ISLAMABAD - The Senate deferred a privilege motion of an opposition lawmaker, for some time, against the government what he claimed that the privilege of the Upper House was being breached as the ruling party was going to privatise Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) without prior approval of the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

However, the motion moved by Senator Mian Raza Rabbani was kept pending after the assurance of Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq that a meeting of CCI was being convened within next ten days and the matter would be discussed in the meeting.

Rabbani had moved a privilege motion against the government, which said that the proposed privatisation of 26 per cent shares of PIA and other state-owned entities was being done without the prior approval of CCI that was mandatory under the law. He termed it a breach of the Upper House of the Parliament and an ultra constitutional step of the government.

The fiery Rabbani also cautioned the PML-N led federal government that Sindh had the right to invoke Clause 3 of the Constitution and in case of any delay the province would be forced to requisition the CCI meeting by invoking the said article. He asserted that the federal government could not privatise state-owned entities at its own free will as Clause (1) of Article 154 of 1973 Constitution clearly states that CCI was a proper forum that could formulate and regulate policies regarding the matters falling in part II of Federal Legislative List.

He said that the privatisation of state owned enterprises only through approval of federal cabinet was an ultra constitutional step of the government, which would deprive CCI of its constitutional mandate to supervise and control various entries in the Federal Legislative List, Part II.

Giving arguments, he said that under the Constitution, the CCI was responsible for privatization of institutions, autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies and to privatise those without CCI approval was a breach of the Senate’s sanctity.

Continuing with his arguments, Raza Rabbani said under the Constitution, the government was bound to call CCI meeting after every 90 days but the last meeting was held on July 30, 2013. There are several important matters pending for CCI meeting like holding of census and privatisation of public sector entities, he said.

Raja Zafarul Haq assured the house that as PML-N government strongly believed in the supremacy of the Constitution so CCI meeting would be convened within ten days to discuss the matter. He said that his party (PML-N) had equally contributed to the 18 Constitutional Amendment just like other political parties and they would uphold the sanctity of the Constitution and could not even dare to think violating its single Clause. “I’ll be grateful if the motion is deferred,” he added.

Rabbani conceded to the point of Raja Zafarul Haq only with the condition that if the government failed to convene the CCI meeting within the given time, the house would proceed with the privilege motion.

Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada assured the house that within 48 hours he would meet the prime minister and request him to summon the CCI meeting. He also conceded that delay in summoning the CCI meeting was violation of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the opposition benches including MQM staged a protest walk out from the House over the recent sacking of 500 employees of LESCO by the PML-N led federal government.

Rabbani raised the issue on a call attention notice and regretted that privileged people were being facilitated through issuing SROs while employees of Pakistan Steel Mills had failed to get their salaries for the last three months.

State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali explained that the terminated employees were daily wagers and it was the discretion of company which had hire such employees

Earlier, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, condemned the government during the question hour session what he said it was submitting half-cooked replies to questions before the House. At the same time, he criticized the minister for often skipping the supplementary questions asked by legislators.

The lawmakers of ANP staged a protest walkout from the House for not giving proper royalty of power generation to the Phkyber Pakhtunkhwa by the federal government.

Abid Sher said that under the AGN Qazi formula approved by CCI, Wapda was making an annual payment of Rs 6 billion to the province.

Senators Abdul Nabi Bangash and Ilyas Bilor insisted that according AGN Qazi formula, the federal government has to pay Rs20 billion per annum to KP while the Rs6 billion formula was not approved by the CCI at all.