PTI seeks details of Toshakhana gifts in all previous govts

ISLAMABAD           -         The Senate on Monday unanimously passed a private-member bill that seeks to give immunity to the lawmakers from arrest and preventive detention for specified periods amid opposition’s criticism on Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for his frequent foreign visits. The house passed the Members of Parliament Immunities and Privileges Bill, which says that no member shall be arrested under any law pertaining to preventive detention once the session is summoned. The proposed law, moved by PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, also seeks to bar the arrest of a member from within the precincts of parliament without the permission of the chairman Senate or the speaker National Assembly. It says that the chairman or the speaker, as the case may be, shall be informed if an FIR (first information report) is registered or a Reference is filed, against a member of parliament. It adds that a copy of the FIR or the Reference, as the case may be, shall be provided within 24 hours of such registration of the case against the member. “When a member is required to be arrested or is sentenced to be imprisoned by a court or is detained under an executive order; the committing judge, magistrate or the executive authority shall immediately intimate the Chairman or Speaker, indicating the reasons for the arrest, detention or imprisonment of the member,” reads the proposed bill. The motion seeking to take the bill for consideration at once was adopted by a majority vote of 26 while 20 treasury members voted against it while two senators abstained. Senator Aziz, giving reasons to move the bill, said that the share of two small provinces Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan in total loan portfolio of commercial banks was merely 1.35 percent while the rest of 98.65 percent lending goes to Punjab and Sindh. He said the situation was forcing industries to shift to other provinces. Former finance minister and PTI Senator Shaukat Tarin said that the people of South Punjab, northern Sindh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan were also facing the issue of resource allocation despite KP and Balochistan. Minister of State for Finance Ayesha Ghous Pasha conceded that the disparity needed to be removed. She opposed the bill saying it was a policy matter and no amendment in the Act was required to address it. She urged that the issue shouldn’t be politicized. Leader of the Opposition in the House Dr Shahzad Waseem opposed the remarks of the state minister and said that the Senate, being the representatives of federating units, was the appropriate forum to take up the issues related to rights of the provinces. He also demanded that the details of gifts of Toshakhana of all previous regimes should be shared with the house.

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