The government faced a variety of criticisms during the Senate session on Tuesday, with senators across party lines urging the government first and foremost to implement the recommendation of the parliamentary committee on national security to shoot down US Predators entering Pakistani territory. They were lodging their protest over the recent drone strikes in North Waziristan which allegedly killed innocent citizens.
“Don’t make tall claims if you (government) don’t have the courage to stop drone strikes,” said Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri. Speaking on a point of order he said, “If the civilian government and military leadership army had no courage to stop drone strikes then they should at least lodge a case against US-led forces in an international court for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.”
Interior Minister Rehman Malik also chimed in, saying the recent US drone attack was a direct hit on the sovereignty of Pakistan. “The joint session of Parliament will come up with a remedy for drone attacks,” Malik hoped, while saying: “We have tried to convince the US that such actions will be counter-productive”.
Senator Khurshid Ahmed lashed out at the government, saying it had failed miserably to implement the standing instructions of the Parliament. He asked why the decision to shoot down drones had not been implemented if it was supported by both Parliament and the people.
In the meanwhile, senators belonging to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and Jamaat-e-Islami staged a walkout to protest against drone strikes.
Power sector loans mark-up
Lawmakers also denounced the government’s decision to recover the mark-up of power sector loans from consumers and demanded its immediate reversal and criticised it for steps aimed at increasing the power tariff.
Senator Professor Ibrahim, raising the issue before the House, said it would be unjust to pass on part of the interest on loans worth Rs160 billion to the consumers adding that the people would be forced to turn to power theft if the decision was not withdrawn. Senator Raza Rabbani in turn asked the government to take over the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) after the current management’s failure to meet contractual obligations.
Senator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi went a step further by demanding that the names of the top KESC be put on the Exit Control List (ECL) so that they could not escape with ‘looted money’. Criticising the decision to pass on the interest to consumers, he said reports that the petroleum prices were being increased and higher tariffs due to fuel adjustment charges leading were worrisome.
Water and Power Minister Naveed Qamar, responding to the concerns, claimed that no new interest would be charged from consumers. Referring to KESC, he said their license could be revoked if the management ‘did not mend its ways’.
Defending the government, he said it had added 3200 MW of electricity in the grid and expressed hope that the situation would ‘improve in the coming days’.
‘Corruption in 3G technology auction’
Members also expressed concerns over transparency in the planned auction of 3G and other technologies by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), with Pakistan Muslim League Senator Pervez Rasheed terming it the “mother of all scams”. He said that according to an advertisement the base price for selling out 3G, 4G and other upcoming technologies had been fixed at $210 million whereas the PTA had auctioned 2G technologies for $290 million. He also pointed out that India earned $24 billion from auctioning 3G technologies alone.
When other members of the house also expressed serious concern, the matter was finally referred to the concerned standing committee of the House.
The Government also came under attack for its failure to meet the constitutional requirement of presenting before the House reports of the Council of Common Interest, the National Economic Council, and the National Finance Commission (NFC) award. PPP chief whip Senator Islamuddin Sheikh assured the House that all four reports would be provided to the House in the next session of Senate.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2012.