Parliament won’t give way to a dictator: Rabbani

ISLAMABAD – Showing his dismay over the delay in the passage of delimitation of constituencies bill from the Senate, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani Tuesday said that the parliament will not give way to a dictator.

The remarks of the Senate chairman came soon after Awami National Party Senator Shahi Syed raised the issue of delay in the passage of delimitation bill. He said the delay was posing a threat to timely holding of general elections.

He said that people were making a mockery of them saying “this was parliament which paved way for the dictatorships and martial laws.” He was of the view that delay in the passage of the proposed constitutional amendment bill was tantamount to giving way to the military dictators. He further said that the deadlock between the government and Pakistan People’s Party over the bill was bringing a bad name to the parliament.

Responding to the remarks of ANP Senator, Senate chairman said the parliament had played an unprecedented role against martial laws in the past. “The senate has neither given way to a dictator in the past nor will it do this in the future,” he said.

Rabbani informed the house that the issue came under discussion during the house business advisory committee meeting on Monday. He said the leader of the house and leader of the opposition were making efforts for passage of the bill.

Earlier in his remarks, Syed also deplored that the bill seeking to reallocate seats of the legislatures and delimitation of the constituencies was hitting snags in the Senate because of the refusal of PPP to support the bill. He criticised PPP for creating hurdles in the passage of the proposed delimitation bill. It appears that the government was being blackmailed to close cases against some politicians in return of the support for the bill, he alleged.

He said that it was the government’s responsibility to bring members in the house in sufficient numbers to get it passed with two thirds’ majority  

Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq informed the house that he had taken up the matter with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The PM had assured that he would talk to the Sindh Chief Minister before starting his visit to Turkey. Giving his remarks on an adjournment motion moved by Senator Sherry Rehman about the interim award issued by London Court of International Arbitration in favour of nine IPPs directing Pakistan to immediately pay 14 billion rupees, the Chairman Senate said that all agreements and every foreign borrowing should also be ratified by the parliament.

He said he wanted to give a ruling on the issue of arbitration but has restricted himself as another house is also involved. “I will write to Speaker National Assembly suggesting constitution of a parliamentary committee for oversight of arbitration matters,” he added. He proposed that the parliamentary panel should comprise law committees of the both the house of the parliament.

Earlier, Senator Sherry Rehman while speaking on the motion said it was disturbing and shocking that Pakistan has been asked to pay around Rs14 billion, including outstanding bills and interest, by London Court of International Arbitration to IPPs. “It is also crucial to point out those overdue payments of independent power producers (IPPs) have increased enormously up to Rs205 billion.

She said that the government was not visible anywhere. Former Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif had acknowledged that the government owed 161 billion rupees to IPPs of which 69 billion rupees were under litigation, she said. She further said that these fines were paid by tax payers’ money due to government’s negligence.

Sherry pointed out that the absence of parliamentary oversight especially in key international arbitration cases was a major reason that Pakistan has been losing several important international cases.

Minister for Power Awais Leghari in his response said that IPPs were exploiting the situation as controversial contracts were signed in the past. He said power plants had been established in the past without giving advertisement. He said the Attorney General’s office was looking into the matter of arbitration and government will look after its interests.

The Senate could not hold the question hour session as the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) did not print the booklets containing questions to be tabled on the house. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Aftab Sheikh informed the house that employees of PCP were on a strike for two and a half months because of the non-payment of their salaries.

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