Opp Senators assail govt over gas prices

Castigate CJP for remarks on Kalabagh Dam, Ask PM to take provinces into confidence over citizenship issue

ISLAMABAD - The opposition in the Senate on Tuesday criticised the government over its recent decision to increase gas prices and also castigated Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar for his remarks about the construction of Kalabagh Dam.

The opposition lawmakers said that the government’s decision to increase the gas price only a day before it presented the revised budget in the parliament was unfortunate.

Later, Finance Minister Asad Umer also tabled a copy of the Money Bill, the Finance Supplementary (Amendment) Bill, 2018 before the house. The Senate would give its recommendations on the money bill that will not be binding for the National Assembly under the constitution.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement to give citizenship rights to the Afghan refugees and Bengalis also came under discussion on the opening day of the fresh Senate session as the lawmakers said that the premier should have taken the parliament and the provinces into confidence before announcing his decision.

The opposition also demanded that the Senate should have been given due representation in the parliamentary committee formed by the National Assembly to probe allegation of rigging in the general elections.

JUI-F Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri became critical to the remarks of chief justice about construction of Kalabag Dam what he said a “controversial dam” and added: “When CJ talks about such matters, it looks he is wearing uniform.” He reminded that three provincial assemblies had passed separate resolutions against the construction of Kalabagh Dam. He said that the duty of the Chief Justice was to provide justice to the people however he was busy in getting the dams constructed.

“Whether any judge has authority to raid hospitals,” he questioned and added that the institutions should remain within their constitutional limits. “If army general would remain within its constitutional limits, we have no objection,” he opined. The JUI-F Haideri said that chief justice was stuck to the stance of constructing Kalabagh Dam.

He suggested that an alternate should be searched out as they were not against the construction of dams “Whether you want to construct dams after dividing the provinces,” he remarked.

He also pointed out that the parliamentary committee on rigging should be comprised both houses of the parliament.

During the remarks of Abdu Ghafoor Haideri, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani pointed out that under the constitution, conduct of the judges could not be discussed in the house.

While the State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said that under Article 184 of the Constitution, chief justice could pass orders on any issue of public concern.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar recently said at a ceremony in Lahore that only Kalabagh Dam “guaranteed the survival and security of Pakistan”. He said that if the nation agreed then they would also build Kalabagh Dam after the construction of Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand dams.

PkMAP Senator Usman Kakar also said that Kalabagh Dam was very controversial as three provincial assemblies had already passed resolutions against its construction.

He castigated chief justice for saying that those talking against the construction of dams could be tried under high treason charges. “The traitor is living aboard,” he pointed towards General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf.

He said that the institutions were not ready to put an iron hand on traitors. He remarked that no institution could dictate the parliament. He said that the issue should be sent to the relevant committee.

He also said that the previous civilian and dictatorial regimes were responsible for the water shortage in the country and the water scarcity has hit its maximum level in Balochistan. “The water table has become down up to 1500 feet in Balochistan.

He appealed to the chief justice to take notice of water issue in Balochistan and start a campaign for water for it.

On the increase of gas prices, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman was the first one who raised the issue of increase in gas prices and said that it was unfortunate that the government had increased the gas prices up to 143 per cent only a day before it tabled the revised Money Bill in the National Assembly.

She said that incumbent Finance Minister Asad Umar who while in opposition used to criticise the last government but now was following his predecessors.

“We don’t want to hear 100 jokes in 100 days,” she said. She said that the issue of increase in gas prices should have been discussed first in the parliament.

She said that there was confusion over the foreign policy and the government was making blunders with each passing day.

PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi criticised the PTI government for adopting anti-poor policies to revive the economy of the country.

They have dropped a bombshell of gas prices on the poor people. He said that the government instead of taking right decisions for the revival of economy was only busy in getting political mileage by auctioning eight buffalos of the Prime Minister House.

“The house should have been taken into confidence over the gas prices,” he said. He said that the talks about the controversial Kalabagh Dam were unfortunate.

PPP Senator Rehman Malik said that he had serious reservations for not giving representation to the Senate in the parliamentary committee on election rigging.

He asked the government to inform about the modus operandi of giving citizenship to Afghan refugees. “Will this be done through an executive order or through the promulgation of law,” he said PML-N Senator General (Retd) Abdul Qayyum said that first month of the PTI-led government indicated that there was confusion among its ranks.

He demanded that foreign minister should brief the house about US Pakistan and India relations. Similarly Prime Minister Imran Khan should give a policy statement over the CPEC, he added. Senator Mir Kabir opposed the decision of PM Imran Khan to give nationality to Afghan refugees and said that how Pakistan could adjust these 5.5 million refugees of Afghanistan and of other nationalities.

Senator Tahir Bizenjo said that Prime Minister should have taken parliament and the provinces into confidence over the issue.

Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz responding to the opposition’s questions said that government inherited weak economy and a circular debt of gas amounting to 120 billion rupees had piled up.

He held responsible the previous government for this and blamed that PML-N artificially controlled the gas prices.

He explained that the prices of gas had been increased up to 143 per cent only for industries and the lifeline consumers would only face burden of 10 per cent increase and others would bear increase of 20 per cent.

He said that the masses would not be kept in the dark in any matter. On the matter of parliamentary committee, chairman Senate said that he would get it clarified whether committee had representation of Senate of not.

The opposition also staged a protest walk out from the house after National Party Senator Hasil Bizenjo alleged that some persons having links with the Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar have severely beaten Hafeez Baloch who contested election against the chief minister.

He said that Hafeez Baloch and his brothers were beaten black and blue while entering his house and even police registered a case against the victim.

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