ISLAMABAD - A former federal minister and senior PML-N lawmaker yesterday said in the Senate that he stood by his earlier statement that former Director General ISI had made an attempt to unseat the incumbent federal government.

Former climate change minister Mushahid Ullah Khan gave this statement during an exchange of harsh words with the PPP lawmakers over the issue of privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

The remarks from PML-N lawmaker can further escalate tension between civil-military relations as earlier he had to resign from his ministry in August while giving such statement to BBC Urdu.

Mushahid in his statement had claimed that former Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General (retd) Zaheerul Islam had made a plan to destabilize the government during the protest sit-ins of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in Islamabad in 2014. He had also accused the former ISI head of backing violent street protests in an effort to unseat the government.

During a hot argument with Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan over the laying of an ordinance in the house about conversion of PIA Corporation into a limited company, Mushahid said, “I never withdrew my statement regarding former DG ISI as it was not given to pull out”. He gave these remarks following the allegations of Ahsan that the ruling party senators had to rebut his statement and lose his ministry over this statement. Ahsan accused that Mushahid couldn’t stand by his claims and statements. “You had to resign but no one asked defence minister to resign who had made the same statement,” Ahsan taunted PML-N legislator.

Aitzaz Ahsan in his remarks on the PIA Ordinance said that the government wanted to sell PIA on fast track, which he resembled ‘the selling off of ornaments of mother’. In response Mushahid Ullah accused the PPP of loot and plunder during the last five years and said, “The worst conditions of PIA are because of you because you only made recruitments in it on fake educations decrements and never thought of reviving it”. He directly hitting at the Leader of Opposition, said, “You always ditched PPP in hard times, you left PPP and joined Asghar Khan when Bhutto regime was going to an end in 1977,” he said. He claimed that his government has increased the PIA fleet from 16 aeroplanes to 38 and planned to take it to hundred planes. Giving assurances to the house, he said that neither any PIA employees would be laid off nor it was being privatised through this ordinance. However, when Ahsan stressed that the statement of Mushahid should be taken as a record as it was speaking on behalf of the government and added, “We will hold the government accountable if it was privatised”, then Mushahid said that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had told them that PIA’s 26 percent shares would be sold to bring core investment into its business. He said that the PIA Corporation had been converted into a limited company so that its board of directors could decide the matter on fast track instead of bureaucracy of Islamabad that was too slow. He said that hotels owned by PIA would not be privatised as they had ownership of a different company.

Then a blame game started between Mushahid and Leader of the Opposition while the former alleged him of taking LPG quotas and meeting Nawaz Sharif in Jeddah while the latter reminded him of low income taxes paid by PM Nawaz as compared to his high income. Ahsan kept on explaining that he never went to Jeddah. Mushahid said that PPP should accept its mistakes made in the past before masses as former Indian PM Indira Ghandi did after imposing the emergency there. Ahsan responded, “Yes, we made mistake of protecting this corrupt government last year during the protest sit-ins”.

Al last, Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq intervened and succeeded to calm down the major opposition party in the Senate.

Earlier, PPP Senator Seed Ghani said that PIA had been converted into a limited company so that its 26 percent shares could be sold in the market. “The government is doing this on the pressure of the IMF,” he said.

Later, the government also laid the money bill named as the Income Tax (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2015.

Appointment of NSA: While speaking on his call attention notice, Senator Farhatullah Babar called for the appointment of a civilian as National Security Advisor instead of a former general saying it was an important position in a democratic set-up that reflected the civilian government’s priorities in negotiations with the civilian side of key foreign countries.

“The present appointee Lt General (retd) Nasir Janjua is a very competent and professional military commander. However, as he had just retired as corps commander Quetta it was inevitable that he will be beholden to his military command structure and reflect military priorities in issues on national security,” he opined.

He held the government responsible for creating a situation whereby the civilian side has lost a critical position in security policy formulation and surrendering further political space to the military.

He said that with a recently retired general reflecting the GHQ priorities as NSA the number of military officers in the national security committee had become five as against four civilian ministers which will further tilt the balance against the civilians.

He also suggested that the Rules of Business be revisited and area of responsibilities of NSA clearly defined and under no circumstances the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA), a civilian area of responsibility, be placed under the NSA. He said that the government should appoint a full-time minister of national security and foreign affairs.

In response, the government said that it had appointed Janjua as civilian after his retirement.