ISLAMABAD: The Senate continued debate on President Asif Ali Zardari’s April 5 address to a joint sitting of both houses of parliament.
The House will conclude the debate on Wednesday. Taking part in the debate, PML-N’s parliamentary leader Senator Ishaq Dar said the president claimed credit for the 18th Amendment Act and the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award but did not give any guidelines to the government, especially on economic and foreign policy issues.
There has been no significant development in agriculture and manufacturing sectors over the last 10 years, he said, adding that the growth the government was claiming was consumption led that came to a grinding halt with the global economic slump. “Now there is a serious shortfall of revenue as the consumption led growth of the last decade has ended with a decline in demand,” he added. Senator Dar said the government has been forced to slash the development budget due to a decline in revenue generation. He opposed the Value Added Tax (VAT) that the government intends to levy.
The VAT would only lead to an increase in the prices of essential items, it would not generate a significant amount of revenue, he claimed. Senator Dar also urged the government to proactively follow the UN Commission’s report on the assassination of PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto. “I strongly urge the government not to put the BB assassination case on the backburner,” he said. Senator Mushahidullah of the PML-N echoed Senator Dar’s remarks.
He said the government should show the same level of swiftness in tracking down Bhutto’s killers that it showed in pardoning Interior Minister Rehman Malik. He strongly criticised President Zardari’s decision to pardon Malik. Senator Raja Zafar-ul-Haq of the PML-N lamented “increasing level of corruption” in the country. He suggested that corrupt people should be executed as happens in China and Iran. He cited the example of Britain’s political system where he said “the daughter of a Pakistani-origin mill worker, Saeeda Warsi, has been elected to parliament and also appointed chairperson of the Conservative Party.”
He also gave the example of America’s political system where he said “an African- American was elected president of the country.” People like Obama and Warsi have no chance of winning elections in Pakistan, he added. The Senate also unanimously passed The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority Bill 2010. The bill was tabled by Prime Minister’s Adviser Nawabzada Ghazanfar Ali Gul. Senator Zafar Ali Shah of the PML-N objected that under the constitution an unelected adviser could not move a bill. However, Senator Raza Rabbani of the PPP said that under Article 93 of the constitution read with Article 57 an advisor can table a bill.
The chairman agreed with Senator Rabbani and ruled in favour of the bill. The Senate session will resume on Friday morning to wind up debate on President Zardari’s address.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 19th, 2010.
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