ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government Thursday assured the Senate that it would neither compromise on the powers of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the anti-corruption watchdog, nor would let anyone to derail the “ongoing accountability process.”

It said that there was no truth in the impression being given by some quarters that government was ready to clip powers of the anti-corruption watchdog on the demand of opposition but in return it wants reversal of the 18th Amendment—a constitutional amendment that ensures autonomy of provinces.

The government also blamed that the opposition parties wanted economy to collapse only to get an opportunity of some NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance)-like deal.

These words came from the two heavy weights of the ruling party, first from the Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz and then by Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, after the government and the opposition senators traded corruption charges in the upper house.

“Some parties want to see economic collapse to find an opportunity to get NRO,” said Information Minister Senator Faraz on the floor of the Senate. It was the PML-N parliamentary leader in the house Mushahid Ullah Khan whose remarks sparked heated arguments in the house when he said that that the “present government thinks corruption as worship.” He accused that ministers responsible for sugar and wheat flour scams had been promoted. “All the elite are there in the cabinet.”

In response, the information minister accused Senator Mushahid’s party and said that elite were those people who went abroad for medical treatment—a reference of PML-N leader and former PM Nawaz Sharif— and thought themselves above the law.

 

Referring to the other day’s press conference addressed by Special Assistant to PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, he alleged that PML-N leadership had been transferring the party funds to personal accounts. He also said that there was no truth in this impression that federal government was indiscriminating with the Sindh government rather all provinces were being treated on equality.

 

Senator Shibli Faraz requested the opposition not to indulge in blame game and support the government in its efforts to tackle the deadly virus. “Do not support Imran Khan, but do support the people of Pakistan,” he remarked. He said the country needs national unity to meet the economic challenges as a result of COVID-19 outbreak.

 

The information minister also warned that the government would have to re-impose strict lockdown—which may threaten deaths due to starvation—because of increasing violation of standard operating procedures (SOPs). He said that the irresponsible attitude may lead to dangerous consequences.

 

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan taking part in the debate on the impacts of COVID-19 outbreak in the country said that an impression was being given that government wanted reversal of 18th Amendment in exchange of clipping of NAB powers on opposition’s demand.

“This would never happen that PTI government would either clip powers of NAB or the accountability process would face a deadlock or lockdown,” said Awan adding that “Let us remove this forced impression. This is never going to happen.”

 

He said that no government ever made any change for over 20 years since then military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf got converted the Ehtesab Act, 1997 into  National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999— the present accountability law. “We are ready to make some minor amendments in the law to erase mistakes either under Supreme Courts’ directions or if parliament wants so but this doesn’t mean that the accountability process would be derailed,” he added.

 

 The advisor also made it clear that the government did not want to scrap the 18th Amendment. After 18th Amendment since it was passed in 2010, only three constitutional amendment bills were brought in the Senate by the government and as many 14 private member bills seeking amendments in 18th Amendment were pending with the Senate till date, he claimed.

He further said that there were two government-sponsored constitutional amendments bill introduced in the National Assembly after passage of 18th Amendment and 26 private member bills of all political parties, mostly from the opposition, were introduced in the lower house to again amend this amendment. “There is no bill on the table of the government with regard to 18th Amendment,” he said adding no one will be allowed to unleash a propaganda in this connection.

 

Awan claimed that they had been successful to contain the coronavirus with strategy formed by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government and other national institutions including Pakistan’s armed forces.

 

PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said that he was seeing a change in the global balance of power with this pandemic. He said that capitalisms has failed in this crises. He demanded that the government should declare national health emergency for the rest of the year and urged the need to undergo more testing of coronavirus.

 

PML-N Senator Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul Qayyum said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi used to speak in the parliament on coronavirus but he has got a lot on his plate. He particularly referred to the situation of Indian Occupied Kashmir and the Afghan peace process.

 

Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq taking part in the debate regretted that instead of fighting against corona, federal and Sindh governments were pitched against each other.

 

The senators from Balochistan Mir Kabir Ahmad Shahi and Jehanzeb Jamaldini objected to nomination of Javed Jabbar as member of 10th National Finance Commission (NFC) to represent Balochistan.

 

The Senate also unanimously adopted a resolution thanking China for its strong support and timely assistance to Pakistan during the current pandemic. The house through the resolution expressed its deep appreciation to the Chinese government and people for their unflinching role as all-weather friends of Pakistan. The house rejected the baseless propaganda against China from certain quarters saying this stems from geopolitical rivalry and an attempt to divert attention from own internal failings as it has no factual basis.