ISLAMABAD - The government informed the Senate on Thursday that it had arranged a briefing for parliamentary leaders on the National Action Plan to counter terrorism on May 2.

Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati disclosed the government’s fresh plan on the opening day of the spring session of Upper House.

The briefing that was originally scheduled for March 28 had been postponed after the major opposition parties refused to participate in it, saying this should be held in the parliament. The government also plans to discuss the issue of extension of the military courts in that briefing.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had written letters to the parliamentary leaders to attend the briefing on NAP.

Former chairman Senate and PPP lawmaker Mian Raza Rabbani in the Senate once again opposed the move and observed that a joint sitting of the parliament should be convened for such a briefing. He added it could be in-camera if required.

Rabbani went on to say that it was the constitutional right of every member of the parliament to be sensitised on the matters of national security for further contribution to the formation of policy. He referred to the controversial media talk of Prime Minister Imran Khan to foreign media, saying no contradiction or clarification has so far come from his side. He also criticised the Prime Minister for his remarks that Pakistan’s soil had been used to undertake attacks in Iran.

Govt also plans to discuss issue of extension of military courts in the briefing

His party colleague Senator Sherry Rehman regretted that the Prime Minister chose foreign minister for a briefing on NAP. She also criticised Prime Minister for a belated visit to Quetta after a recent terror attack in Hazarganji area of the provincial capital.

PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan said that Prime Minister’s remarks on Iran were in contrast with those earlier made by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that people used to come from Iran to carry out terrorism in Pakistan. ”It appears that their office is not in order”, he remarked. He said that that Hazarganji incident was condemnable but the role of prime minister was missing in it that they saw of New Zealand premier after Christchurch attacks. He also criticised the statement of Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmad Shah during the sit-in of Hazara community over Hazarganji incident that people should avoid closing down the road otherwise they would be “punished with shoes. He sought an explanation as well as apology from the minister over his remarks and said that such statements would not help resolve the masses’ issues.

Senator Jahenzeb Jamaldini said that Prime Minister Imran Khan for the first time spoke truth when he said that terrorists in the past used Pakistani soil for undertaking attacks in Iran. “Earlier, rulers used to hide such facts,” he said adding that PM Khan said the same what was in his mind. He said that the house should hold a comprehensive discussion on the issue.

The house also unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the recent terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka that were carried out during the celebrations of  religious festive of Easter. “Being a victim of terrorism, Pakistan strongly condemns these heinous acts of terrorism and reiterates that we must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practice their faith in fear,” the resolution said. Earlier, the senator from treasury and opposition benches in their remarks severely condemned the terror attacks as well as recent terrorist activities in Quetta, Ormara and other areas of Balochistan.

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar responding to a call attention notice on the tax shortfall being faced by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) informed the house that notices were being issued to those holding off-shore companies. “For tax broadening, we have started issuing notices after we got data about offshore accounts,” he said. He added that the government had carried out a pilot project on 6,500 people to carry out tax recoveries from them.

The state minister informed that the government has a database with the help of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and FIA which pointed out millions of people who are either not paying taxes or paying very low but they are buying properties of worth millions of rupees. “They are also purchasing luxury vehicles of worth millions or rupees and their international travel history is also of worth millions.” He said that the government was achieving its objectives of broadening the tax net.

Azhar said that the government was launching a single online portal for registration and filing of along with the help of provinces on July 1. For evaluation of properties, the FBR and deputy commissioner (DC) rates are very low than actual property rates. “We have earlier increased these rates up to 20 per cent and now we have decided with consensus of provinces to revise these rates up to 100 per cent from July 1, he said.  “The moment, we will increase property rates, we will decrease tax rates to start transactions in property market,” he said, He concluded that the next year would be the year of economic consolidation and fiscal stability.