ISLAMABAD - As the smaller provinces felt a sense of deprivation after the announcement of multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani on Thursday, while terming the demands of KP chief minister as ‘genuine’, constituted a committee to resolve issues relating to the CPEC.

He ensured the smaller provinces that they would get their due rights. Referring to a recent protest by KP provincial lawmakers against the Centre for allegedly depriving them of their legitimate rights, Rabbani, who is the architect of 18th Constitutional Amendment, said he went through the demands of KP chief minister regarding the rights of his province and found them genuine.

The Senate chairman said that 33 points raised by KP lawmakers against the Centre should be addressed by the parliament as the issues were of utmost importance and were related to provincial autonomy.  Rabbani informed Senate that out of total 33 issues identified by Pervez Khattak during his protest against Centre a couple of days ago, nine points were related to the recently signed CPEC projects.

With directives to report back within two months, he referred the issues related to the corridor to a committee particularly constituted by the house to oversee matters pertaining to CPEC projects - as majority of the political parties were skeptical that a huge chunk of the projects would be used in Punjab by ruling government to attract voters in next elections.

The Senate chairman referred the remaining 24 issues which also include the net hydel profit issue to concerned committees of the house for deliberations and directed them to submit a detailed report within two months.

Eralier, when the Senate proceedings started, Rabbani was visibly perturbed over the grievances of lawmakers who asserted that the provinces had not yet benefited from the 18th Constitutional Amendment (provincial autonomy).

PERKS AND PRIVILEGES TO MPs: Leader of the Opposition in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan showed his resentment over the pity perks and privileges available to spouses and children of Senators in the country demanding hefty packages for the lawmakers in order to be at par with his Indian counterparts.

Referring to benefits availed by their Indian counterparts, the flamboyant opposition leader in Senate cited that Indian MPs could avail free air tickets even for his/her partner.

This prompted Senate chairman Raza Rabbani to elaborate the word ‘partner’ - most probably for the sake of fun - to which Aitzaz said it meant a girl or boyfriend but in Pakistan the lawmakers are not to travel with their wives/husbands.

He demanded equal perks and privileges for the lawmakers of both houses like government servants. The law ministry in a written reply informed the house that only wife and unmarried daughter of an MP can avail medical facility, which Aitzaz declared a malicious attempt by the bureaucracy to deprive the lawmakers of what he said of their genuine rights.

The opposition leader said that the house might go for legislation as the wives and husbands, children, and parents of the lawmakers should also be entitled to free medical treatment, air travel, etc, like the government servants.

The attorney general (AG) of Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt informed the house that the law and justice ministry had said nothing objectionable or misleading rather it was a law under which the spouse and children of an MP could not avail an air ticket.

Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani welcomed a government assurance that it had no objection to increase the upper age limit for CSS examination especially for the candidates belonging to Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other under-developed areas from 28 to 30 years but several Senators said it was not solution to the problem.

The issue came under discussion after it was highlighted by 10 people through the recently launched public petition system and Rabbani said, “It is expected that the government will amend the relevant rules,” after a policy statement by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed.

In his ruling, Senate chairman directed the federal government to take steps, in consultation with provincial governments, to curb the practice of issuing fake domicile certificates which was one of the reasons behind low representation of people from less-developed areas in competitive examinations. The chairman sought a report over the subject in two months.

In addition, he asked the government to pursue a bill pending already in standing committee regarding overhauling of quota system in jobs.

Senator Usman Kakar and Mir Kabir from Balochistan said the upper age limit be extended to 35 years while others proposed 30 years.

However, Senator Mohsin Leghari said increasing age limit would not address the issue and urged for reviewing the quota system. He said some people were conveniently getting domiciles from less developed areas and thus usurping the rights of local people.

Senator Hasil Bizenjo said Balochistan was the province from where people had obtained fake domicile certificates. He demanded that all domiciles be scrutinised by NADRA and fake domiciles should be cancelled.