ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday passed three bills including ‘The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017’ which aims to increase punishment for heinous crimes, like child pornography and sexual abuse of minors.
According to ‘the statement of objects and reasons’ of the bill – moved by MNA Mussarat Ahmad Zeb –the recent events of sexual abuse of children throughout the country have necessitated that tough punishments be awarded to the perpetrators.
Under this bill, imprisonment for the offences has been proposed ‘not less than 14 years and may extend up to 20 years’ with the fine not less than one million rupees.
The house also approved ‘The National Assembly Secretariat Employees Bill 2018,’ that aims to regulate recruitment and conditions of services of persons appointed in the National Assembly Secretariat.
The bill was moved by Nighat Parveen Mir and the treasury benches opted not to oppose several amendments to it moved by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Dr Arif Alivi.
The proposed legislation seeks to give employees of the secretariat status of the civil servant so that they may also enjoy facilities like employees of the federal and the provincial governments.
The third bill, the ‘Federal Public Service Commission, Amendment Bill 2017,’ was moved by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM-P) Dr Fauzia Hameed.
The bill seeks that all posts in BPS-11 and above in all the public sector entities be filled though Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). The bill also recommends the FPSC to complete its recruitment process within a period of eight months.
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The Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Shazia Marri proposed amendments in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of business in the National Assembly suggesting that one fourth of the total strength of committee should consist of women members.
The chair referred the amendments to the relevant standing committee for further deliberations. The house adopted amendments in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007 which were moved by MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani.
The house also passed a resolution urging the government to take steps to reduce the prices of petroleum products. It was moved by Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqub. In the second resolution, presented by Belum Hasnain, the government was asked to take immediate steps to promote religious harmony.
Speaking on the resolution, Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousuf said the present government has taken a series of steps to promote interfaith harmony. The minister said festivals of minorities are also marked at the official level to promote religious harmony and peaceful coexistence.
Supporting the resolution, the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Shair Akbar Khan also suggested celebrating Eid and Ramazan in accordance with the announcement in this connection by Saudi Arabia. He said the same practice is done in Afghanistan. ANP’s Haji Ghulam Bilour also supported his recommendations.
Marri termed the resolution very important and asked for taking measures to curb extremism in the country. Surya Asghar laid stress on teaching tolerance at the school level. She also asked for uniform Juma sermons across the country on the pattern of uniform Namaz timings in Islamabad.
Maulana Sheerani was of the view that the world has turned into a global village and intolerance in society is not due to religion but due to some other factors.
Ayesha Gulalai put emphasis on enhancing reserved seats for the minorities in parliament besides giving them the right of casting dual vote. She also asked for giving key role to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for eliminating sectarianism.
Responding to a call attention notice moved by Naveed Qamar, Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal told the house that the government has allocated Rs1,001 billion this year for provision of loans to farmers.
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He said the loans are disbursed on the basis of cultivable land, recovery rate and credit requirements of the provinces. He rejected the impression that there is disparity in disbursement of farm loans between Punjab and the rest of the country.
He pointed out that as compared to Punjab's 41.23 per cent, the loan disbursement growth in Sindh is 60.39 per cent, Balochistan 62 per cent and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 43 per cent during the first six months of current fiscal year.
Disagreeing with the argument of state minister over the issue stated that the calling attention notice had inquired why 88 percent of the agri loans were disbursed in Punjab alone. He said if the officials of the ZTBL can’t recover bank’s loans then why the smaller provinces should face consequences of it.
Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho was of the view that the bank in question is not disbursing fresh loans amongst the farmers in Sindh and they are compelled to take loans from moneylenders.
Rising on a point of order, Leader of Opposition Khurshid Shah said the interest rate on agriculture loan is 14 percent in comparison with loans of other banks on which the mark up is 8 to 10 percent.
He proposed that a committee of the House should be constituted to consider matters pertaining to reducing the interest rate on agri loans and improving the disbursement method.