ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party faced a torrid time in both houses of parliament on Monday as it defended the previous government and its leadership against controversial claims that they wilfully facilitated the stationing of US intelligence agents in Pakistan.
Former US envoy Husain Haqqani made the claim in a recent opinion-editorial piece that appeared in The Washigton Post.
“I brought the request directly to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved,” he wrote in an article.
The comments placed PPP in an awkward corner, with lawmakers in both the houses of parliament demanding explanations.
PML-N MNA Awais Leghari said: “By publishing such an article, Haqqani, who at present is jobless, is seeking attention of the Trump administration.”
He said he attempted to embarrass Pakistan by stating that the previous regime facilitated the CIA in its operation in Pakistan. Moreover, he demanded a rebuttal of the statement.
Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah, while defending the credentials of the previous PPP government in the National Assembly, said: “The government [of the day] had no knowledge that Osama was in Pakistan.”
“When Haqqani was ambassador [to the US] during the [previous] PPP regime, he issued an entirely different [set] of statements over the Abbottabad operation in 2011.”
The opposition leader was of the view that even condemning his article was tantamount to giving him importance.
Speaking in the upper houses of parliament, PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi said former president Asif Ali Zardari owed an explanation to the nation over the issue.
Responding to him, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “All visas were issued in accordance with the laid down procedure involving various state agencies,” adding, “No irregularity, whatsoever, was committed.”
He said there were no complaints from any government organisation in respect of the visas issued.
Babar said he was spokesperson for the former president and added that he “will confine his remarks to the issue raised by the senator and will not say anything about Husain Haqqani and his article”.
PTI’s Arif Alvi said: “By writing the article Haqqani has attempted to implicate the PPP as well,” adding, “He is doing the job of mudslinging.”
Oversight panel to be constituted
Meanwhile, the Senate has decided to constitute an oversight panel in an attempt to allay fears expressed by lawmakers about transparency in the upcoming sixth national population and housing census.
The upper house of parliament resumed its session after a two-day break with Chairman Raza Rabbani in the chair. It was a private members’ day. The house took up various bills, proposed pieces of legislation, motions calling attention notices and points of order on a number of issues.
The Senate chairman asked Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq to consult with the government and report back to the Senate by Wednesday or Thursday before he notifies the oversight panel. Senator Taj Haider of the PPP handed over a letter from the Sindh chief minister to Haq in which the provincial chief executive had raised apprehensions over transparency of the exercise.
“Some unnecessary checks are being made in the name of secrecy and even the offices of deputy and assistant commissioners will not be shared the preliminary surveys of house listing, and later of the headcount.”
Kalsoom Parveen, a treasury member from Balochistan, raised the issue of blocked identity cards and what she called some no-go areas of her province. Sensing that the members would constantly keep on raising the issues linked with the census, the Senate chairman decided to deal with them through a parliamentary panel he would be constituting later in the week.
Information Technology Minister Anusha Rehman, in response to a motion of PTI Senator Azam Swati, said that the heyday of the Telephone Industry of Pakistan (TIP), situated in Haripur, K-P, was long over.
“Privatisation of TIP is the only way out,” was the conclusion of her briefing to the upper house.
The house also passed with a majority vote a resolution moved by two PPP senators — Sehar Kamran and Saleem Mandviwalla — calling for the revival of Waseeela-e-Haq and Waseela-e-Rozgar schemes.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2017.