ISLAMABAD - Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain Saturday came under fire in the senate for his early announcement on increase in prices of petroleum products which the lawmakers said would promote hoarding and black-marketing of the commodities.

The minister has said on Friday that the prices of petrol would be increased up to Rs5 and diesel up to Rs2.5 from next moth.

Condemning the statement, PML-N’s Zafar Ali Shah said that dealers had started stockpiling the POL products after that statement. He reviled that the price increase was announced five days before the decision of the government would come into force, declaring the statement an illegal act by the minister. He also demanded that government should resign as it had failed to control POL prices and provide electricity and gas to the people.

PML-N leader Ishaq Dar endorsing his party member said that the premature announcement will have bad consequences for the economy. Saying the move was aimed at creating an artificial crisis in the country, he advised the minister to avoid making such pre-time announcements in the future.

Leader of the House Nayyer Hussain Bokhari said that Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) used to fix the prices of petroleum products and the government had noting to do with it. But, Federal Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio seconded PML-N senators’ position as he told reporters outside the Parliament House that Asim Hussain’s statement was illegal. He said such statements provide opportunities to hoarders.

During the session, Senate chairman deferred the Private Power and Infrastructure Bill-2011 until next sitting of the house after the lawmakers pointed out some lacunas in the proposed legislation.

Prof Khurshid Ahmed objected the proposed law was being passed in haste and was not in line with the 18th amendment as it would increase differences between provinces and centre. “The proposed board to be established under this bill did not mention any member from Fata,” he said, adding that the board should not have the powers to appoint its own MD.

Ishaq Dar pointed out the board would not work independently as its MD has been purposed to have the status of government official.

Zafar Ali Shah objected to the proposal of taking one board member each from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan. “According to our foreign policy, AJK has the status of a separate independent sate and this would effect our stance on Indian-held Kashmir,” he said. Similarly, the constitutional position of GB was under discussion and it was also being considered a separate province in the bill, Zafar added.

On Kashmir, he further said that as per the constitution of Pakistan and UN Resolutions, Azad Kashmir is not a province of Pakistan but a separate country. He contended that legislation cannot be done in the Pakistani parliament about Azad Kashmir maters, saying it would affect Pakistan’s principled position on Kashmir dispute. He said AJK has its own president, prime minister, Supreme Court and legislative assembly though Pakistan has not formally acknowledged it as a separate state.

Leader of the House Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari opposed his view point stressing that AJK was not a separate country. He said a federal ministry is responsible for relations between Pakistan and the Azad territory. PML-Q Senator Wasim Sajjad remarked that Syed Zafar Ali Shah has gone too. He said AJK is not a separate country and Kashmiris travel abroad on Pakistani passport.

The government opposed an adjournment motion, moved by Prof Khurshid, in connection with the reported increase in incidents of sexual harassments in the offices of international non-government organisation (INGOs) operating in Pakistan. Khurshid said that number of NGOs operating in Pakistan was touching its heights in the country and these should be brought under proper monitoring mechanism as many cases of sexual harassment were being reported in their offices.

Adviser to Prime Minister Mustafa Nawaz, opposing the motion, said that the role of Human Rights Ministry was limited and it did not regulate INGOs. “However, it has been made mandatory for all the institutions, organisations and departments to form a three member committee to hear the complaints of sexual harassment,” he added. Senate Chairman Farooq H Naek passed the directions that there was a dire need for a proper legislation to monitor the activities of NGOs so that the incidents of sexual harassment could be stopped.

Senator Wasim Sajjad on a point of order said that it was necessary to make changes in the Peoples’ Representation Act and Senate Act to bring the article 62 and 63 of the constitution in line with the 18th amendment. He further said the government had taken no step to remove this anomaly and this would create more confusion in electoral process.

Senate chairman gave the ruling that all steps should be taken to make amendments in all laws to bring them in conformity with the 18th amendment. He also directed federal law minister to form a committee for this purpose. Responding to another adjournment motion of Professor Khurshid regarding the powers and responsibility to stop the usage of substandard CNG cylinders in vehicles and other places, petroleum minister said that the government was working seriously to introduce a comprehensive policy to take drastic measures to stop this practice. He, however, admitted that substandard gas cylinders were being used in vehicles.

Khurshid in his motion had said that hundreds of innocent people have died as a result of blasts of substandard CNG cylinders being used in vehicles and factories. He said that there was no proper monitoring system to check the quality of these cylinders, but his motion was rejected with the majority of vote.