The second sitting of the Senate session on Monday was dominated by lawmakers pouncing on the government over its failure to overcome power outages and demanded the water and power minister’s resignation.
Awami National Party Senator Zahid Khan wanted to kick-start the debate on the current energy crisis through an attention notice, but was asked to remain seated by the Senate’s chairman who maintained the issue was already on the agenda.
Khan was greatly irked by this and pointed out the absence of all ministers concerned, flaying them for their “irresponsible attitude” towards the Upper House.
ANP senator Haji Adeel staged a walkout along with his party colleagues and some other opposition members over the absence of federal Minister for Water and Power Ahmed Mukhtar.
“If they (ministers and prime minister) have no regard for the Parliament, they should resign from their posts immediately. Ministers who are consistently absent from the Senate proceedings do not deserve to be ministers,” maintained Haji Adeel before walking out.
Adeel said massive blackouts were being witnessed during Sehar and Iftar despite the government’s earlier promises of providing respite from the same during Ramazan. He added the public had no choice but to take to the streets in violent protests.
Adeel also criticised Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz for not taking part in the walkout.
MQM Senator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi said people were running out of patience over the government’s inability to stop unscheduled load-shedding.
According to Mashhadi, corruption is the main reason for the power crisis. He said according to the finance minister Rs8 billion is misappropriated in government sectors each day while a whopping Rs200 billion is misappropriated each year in the Federal Board of Revenue alone.
Terming Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf the “king of darkness”, Mashhadi said “the person who could not resolve the power crisis in four years has now been made the prime minister.” He wondered out loud how Raja Pervaiz intended to keep his recent promise of doing away with outages within eight months.
MQM’s Farogh Naseem said power tariff had been revised 16 times with a total increase of 140% in electricity prices. He said people should not expect any breakthroughs from the government and demanded that protesters arrested for staging demonstrations against outages be released immediately along with an apology.
PML-N Ishaq Dar agreed with government’s allies, but held them equally responsible for the prevailing situation. He said the allies have blindly supported the ruling party and have done nothing but “lip service.”
Muhammad Hamza of the PML-N said ANP’s walkout and MQM’s anti-government speeches demonstrated a no-confidence type situation against the government. He invited the ruling party’s allies to quit the coalition and join the opposition benches.
Leader of the House Jehangir Badar countered Hamza’s argument saying differences of opinion were a characteristic of a democratic set-up and did not exhibit a no-confidence move.
Senate Chairman Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari urged Badar to ensure the presence of concerned ministers in the next sitting, adding that he would otherwise personally issue directives to the commerce secretary to take notes of the proceedings.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.