Scorching summer temperatures are likely to fire up tensions within the power corridors ahead of the National Assembly and Senate sessions on May 9.
According to parliamentarians in opposition groups, the topic of Panama leaks will override all other issues and dominate the discussions in both houses of parliament.
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Separate sessions of both Houses will be followed by a joint session of parliament on June 2 which will be addressed by President Mamnoon Hussain, officially starting the new parliamentary year.
His address to parliament will come just a day or two before the incumbent government presents its budget for the next fiscal year.
“The Panama leaks is likely to dominate (the parliamentary calendar), specially because the government has hurried the matter and sent the reference to the chief justice (of the Supreme Court) without consulting the opposition on the terms of reference (TORs),” said MNA Nafisa Shah of the Pakistan Peoples Party.
Some PPP lawmakers have submitted a call-attention notice over the government’s advertisement on Panama leaks, attempting to clear their name.
“There has been an ad campaign, which is totally unethical and wrong and it is a corrupt practice because the prime minister cannot take a personal issue and defend himself by using public money,” Shah commented.
Other issues, she pointed out, were also pressing such as the one affecting Okara farm tenants, who were struggling for their rights and many of them were arrested and booked under “heinous” sections.
In connection with labour sections, there was a possibility of raising the issue of privaitising two berths at Port Qasim.
Meanwhile, some parliamentarians in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf also moved an adjournment motion for a discussion on the Panama Papers in the lower house.
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Dr Arif Alvi said: “The adjournment motion will allow us to debate the issue in parliament, instead of having to go outside. It (Panama leaks) is the biggest thing (happening) in the news in the world right now. The world conscience is bothered by the fact that the elite have exploited the laws of different countries and stashed away their wealth.”
Opposition parties are planning to hold a joint meeting on Monday, Alvi said, adding that his party would insist upon avoiding making ToRs too broad based.
Claiming that at least $200 billion had been stashed away in just seven Swiss banks, Alvi maintained: “Considering properties in Dubai and Malaysia, the wealth shipped out of Pakistan is not less than a trillion dollars. This is why you see all this poverty in the country.”
Meanwhile, MNA Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) said that his party is seeking an amicable settlement between the government and the opposition through extensive consultations. “The onus is on the government to engage the opposition parties, particularly those who do not entirely agree with the ToRs.”
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Commenting on the issue of accountability, he said, there should be across-the-board and impartial accountability. “The country is facing this situation because both the (current and previous) governments have failed to curb corruption, hold people responsible and accountable for corruption.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2016.