ISLAMABAD - In an apparent move to give more teeth to Senate by revamping its rules of business, the Upper House of the Parliament Thursday adopted a new set of rules, including one giving the powers to the house to constitute itself into a committee with the powers to summon any person under question or asking for production any record of government body before it.

The move is part of the efforts of the newly elected Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani to make the Senate an effective and powerful house and to bind the government to implement its recommendations or assurances given by the government to the house. “The house may constitute itself into a committee of the whole on a motion by the leader of the house or leader of the opposition. When the house constitutes itself into a committee of the whole, it functions as one committee acting upon any matter(s) referred by the house and conducts its proceedings like a regular committee with its membership composed of all members of the house,” said newly inserted Rule 172A in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012.

The house also adopted a new rule 256A in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012 which says that federal ministers shall, after every three months, appear before the house and make reports on all matters referred by the house and recommendations made by the committees.

The house passed the amendment in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012 that substituted Rule 58 and under the amended rule, answers to questions given by minister “shall be electronically sent to members” two hours before the commencement of the question hour session but not be released for publication until answers are actually given on the floor of the house.

Soon after prime minister reached the house on Thursday, Chairman Senate appreciated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for attending proceedings of the house and remarked, “it is welcoming that ministers attend sittings and today PM was also present.” It will help Senate improve its performance. Later, PM left the house without uttering any remarks on the floor of the house. The opposition benches for long had been protesting over the absence of PM and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the house. Nisar also paid a visit to the house the other day.

The chair referred the matter of killing of suspected killers of 20 labourers in Turbat, Balochistan to the House Functional Committee on Human Rights on the demand of the opposition benches after the government failed to assure that it would hold any judicial inquiry into the matter. Speaking on his motion, Senator Farhatullah Babar from the PPP had questioned the government whether it was considering to hold a judicial inquiry into the killing of suspected killers of these labourers by security agencies what he said in a  retaliatory mode. He expressed concern over the extra judicial killings in Balochistan by the security agencies saying that the state was resorting to the same tactics as that of the militants and lawless elements.

State Minister for Interior Baleeghur Rehman in his reply said that the operation was carried out on the basis of intelligence report and the government had no plan to have a judicial inquiry. However, he said an investigation team was probing the Levies personnel who escaped their duty of protection of workers.

Earlier, the state minister for interior during the question hour also informed the house that a special security division was being set up for the protection of under construction China Pakistan Economic Corridor. “The division will consist of nine battalions of Pakistan Army and six battalions of civilian security forces,” he said, adding that the division will be deputed for the security of foreigners and Pakistanis working on the construction site of corridor.

 Speaking on a point of order Senator Kulsum Perveen of PML-N demanded Chairmn Senate to form a committee, saying any change in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor will deprive smaller provinces especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochsitan of their due rights besides creating a sense of deprivation.    

The chair asked the female lawmaker to consult the Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq and he move a motion and thus he will order formation of a special committee to look into the issue.  

Later, the held a lengthy sitting in which as many as 21 members debated the Council of Common Interest (CCI) Annual Report 2012-13 in which majority members from smaller provinces raised concerns of equal distribution of resources among the federating units. They also blamed the government of undermining the role of CCI, violating the constitution and usurping the rights of smaller provinces for delaying its meeting pointing out constitutional requirement to summon CCI meeting after every 90 days.

Taking part in the discussion on the CCI report, Senator Farhatullah Babar called for taking up the issues of China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the equal rights of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the federal government over oil and gas discovered in the province. He said that the CCI after 18th amendment had fundamentally altered the power balance between federal government and the provinces but the provinces had not yet fully appreciated this huge shift of power in their favour.

Senator Taj Haider went on to suggest the house to reject the report what he said expressing lack of confidence on CCI and the delay of the government in presenting the report.

Senator Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini of Balochsitan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M said that the indifferent attitude of the government towards the people of Balochistan will give birth to anarchy and lawlessness and the CCI must not ignore these issues.

Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq of ruling PML-N declared the CCI report a good step forward, saying the government was making all-out efforts to unite all the federating units.  Winding up the debate, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada said that in presence of provincial chief ministers like Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Pervez Khattak and Dr Abdul Malik Baloch in CCI, no one could  dare usurping the rights of these smaller provinces. All four CMs are members of CCI by virtue of their positions.