ISLAMABAD - The government on Thursday informed Senate that the motive behind the Shah Noorani Shrine blast to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project could not be ruled out as it took place just a day before the Gawadar Port opening.

State Minister for Interior Baleegur Rehman told the upper house that the blast had some relations to the Gawadar Port ceremony as it took place just a day before the opening. “The purpose was to give a message to the world that there was still a volatile security situation in Pakistan when it was achieving a milestone,” he said.

On November 13, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed a grand opening ceremony at the Gwadar Port to mark the operationalisation and opening of trade activities at the port, a key project under the CPEC. The premier also inaugurated the departure of the first trade cargo from China. The blast took place on the eve of the port opening in Khuzdar that left over 30 people including children and women dead and over 50 injured.

The minister said that the incident was a security failure as only one levy man out of 10 personnel deputed for the security of the shrine was present at the time of the incident. There was no proper mechanism of security checking at the shrine, he said.

“The suicide bomber was a young man of 14 or 15 years age and devotees mostly belonging to Karachi and interior Sindh visit the shrine,” he said. He said that the number of devotees swells during weekends and there was a huge crowd at the time of the blast. He confirmed that as many as 36 people lost their lives and 54 injured including two from Balochistan and 34 from Karachi.

Earlier, speaking on an adjournment motion about the incident, PPP Senator Taj Haider sought an explanation from the government as how such incidents were connected with the move to sabotage the CPEC. “A parliamentary committee on national security should be formed,” he said adding that security forces could deal with the menace of terrorism but only a political commitment was needed.

ANP Senator Daud Khan Achakzai sought formation of a committee to coordinate with provinces on security issues. He said that the federal government has failed to fulfil its responsibility with regard to provision of security to the citizens He questioned that the interior minister did not bother to come to the house and avoid giving answers to the lawmakers.

PML-N senator Mushahid Ullah Khan launched an attack on the Pakistan People’s Party for its criticism of the government on the security situation and said that the security situation was much better today than the PPP tenure. He questioned who formed Al-Zulfiqar; a group declared terrorist organization by the Gen Ziaul Haq’s regime and was propagated as a militant wing of the PPP.

Separately, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani reserved his ruling on the issue whether the president should address the joint sitting of the parliament at the start of the parliamentary year or calendar year. Law Minister Zahid Hamid viewed that the president should address the joint sitting at the start of the parliamentary year and said earlier rulings also endorsed this viewpoint.

The house also amended its Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business to empower the Senate Business Advisory Committee to act as ‘Committee on Ethics’ and review the code of conduct of members from time to time and ensure that the code is implemented.

The government also informed the house that the power sector circular debt stood at Rs328 billion denying some reports that it had soared to Rs650 billion. 

 “The circular debt is not Rs650 billion and it is Rs328 billion...there were problems in recovery of electricity bills, which has also been improved to a great extent,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab said while responding a call attention notice.

He said that the power sector owed Rs8 billion to Pakistan State Oil and explained that National Electric Power Regulatory Authority determined the tariff of all distribution companies on the basis of cost of each company’s supply.

He further said that the transmission and distribution losses were an integral part of the power system.