ISLAMABAD - The government on Friday in the Senate succeeded, at least for some time, in calming down the opposition parties on the controversial Protection of Pakistan Bill-2014 by giving assurance that their reservations would be heard in the standing committee, after the bill was tabled in the House amid severe criticism of the opposition benches.
Slogans of 'question, question, question' were raised in the House from opposition parties including PPP, ANP, PML-Q and MQM when Federal Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid moved the Protection of Pakistan (PoP) bill. National Assembly has already passed the bill, however, the government is unable to get it passed from the Upper House because opposition parties has overwhelming majority in the House.
Later, Deputy Chairman Senate Sabir Ali Baloch, who was in the chair, referred the bill to the standing committee concerned after the assurance of the government that amendments of opposition parties would be incorporated in it. The chair ruled that any lawmaker could appear before the committee to show its reservations or give its recommendations on the bill that gives sweeping powers to security agencies to arrest, detain and shoot suspects at sight.
Soon after the bill was tabled, PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said, "They are moving towards Nazi state by passing this law as it is a black law." He informed that a report of UK Parliament had also showed its concerns on the proposed bill saying the agencies and police would pick up citizens without any reason under garb of the law. "The government should reconsider and review this law according to the legal norms, he said, adding that the agreements government made with European Union would be at stake if the law was not reviewed.
However, Zahid Hamid viewed that the report showed concerns on the original draft of the bill and that was different and the government was open to all positive suggestion. Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of MQM opposing the bill remarked that the consensus on the bill could never be developed and said, "It is a black, cruel and useless law and we will never support it."
Haji Adeel of ANP suspected that politicians like him would be picked up by law enforcement agencies for 90 days under the law and said that a new bill with the name of 'Protection of Citizens from Protection of Pakistan Bill' would have to be introduced in the parliament. He proposed that a special house committee, comprising of all parliamentary parties, should be formed so that every senator could bring his reservations before it.
PML-Q legislator Kamal Ali Agha said, "The House had reservations on that committee whom bill had been referred as the government benches had majority in it and the members suspect that it would not hear us." He welcomed the direction of prime minister to include recommendations of all parties in the bill and remarked this would not happen through mere distribution of copies of the bill.
Also, the opposition parties including PPP, ANP, PML-Q and MQM staged a protest walkout from the House over the withdrawal of subsidy on flour by the government for the residents of Gilgit Baltistan. Kamal Ali Agha said that 22 parties were protesting for the last four days in Skurdu against the withdrawal of subsidy on flour. "Rs1.23 billion subsidy was being given to Metro Bus in Lahore while the people were crying for flour," he remarked while opposition raised slogans of 'shame shame' before the protest walkout.
During Zero Hour, Senator Saeed Ghani demanded the government make public the report of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and share it with parliament so that the names of military generals and their civilian collaborators who were behind the imposition of November 3, 2007 emergency could be exposed.
Abdul Rauf raised issue of non-issuance of CNICs (computerised national identity cards) to the people of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) by Nadra while Hamayun Khan said that CNICs were being given to Afghan nationals and denied to locals.
Karim Ahmed Khawaja demanded that federal government should consider the resolution passed by Sindh Assembly asking to disband Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) because of its anti-woman stance.