Senate passes CPEC Authority bill

Opposition strongly protests over supplementary agenda and stages walkout


Waqas Ahmed May 28, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

The government capitalizing on the absence of many opposition members in the Senate on Thursday successfully passed the bill for the establishment of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority after introduction of a supplementary agenda.

The opposition members strongly protested against the supplementary agenda maintaining that the move disregarded the protocols for legislation in the upper house and staged a walkout.

The Senate session was held under the chairmanship of Sadiq Sanjrani. The majority of opposition members left the House after confronting presentation of the CPEC Authority Bill. Meanwhile, the members of the government taking advantage of the small number of opposition members brought a supplementary agenda.

The bill was initially presented by Adviser to the Premier on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan prompting protest from the opposition members.

Opposition Leader in Senate Yusuf Raza Gilani opposed the introduction of the bill which was introduced by Senator Shibli Faraz.

Read: CPEC fits perfectly with Pakistan’s geo-economic paradigm: NSA Moeed Yusuf

Commenting on the draft, Leader of the House Shehzad Waseem maintained that the bill was meant for the establishment of the CPEC Authority saying the future of country depended on it.

He said the government wanted to pass the bill at the earliest so that work on the mega project was streamlined. In response, Gilani noted that efforts to make CPEC controversial must cease as they were aware of the importance of the project. However, he questioned why the government wanted to make it contentious through a supplementary agenda.

The bill, despite the opposition protests, was passed. The opposition boycotted the legislation and walked out of the meeting. Meanwhile, the members present at the house did not oppose the bill after which it was approved.

During the meeting, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan informed the session that Pakistan was not facing any shortage of ventilators. He said the country was more in need of oxygen beds due to the third wave of coronavirus.

Commenting on the exclusion of Chinese vaccines for expats and Haj and Umrah pilgrims, Khan said that authorities in the Pakistan embassy had contacted Saudi officials while Saudi ambassador to Pakistan had also been approached.

The issue pertaining to the approval of Chinese vaccine for the pilgrims would be resolved soon, he said, adding that the Saudi authorities had not yet issued Hajj quota.

The Ministry of Communications officials briefed the Senate about the expenditure on the upgradation of motorways and national highways.

They maintained that during the last two years, Rs30.29 billion was spent on motorways and national highways while Rs1.5 billion was spent in Gilgit-Baltistan and more than Rs1 billion on the highways in Azad Kashmir.

The opposition protested against the non-appointment of Balochistan members in various boards of directors while also censuring the attitude of Indus River System Authority (Irsa) chairman.

Speaking on the issue of water cut in Sindh, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani observed that three members of the Irsa including Sindh and Balochistan had opposed and voted against the opening of the TP Link Canal in a meeting but the authority still went ahead with the move. He lamented that Irsa chief did not pay heed to the advice of the members of other provinces.

Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Fehmida Mirza, when asked about the suspension of FIFA membership of Pakistan, said that Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) was not recognized by FIFA until now and that a new body might be introduced in due course of time.

Read more: China to bring more investment under CPEC: Bajwa

She said the ministry was formulating a national sports policy as the last policy had been formulated in 2005.

The Senate chairman referred the matter to the concerned standing committee while also seeking a briefing from the ministry.

Meanwhile, PML-N Senator Pir Sabir Shah raised the issue of increase in the use of drugs in the country and demanded a solid policy from the government. He said drugs were also being used in the Parliament Lodges and sought an inquiry on the matter.

The upper house also voted upon a bill against domestic violence. A majority of 35 votes were cast in favour of the bill after which it was referred to the relevant committee. The bill was introduced by Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari.

The Senate also reviewed a bill aimed at the welfare of senior citizens and referred it to the relevant committee.

The annual performance report of the Election Commission 2020 was also presented and reviewed in the upper house.

The Senate session was adjourned until Friday (today) 11 am.

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