In Senate, govt refuses to take back policy on automatic weapons

Farhatullah Babar expresses concern over a deal between NHA and FWO for toll collection

Our Correspondent February 20, 2018
Farhatullah Babar expresses concern over a deal between NHA and FWO for toll collection. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Winding up a discussion on a motion regarding government’s new policy on automatic licenses, Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry has told the Senate that the federal government will not take back its decision to ban all types of automatic weapons,

“The cabinet took the decision to ban all automatic licenses after a certain time period. Those who hold licenses have been given time to convert their weapons into semi-automatic or submit to the government and get compensation,” he said on Tuesday.

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior had recommended to the government to take back its December 26 notification for converting the licensed automatic weapons into semi-automatic ones.

“The policy was formulated after due deliberations. Instead of asking the government to take back the decision, the senators should give recommendations on measures to eliminate illegal weapons from the county,” he said.

Privilege motion against PM adviser

Senator Sherry Rehman submitted a privilege motion against Adviser to Prime Minister on Aviation for misleading the house on privatisation of the Pakistan International Airline (PIA).

“The adviser in a briefing to the Senate on January 23 assured the house that government has no plans to privatise the PIA. However, last week the cabinet decided to go ahead with privatisation of national flag career, and the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM),” she said.

Senator Taj Haider said the Sindh government has decided to resist the move. “It would be federal government verses the province, if government went ahead with its decision” he said.

Motion against PIA CEO

The Senate chairman admitted a privilege motion against the PIA chief executive officer (CEO) for not complying with the Senate’s instructions to report on a petition by some PIA employees against violation of their seniority right and directed the Privileges Committee to report within a week.

The issue was raised by Senator Farhatullah Babar who said that during the meeting of the Special Committee on the PIA in December last the committee chairman had handed over to the CEO a complaint by some employees with advice to furnish comments within 7 days.

The employees had also addressed their complaint to the Senate chairman. Subsequently letters were sent to the PIA CEO to furnish comments but there was no response.

IHC suspends notification on arms licences

When no response was received, the Senate Secretariat approached the Secretary Aviation for intercession and also sent a letter to the CEO asking him on the phone to furnish comments on the petition. However, there was no response while the term of the Senate was coming to an end.

Rabbani later referred the matter to the privileges committee with directions to report within a week.

Extension on toll collection without bidding

Speaking on an issue of public importance, Babar criticised the National Highway Authority (NHA) which has granted a 20-year extension in a contract with the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), allowing it to collection toll – without first calling bids, discussion in parliament and making the deal public

“I learnt about this unusual development during the Question Hour today when the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Aftab Shaikh disclosed this in response to a supplementary question relating to the NHA. Not believing that it could be true, I went up to the minister to ask him about it and was profoundly shocked that it indeed was correct,” the senator said.

He said this highly lucrative contract had been extended for ten years during the days of former military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf without bids and without debate.

“Now, it has been extended for another 20 years in what is geometric progression. By this mathematical model it will logically be extended in 2037 for another 40 years,” he said.

He said that this intrusion of security establishment in the field of economy without bids and public competition will create resentment among entrepreneurs and pleaded for a review of the decision.

On the issue of deployment of additional troops to Saudi Arabia, he said if the troops were deployed along the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border, they could soon get sucked in quagmire under the doctrine of hot pursuit. “It will be disastrous if God forbid it really happened,” he said.

On Monday, Defence Minister Khurram Dasgir assured the house that the troops will remain within the Saudi Arabia’s geographical boundaries but refused to disclose deployment location.