ISLAMABAD -  Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani on Tuesday described the remarks made by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Kabul as ‘unacceptable’ for Parliament and asked Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to brief the upper house on Wednesday (today) on the US demands made to Pakistan.

The Senate chairman, who has always remained critical of the US policies towards Pakistan, said that Tillerson appeared to be behaving like a viceroy and the foreign minister should place the US wish-list before the House. He demanded that the foreign minister should take the House into confidence.

“He (Tillerson) has come here for talks but his tone and tenor are not acceptable,” Rabbani said. The statement of the US secretary of state came a day ahead of his visit to Pakistan which showed that the US had set some conditions for Pakistan, he said.

The Senate chairman further said that the Parliament and the Senate had been kept in the dark over these conditions. He also suggested that Tillerson should read the resolution and recommendations passed by the Parliament on Pak-US relations to know about Pakistan’s reaction.

In his visit to Kabul, Tillerson had said that Pakistan needed to take a clear view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that have safe havens in the country. He completed his brief visit to Pakistan on Tuesday and left for India.

The Senate chairman also pointed out the issue of across the board accountability and said that he had earlier written a letter to the parliamentary committee on national accountability law, recommending that all including generals and judges should be held accountable under one law. He said his view was now the same and stressed that even if it was not possible, his opinion should be mentioned in the minutes of the committee.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid said that the proposal of the chairman could not be materialized as a political party had opposed it, “I had placed the letter before the committee,” he added.

Separately, Hamid responding to a call-attention notice said the vacant post of the Council of Islamic Ideology chairman was being filled shortly.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar proposed that the recovered missing persons be allowed to depose the Senate committee in confidence and also asked for replacing the six years old Commission on Enforced Disappearances with a new one.

Speaking during the hour of issues of public importance in the Senate, he said that journalist Zeenat Shahzadi and rights activist Punhal Sario were released from captivity last week but they were too scared to talk about their ordeal like all those who had been through it in the past.

“This is the responsibility of the state to re-assure these hapless people,” he said and proposed that the human rights committee invited some of them to record their statements in camera. Further, committee members should make a declaration on oath that they will not divulge their statements in public, he said.

Babar said that apart from its cathartic value for the victims it will also add to the body of information available to the Parliament which may be highly useful in discreetly addressing the increasing incidents of missing persons.

Secondly, he said that while the efforts of the Commission on Enforced Disappearances had resulted in the tracing of a large number of missing persons it had failed to perform two most important functions. It had failed in fixing responsibility on individuals or organizations responsible for enforced disappearances as well as in registering FIRs against them, he said.

The senator proposed that after six years it was time to disband the commission and replace it with a new one with experts in investigations which should make public its report as provided in the newly amended law on inquiry commissions, he said. He also called for making public the report of the first 2010 commission under late Justice Mansoor Kamal which worked for only one year.

On the issue of accountability, Babar said the Parliament had a unique opportunity to remove the glaring anomalies in the existing NAB law that was misused for political re-engineering. He called for seizing the moment and devising a new legislation for across the board accountability of all. “If this opportunity that has presented itself is lost the Parliament will have no one to blame but itself”.

The Senate also passed a bill meant to provide a mechanism for public interest disclosures and protection of persons making such disclosures. Law Minister Zahid Hamid who moved the Public Interest Disclosures Bill, 2017, said that the bill would help prevent corruption and corrupt practices and protect persons making such disclosures.

“Modern day economic crimes including money-laundering, fraud, embezzlement, kickbacks, commissions and other forms of corruption and corrupt practices have become increasingly complex and, therefore, difficult to investigate and prosecute,” the statement of objects and reasons of the bill reads.

It points out that the whistle-blowers are often subjected to retaliation in the form of discrimination, intimidation, abuse, the unjust disciplinary action including dismissal and even threats of physical harm to them and their families.

“Protection of persons making such public interest disclosures, by reporting in good faith acts of corruption and other wrongdoing and illegal activities, is integral to efforts to effectively combat corruption…and support a clean working environment,” the statement says.

 

 

IMRAN MUKHTAR