ISLAMABAD - The federal government and country’s intelligence agencies remained under fire from lawmakers from both the sides of the aisle as the Upper House of Parliament took up the subject of the bloodshed of Hazara community members in recent terrorist attacks in Quetta, on Monday.

Senators bemoaned the government and intelligence agencies’ indifference to the plight of the Hazaras.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement was the first to stage a walkout from the House over Saturday’s bomb blast in Quetta. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz while Balochistan National Party-Awami and Awami National Party from the treasury followed the suit.

The House will take up this subject in detail today (Tuesday) on an adjournment motion moved by the MQM, when it meets at 10:30 in the morning.

During Monday’s proceedings, MQM’s Tahir Hussain Mashhadi said the killing of Hazara people was horrific. He deplored that there was no one to address their grievances, neither the federal government nor the Supreme Court. “This uncaring government should come and meet with the relatives of the victims to condole them,” Mashhadi said before staging a walkout against what he termed the government’s callous attitude towards the protection of the Shias.

Haji Mohammad Adeel of the ANP questioned the role of law-enforcement agencies, and wondered how terrorists managed to carry around 1,000-kg explosives to a sensitive area in Quetta. It meant that no high security zone was safe from terrorists, he added.

Opposition Leader in the Senate Ishaq Dar questioned the role of the intelligence agencies in the immediate matter and sought a ruling from the chair asking the ministries of Defence and Interior to give a joint clarification. He said the law enforcement agencies should be called to be quizzed for their failure as billion of rupees were being spent on the Frontier Constabulary and army in Balochistan. Dar also pulled up Interior Minister Rehman Malik for not taking the House into confidence on his statement that international conspiracies were being hatched to destabilise the country.

The PML-N staged a walkout after senior party leader Raja Zafarul Haq said they would protest to show solidarity with the Hazara community and against what had been happening in Balochistan and Karachi.

Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani of the JUI-Fazl called for the constitution of a high-level judicial commission to probe the bad affairs of Balochistan. He said the imposition of the Governor’s Rule could not stop killings and now demands were being made to call in the army. “Whether the army is not present in FATA,” Dar questioned, stating that the next step could be to call in NATO. He complained that the government’s attitude was not appropriate, and walked out of the House.

Senator Zahid Khan of the ANP, while criticising the statement of Balochistan Governor Sardar Zulfiqar Magsi that Saturday’s bombing was the result of the failure of the agencies, said he was the administrative head of all the agencies operating in the province and should seek reply from them. His party colleague, Farah Aqil, also condemned the killings, and questioned the role of the law-enforcement agencies.

Senator Kalsoom Perveen of the BNP-Awami called for an all-parties conference on the issue. She said all the stakeholders, inside and outside of Parliament, should be invited, including the Pakistan army, to find out a solution to the problem.

Senator Saeed Ghani, on a point of order, said Sindh High Court Chief Justice Musheer Alam was giving public statements against the government after the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of Judges rejected the names of two judges for confirmation for not paying tax. He also criticised the media for unnecessarily lashing out at parliamentarians for what he said they were being called as dacoits and thieves. 

Opposition leader Dar said there was no final say of the committee on the confirmation of judges, as it had become redundant and the next assembly should review whether the committee should be given the teeth or it should be abolished. He said the chairman of the committee gave a public statement about the confirmation of judges that was unfair as the proceedings of the committee were in-camera.

The House unanimously passed the resolution recommending the government to take further steps to provide housing facilities to all federal government employees through the Pakistan Housing Authority (PHA). Earlier, Housing Minister Sardar Talib Hussain Nakai said the ministry had smelled a rat in some projects of the Pakistan Housing Authority and these had been referred to the Federal Investigation Agency for further scrutiny. 

“The National Accountability Bureau has also summoned the ministry for briefing on Kuri Model village,” he said while adding the projects could be completed in the tenure of the next government.

The House passed another resolution recommending the government to send the matter to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to review fees, service and other charges formula of the foreign banks operating in Pakistan. The mover of the motion MQM’s Mashhadi said the service charges being charged by foreign banks were unfair and unjust and bad for local banking system and there should be equal opportunity and equal level playing field for all. State Minister for Finance Saleem Mandviwala was of the view that the banking sector was a de-regulated sector and customers were free to go to any bank.

Senate Chairman Nayyer Hussain Bokhari referred three bills, all moved by Senator Saeed Ghani of PPP, the Darul Madina International University Islamabad Bill, 2013, the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) University Islamabad Bill, 2013 and the My University Islamabad Bill, 2013, to a standing committee. The National Assembly has already passed all the bills.