ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly, on the first day of the 5th session, witnessed divergence of opinion on the ongoing targeted operation in Karachi.
Terming it an exercise against their party, MQM members staged a walkout from the session and demanded release of their arrested party workers. On the other hand, the PPP strongly defended the need for continuation of the operation.
The House, which adjourned due to lack of quorum, offered Fateha for Pakistan Army’s major general, lieutenant colonel and a soldier killed in a blast in Upper Dir. The Taliban claimed the blast.
Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan told the assembly that as many as 2,174 acts of terrorism took place in the county over the last two years. He said 772 security officials and 1,613 citizens lost their lives over this period.
Speaking in the context of rising incidents of rapes and attacks on children, the interior minister also expressed his government’s willingness to amend the current laws for stringent punishment to rapists.
Before staging a walkout, MQM legislator Sajid Hasnain, on a point of order, demanded early release of their party workers arrested in the Karachi operation. "We are staging a walkout for our arrested party workers and raids only on MQM offices," he said, arguing that if the MQM has mandate in 85 percent of the city, then it should also be made part of Karachi-specific decision-making.
Sajid said that three operations had already been carried out in which MQM was exclusively targeted but the city was not deweaponised. "This proves that weapons are in remaining 15 percent part of the city where even law enforcement agencies do not dare to go,” he said. He asked why authorities were not taking steps to arrest Uzair Baloch, Baba Ladla, Taju and others. The MQM lawmaker also raised concerns about the arrest of MQM's former lawmaker Nadeem Hashmi. "Government should conduct operation but against terrorists and anti-Pakistan elements," he added.
Another MQM MNA Rashid Godil said there was a need to expose the powers involved in sabotaging the efforts of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to restore peace in the metropolitan city. "MQM has faced numerous allegations," he said, as he asked why the other parties were annoyed when Muttahida demanded army operation in Karachi.
PPP's legislator Shahida Rehmani said there should not be any meddling in the ongoing targeted operation. If it goes on, it will be better for the city, she said during her speech on former President Asif Ali Zardari's last address to parliament. She said his party was not hindering the arrest of PPP workers who are allegedly involved in acts of violence.
Another PPP's legislator, Nafeesa Shah said that MQM's input was also there regarding the Karachi issue. "The Sindh governor was also present as Nawaz Sharif consulted all sections,” she said, adding that the MQM was now raising objection to the targeted operation but they had also earlier demanded army operation in the city. She also felt less intense reaction on martyrdom of security agencies personnel.
Criticising PMLN-led central government, she said the government has changed hundred statements in its first hundred days. "Who are Punjabi Taliban? Who are the stakeholders of APC's resolution? What is the tale behind circular debt?” she remarked, throwing a volley of questions on the N government.
Earlier, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, during the question hour, said that foreign security companies are not allowed to operate in the country. "Government will take action against those who issued visas to these companies," he said, responding to a question.
When asked about issuance of weapons licenses, Nisar said the government has imposed a complete ban on the issuance of fresh licenses for the last three months. "Seventy thousand licenses were issued during the last few years due to which hundreds of innocent people had been killed in criminal activities," he shared with the House.
To another question about Afghan nationals, Nisar said that around 98,000 illegal foreigners, mostly Afghan nationals, are residing in the suburbs of the federal capital. The district administration has been directed to approach the UNHCR for repatriation of Afghan refugees residing in the jurisdiction of the capital territory.
On a suggestion by PML-N lawmaker Rohail Asghar that criminals involved in rape of innocent children should be awarded death penalty, Nisar said that present law could be made stricter. "Let us unite. We can introduce the bill in this regard," he said, adding that there was a dire need for proper police action and speedy justice from courts.
To a question, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad said that significant increase was witnessed in net FDI (foreign direct investment) in the year 2012-13, as FDI inflow was $1447.3 million, registering an increase of 76.3 percent as compared to the previous year. He said that bad law and order situation is one of the main reasons for the decline of net FDI in the country.
Earlier, PPP's legislator, on a question of privilege, asked why Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab had levelled allegation of financial irregularity on Leader of Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah. On it, Sheikh Aftab clarified that he had not written any such letter and he has much respect for Khursheed.
PTI senior legislator Javed Hashmi, on a point of order, asked why his name was mentioned on the list of lawmakers who had taken money from government for treatment. "I had not taken money and I had clarified it in previous session of the assembly," Hashmi said, adding that he was offered financial assistance by the government but he refused it. On that, Ch Nisar assured him that authorities would investigate this matter.