Upper house: Senate okays ToRs panel after Rabbani’s walkout

Senate chief exits the house without endorsing the motion

Maryam Usman May 21, 2016
Senate chief exits the house without endorsing the motion. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: In a rare move, the Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani on Friday staged a walkout from the proceedings of the upper house for not being taken into confidence over the formulation of a 12-member committee to probe Panama Papers leaks.

The chairman staged the walkout after the Minister for Law Zahid Hamid moved a motion, for which the chairman had not been consulted prior to the session.

Quoting the Al-Jihad Trust case, Rabbani said if the National Assembly was to take up a motion regarding corruption before the Senate, it was necessary to consult with the Senate chairman before moving it in the upper house

As the Senate deputy chairman, Maulana Ghafoor Haideri, was absent from the house, the chairman asked Senator Javaid Abbasi to lead the proceedings before exiting the house without endorsing the motion.

Later, the house unanimously approved the motion, calling for formation of a 12-member parliamentary committee to prepare the Terms of Reference (ToRs) to probe into the Panama Papers, which on April 3 revealed that the prime minister’s three children hold offshore companies in a tax haven.

The parliamentary committee is to consider options for inquiry into the Panama Papers as well as other graft cases including those related to transfer from Pakistan of funds originating from corruption, commission and kickbacks and waiver of bank loans.

According to the motion, the parliamentary committee must develop the ToRs to parliament within two weeks of its formation.

Earlier on Thursday, Zahid Hamid moved a motion in the National Assembly regarding the formulation of an eight-member committee instead of the previously-agreed upon 12 members. However, the motion had to be reverted to 12 members, eliciting a strong reaction from the opposition. The Senate also passed a bill for the rehabilitation and welfare of unattended orphans. The bill was moved by Senator Karim Khawaja, who hoped that law minister would also help get it passed from the lower house. Earlier, Rabbani also expressed displeasure over eight other bills sent to the National Assembly, saying that the NA Secretariat failed to inform the National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq about them.

He said subsequently, the secretariat did not even consider placing them on the orders of the day, nor they were sent to the relevant standing committees.

“These are the disadvantages the Senate is working with, but we will not give up the fight, we will continue the fight whether it is within parliament or outside and will continue our fight,” he said.

While claiming that it is difficult to reckon the exact number of Chinese workers working on various projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Friday requested the Senate not to make the number public in view of security concerns.

“Ministry of Interior has updated details of Chinese workers on various projects. However, in view of security considerations, it will be appropriate not to make the number public,” said Iqbal in a written reply to a question regarding number of Chinese working on the CPEC.

“The CPEC is a long-term plan and the number of labourers will vary from project to project. Therefore, it is difficult to inform the exact number of workers employed on various projects,” he added.

Iqbal also did not give a clear-cut reply with regard to the names of authorities, which approve the appointment of these workers for the projects. “Capacity building is a part of the long-term plan of the CPEC, which is still under preparation,” he added. Regarding the steps being taken by the government for security of the Chinese, Iqbal said security of Chinese workers came under the purview of the Ministry of Interior as it is the focal agency responsible for security.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2016.


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