The government introduced on Thursday the bill for the proposed privatisation of the national airlines in the upper house of parliament, which referred it to the relevant standing committee.
The Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) Bill, 2015 was presented in the Senate by State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab during the session chaired by Raza Rabbani. The National Assembly has already passed the bill.
PPP lawmaker Saeed Ghani said the bill should be sent to the Senate’s standing committee on PIA. The treasury benches did not object to the senator’s demand, after which the chairman referred the bill to standing committee.
The Senate panel was directed to present its report in the house within 12 days.
MQM’s Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, meanwhile, called for action against the authorities for sacking daily-wage earners over their protest against the proposed privatisation of PIA. He said until the Senate approves or disapproves the bill, the PIA employees should not be fired.
Taking notice of the sackings, the Senate chairman referred the matter to the relevant standing committee as well.
The upper house also passed four bills without any amendments during the proceedings on Thursday.
The bills approved were The Electoral Rolls (Amendment) Bill, 2015; The Delimitation of Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, 2015; The Pakistan Halal Authority Bill, 2015; and The Publication of Laws of Pakistan, 2015.
The entire opposition twice staged token walkouts over the alleged killing of a PPP worker in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the unprecedented increase (60% to 100%) in prices of medicines, including some life-saving drugs, by local and international pharmaceutical companies.
Senator Samina Abid asked a question about the extension in the deadline to send back Afghan refugees to their country, seeking reasons behind the extension. SAFRON Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch replied the government had an international commitment to repatriate the refugees voluntarily and with honour under the tripartite agreement signed between the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN refugee agency.
He added the Afghan government had failed to provide conditions conducive to help the refugees return to and reintegrate into Afghanistan as per the agreement. He cited factors such as the security turmoil and the weak economy of Afghanistan for delays in the repatriation of the refugees.
The minister said about 3.9 million registered Afghan refugees had been repatriated since 2002. Currently, 1.55 million registered Afghans holding proof of registration cards are residing in Pakistan.
The prime minister had recently extended the legal stay of registered Afghan refugees until June 2016. However, a summary for extension of these Afghan refugees till December 2017 is also under consideration.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2016.