The lawmakers said that tax evasion was not limited to the politicians and they saw a conspiracy in ‘singling out’ them at a time when elections are around the corner. Some of the MNAs even shared their National Tax Number (NTN) to clarify their position and one of them even threatened to go to the court over the issue.

Speaking on a point of order, ANP legislator and Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said a private TV channel had launched propaganda blitz against him and warned of suing the channel. He shared his NTN number and said: “I will not accept insult.” PML-N legislator Malik Ibrar said tax is deducted from the salaries of MNAs. The matter should be investigated, he demanded.

Aftab Sherpao said he was having tax number since 1992 and it was strange that media remains oblivious to it.

Nadeem Afzal Chan of PPP said declaring the legislators as tax evaders was highly regrettable as they pay tax on everything including water. Chann, who is also chairman of the PAC, said about NAB’s corruption related reports that “if there is corruption why action is not being taken”.

A saner voice came from the PML-N whose member Shahid Khaqan Abbasi asked the tax-evading PMs to give serious consideration to this matter. “Those who are not paying tax are no doubt answerable.”

Giving ruling Deputy Speaker NA Faisal Karim Kundi said media reports should be based on facts and reporting based on speculations be avoided. Politicians should not be singled out and other tax evaders too should be identified, he said. He asked chief whip Khurshid Shah to look into the matter personally and call details from FBR in this respect.

The assembly was informed that Pakistan wants resolution of all outstanding water issues with India as per the Indus Basin Treaty. Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Palwasha Khan told the House that Islamabad has been voicing concerns on the violation of this treaty by India and all possible efforts have been made at diplomatic levels. To a question, she said India has resumed construction on Wullar Barrage Dam and Pakistan has raised this issue in the last secretary level talks. She said Pakistan has also taken the Kishanganga Dam Project to the Court of Arbitration and a decision is expected in six months.

About drone strikes in tribal areas, Palwasha Khan said Pakistan considers them violation of its sovereignty.

Palwasha said about 8,715 Pakistani prisoners are languishing in foreign jails – 2,373 on them in Saudi Arabia, 1,334 in UAE, 1,416 in UK, 347 in Oman, 403 in India, 350 in Afghanistan, and the rest in other countries.

Palwasha said a special cell for Overseas Pakistanis has been set up, besides signing bilateral agreements with different countries for the release of prisoners. She said that Pakistan has released 783 Indian prisoners since January 2012, but they have faced lot of problems in securing release of Pakistani prisoners.

Minister of State for Commerce Abbas Khan Afridi told the House that MFN status has so far not been given to India but negotiations are underway on the matter.  Decision in this regard will be taken by 31st of this month, he added. He said that Free Trade Agreements have been signed with Malaysia, China and Indonesia to increase exports.