ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday approved the ‘Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Bill, 2018’, imposing imprisonment of up to five years on perpetrators and a penalty of half a million rupees.
The bill was moved by Parliamentary Secretary for Interior Afzal Khan Dhandla with Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi in the chair. The house also rejected a few amendments moved by opposition members.
According to the salient features of the bill, whoever intentionally engages in or attempts to engage in smuggling of migrants shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend up to five years but which shall not be less than three years and with a fine of up to Rs500,000.
Under this bill, all offences shall be cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.
The FIA or other agencies may especially be empowered by the government through notification in official gazette and shall be responsible for investigation of offences under this bill.
According the ‘statement of objects and reasons’ of the bill, cooperation between agencies within and among countries was necessary since the smuggling of migrants involved multiple international jurisdictions.
Migrant smugglers take advantage of desperate people, many of whom endure unimaginable hardships in their bid for a better life, it further stated.
The migrant smugglers place lives and safety of smuggled migrants in grave danger. This makes it incumbent upon the government to ensure that those who engage in this inhumane crime are punished and that the rights of smuggled migrants are protected, the objects and reasons further stated.
Minister for Education and Professional Training Balighur Rehman presented before the house the ‘Institute of Science and Technology Bahawalpur Bill, 2018’.
Demand to withdraw tax amnesty scheme
The tax amnesty scheme, the brain child of the incumbent PML-N government in a last-ditch effort to whiten black money, faced a serious challenge in the National Assembly when an MNA threatened to return his Sitarai-e-Imtiaz if the scheme was not withdrawn.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) MNA Khawaja Sohail Mansoor threatened to return the third highest civilian award conferred on him for being the nation’s highest tax payer in protest against the government’s scheme.
Mansoor, on a point of order, said that he had received the award in recognition of his services for being the highest tax payer of Pakistan.
“A person like me should not venture into business or pay tax. I will return my Sitara-i-Imtiaz in the house,” he said.
Highlighting how the rupee had weakened against the dollar, the MQM-P leader said the nation’s fate was in the hands of the selected few.
“Value of the dollar is increasing against the rupee because three persons are involved in gambling on the greenback. I request the chief justice of Pakistan to take sou motu notice of it. Value of the dollar is increasing yet we are offering amnesty schemes. This will adversely affect the common man,” he said.
Former prime minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali also strongly criticised the scheme and demanded of the president of Pakistan to withdraw the ordinance in this context.
Jamali reminded the president what he had been saying against corrupt persons and corrupt practices. “The president was quoted as saying that my blood boils when I think about corruption. I wonder whether he [president] forgot [his own words] while passing the ordinance in this context,” he stated.
MQM-P stages walkout
The MQM-P staged a walk out from the National Assembly over extensive load shedding carried out by the Karachi Electric (K-E).
While talking on a calling-attention notice, MQM-P lawmaker Sheikh Salahuddin said, “The K-E charged extra Rs60 billion from consumers through bills for which it had promised to refund the extra amount charged. However, it could not be done and now the company is being sold to another company.”
Muhammad Kamal said during the critical months of March and April in which exams are held, load shedding is playing havoc with the students.
He demanded of the chief justice of Pakistan to take action against the unannounced load shedding and also take the resignation of the concerned minister. At this point he announced to stage a walk out from the house and the entire MQM-P joined him.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Shaik Aftab said that the Nepra had already sent a three-member committee to Karachi to monitor the situation.
Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi gave ruling that the Standing Committee on Energy should hold its meeting on Monday in Karachi in order to resolve the issue.
Two ordinances presented in NA
Two ordinances – Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance and Protection of Economic Reforms (Amendment) Ordinance – were presented before the house.
The Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance allows the federal government to take action against a person or organisation proscribed by the United Nations Security Council.
The ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the ordinance stated that the Anti-terrorism Act 1997, though comprehensive in its cope, lacked direct reference regarding certain individuals and entities that come under jurisdiction of the UNSC Resolution.
The Protection of Economic Reforms (Amendment) Ordinance seeks to amend Protection of Economic Reforms Act 1992 to ensure that only those citizens of Pakistan who are tax filers can deposit foreign currency accounts in order to further promote documentation of economy in the country. This ordinance is part of the tax amnesty scheme which was recently announced by the federal government to enhance its tax base and increase revenue.
The National Assembly was informed that 10,973 megawatts of cheap electricity had been added to the national grid by the present government over the last five years.
Opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah said that a third party investigation into theft of electricity revealed that electricity theft in Lahore alone was bigger than total electricity stolen in other parts of the country.
He said, “On average, 12 hours’ load shedding is being conducted in Sindh and in K-P and 16 hours in Balochistan.”
He said load shedding had made the lives of 20 million population of Karachi a living hell.
He said that this was the responsibility of Nepra to make sure that K-E ran its furnace oil units to generate electricity.
The house was adjourned to meet again today (Friday) at 10:30am.