NA makes cold start, but sparks are promised
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s second session of this winter made a cold start on a chilly Monday evening with some low-key criticism of the government on law and order, but outside the house, the opposition leader threatened fireworks on a controversial new accountability law in the coming days.
Two lawmakers of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N from Punjab and an independent from Balochistan blamed a perceived government inaction for most of violence in places like Karachi and Balochistan while resuming a law and order debate carried over from the previous session last month.
There was no immediate government response to charges and complaints from PML-N chief whip Aftab Ahmad Shaikh and Naseer Bhutto and independent Mohammad Usman, but three members of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party reacted to a protest walkout by a PML-N member, Dr Darshan, from Sindh, against alleged rape of a minor Hindu girl in the province with assurances of bringing all culprits to justice while, they said, the main accused in the case had already been arrested.
TRIBUTE TO MALALA: In between the proceedings, before being adjourned until 11am on Tuesday, the house unanimously passed a resolution, moved by PPP’s Rubina Saadat Qaimkhani, recommending that Swat schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, now recovering in a Birmingham hospital from wounds she had suffered in an October gunfire claimed by the Taliban, be given the title of “daughter of Pakistan” in recognition of her sacrifice for female education.
ACCOUNTABILITY LAW: The government bill seeking the creation of an independent National Accountability Commission to prosecute corruption by holders of public office by replacing the Musharraf-era National Accountability Bureau will likely be the most important legislative business before the present session which is scheduled to continue until Dec 20.
The National Accountability Commission Bill, already approved by a house standing committee dominated by ruling coalition, but opposed by its PML-N members, was neither on the day’s agenda nor there was any mention of it in the house before an expected debate on Wednesday.
But opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N, who made only a token appearance in the house after remaining absent during the entire previous session, reiterated his party’s opposition to the draft in a talk to reporters outside the house.
He said his party would “not allow passage” of the accountability bill in its present form as well as another proposed government tax amnesty bill that he said was meant to whiten black money.
The opposition leader did not specify how his party could block the two bills while the PPP-led coalition has a comfortable majority in both the houses of parliament, but his threat signalled the possibility of noisy protests and walkouts.
HIV PATIENTS: Earlier, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani, responding to a call-attention notice, put the number of Pakistan’s estimated HIV patients at 97,400, which he said was “not very much” considering its small percentage in a population of about 180 million.
But he said that out 7,000 registered patients, only 2,300 were receiving regular treatment at government-run centres in the four provinces and also dismissed the apprehension of the five PPP movers of the notice about what they called a “rapid rise of HIV disease” in Islamabad, saying the capital’s estimated figure had risen to 1,919 from 464 in 2004 due to “better detection”.
Responding to another call-attention notice from five PML-N members about the closure CNG stations in Islamabad, the parliamentary secretary for petroleum and natural resources, Ms Rukhsana Jamshed, told the house that while the Oil and Gag Regulatory Authority was inspecting and fining stations violating the Supreme Court orders, the supply situation was expected to improve after a final decision on the issue by the court.