ISLAMABAD - Contrary to the usual calm that prevails in the senate during the question hour, the upper house of the parliament was marked with heated debate on Tuesday amid a series of questions ranging from privatisation to power cuts with nobody was satisfied with what the government claimed.

Heavyweight PPP lawmakers including Raza Rabbani, Aitzaz Ahmed and others joined questioner Sughra Imam in grilling the government for violating constitution and rules of business by not consulting ministry of defence prior to signing an agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF) on privatising Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, state minister for parliamentary affairs, replied that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was in-charge of defence ministry when the deal was struck with IMF arguing that he had taken all the divisions of the ministry in confidence.

“But the written statement from minister in-charge of aviation division states that defence ministry was not taken on board on the issue. This is very much contrasting statements,” shouted Sughra Imam.

Senator Rabbani further confused the minister by saying that Council of Common Interest (CCI) was not approached for evolving consensus before privatisation of the national flag carrier (PIA) which, he said, was unconstitutional move by the ruling PML-N government, alleging that the airliner was being outsourced at the behest of a business tycoon.

With Sheikh Aftab was unable to satisfy the opposition, PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan intervened and said that the PPP members were opposing the deal in order to strengthen an association of employees in PIA that would be holding elections next month.

“Nothing is wrong in privatisation of PIA but the PPP wants to energise its unionists in aviation industry to sweep the referendum scheduled to be held in June,” the PML-N lawmaker said, triggering the opposition to stage a walkout in protest.

In a tit for tat response, Aitzaz Ahsan, PPP stalwart and leader of the opposition in senate, reminded the government of promises and tall claims made by Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif for putting an end to power cuts within months and ridiculed the government for making hollow slogans.

And this time State Minister for Water and Power Abdi Sher Ali had to reply who immediately stung the PPP leader by holding former President Asif Ali Zardari for creating the mess prompting Deputy Chairman Senate Sabir Ali Baloch to expunge the words attributed to Zardari from official record.

Senator Kamil Ali Agha of PML-Q further infuriated Abid Sher Ali by saying that the constituency represented by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had to witness 12-hour loadshedding, questioning the government’s claim that power cuts had been reduced to minimum hours.

“Mr. Speaker, Kamil Ali Agha should know the penalty for misleading the house. He is telling a lie in Senate,” yelled the minister. “You are liar,” Agha fired back triggering the acting speaker to switch off mikes of the thundering speakers.

This all happened during the question hour with questioners disagreeing to the answers and the ministers refuting the allegations levelled by opposition members.

PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain asked the government about the total number of memoranda of understanding signed with countries/firms regarding generation of electricity. The minister concerned said that six MoUs had been struck in that regard, the only answer that satisfied a questioner in the house.