ISLAMABAD - An assurance, for the first time, came from the government on the issue of missing persons when Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in the Senate on Tuesday that the record of the enforced disappearances in the country would be set straight and the government would come with the actual figure.

Responding to the queries of the lawmakers about the varying number of missing persons in the country, the minister said that they would have to establish actual figures about it. He said that the issue was haunting the country since Pakistan was pushed into the so-called war on terror after 9/11 and should be abolished at all.

Nisar Ali Khan made another pledge to the house and said that the Ministry of Interior would show zero tolerance towards the presence of millions of unverified cellular phone SIMs in the country and declared the matters as sensitive for the security of Pakistan.

He said that the government would make integrated system of the verifications of SIMs and the record of the unverified SIMs would be cleared at all. “Cellular companies would have to be made accountable and action would be taken against the retailers involved in the sale of unverified SIMs,” he stated.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Senator Aitzaz Ahsan while opening the debate on President Asif Ali Zardari’s address to the joint sitting of the Parliament, severely criticized the performance of the PML-N led federal government. He remarked that the PML-N had failed to implement its manifesto and the promises made with the masses during the election campaign and during the days when it was an opposition party. 

He said that PML-N failed to fulfil the promises like the fixation of minimum salary of the labourer at the rate of Rs 15000 per month, the end load shedding within six months, end of drone attacks, refusal of foreign loans, decrease in inflation and an end to the menace of terrorism.

He said that neither the federal government could introduce good governance nor it could put an end to corruption though it had been raising great hue and cry on the issue in the past.

Ahsan said that the PML-N government was trying to gag the media and at the same time complained that media also was not giving due coverage to the opposition parties including PPP, ANP and PML-Q.

Meanwhile, the opposition benches as well as Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) staged a token walkout from the house over the irresponsible attitude of the government on the issue of registration of a case under anti-terrorism act against the reporter of a local TV in Quetta. The walkout was followed by the token walkout from the journalists covering the Senate on the issue.

The case has been registered for broadcasting a video made by Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a militant and separatist group, while setting on fire Quaid-e-Azam’s residency in Ziarat, Balochistan on August 14. Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique used a threatening language over the remarks of Senator Mian Raza Rabbani who had said that the action agonist the reporter had reminded the worst days of dictatorship and this aroused the opposition to stage a walkout.

Later, Mir Hasil Khan Bazenjo of the National Party-the ruling party in Balochistan said that the case had been registered on the directions of the high court while information minister Pervez Rasheed assured the house that every possible effort would be made to solve the issue after consultation with the provincial minister.

Rabbani on a point of order said that the minister for industries and production was avoiding to reply the house on the issue of privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and he again did not come today despite an assurance in this connection. He made it clear that the opposition would not allow the government to privatise PSM and be handed it over to a crony capitalist.

Senator Tahir Mushhadi demanded to call in army in Karachi under Article 245 of the Constitution saying that the law and order situation was out of control of the provincial government.

INP adds: Members of the treasury and PPP opposition exchanged harsh words in the Senate on Tuesday over privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills.

On a point of order, the PPP’s Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said the government was trying to privatise the PSM but the PPP would not allow this to happen.

At this point, Railways Minister Kh Saad Rafiq pointing towards Mian Raza Raza Rabbani asked him to ‘correct his body language’.

The PPP senior leader retorted by saying not to try to teach him. In exchange of harsh words, PPP members stood upon their benches demanding that the ministers should stop giving threats.