Senate session: Senators slam veil of secrecy over Doha talks

Opposition senators bemused by leader of the house not giving a briefing despite previous commitment.


Peer Muhammad June 21, 2013
Opposition senators bemused by leader of the house not giving a briefing despite previous commitment. PHOTO: APP/FILE

ISLAMABAD:


Opposition senators on Thursday lambasted the government for not taking the Parliament into confidence over Pakistan’s role in the Doha peace dialogue launched between Washington and Taliban.


On a point of order, Senator Raza Rabbani, the Parliamentary Leader of Pakistan Peoples Party in Senate, said it was strange that the leader of the upper house in Parliament, Raja Zafarul Haq, had backtracked from his commitment he made to brief the house on Pakistan’s role in creating a roadmap for holding negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.

“This is strange that the leader of the house had assured the house the other day that he would provide the details, but after consulting with the quarters concerned, it seems that he has backtracked from his commitment,” said Rabbani.

In response, Haq reiterated that he would arrange for a briefing to the house over the issue, but stated the dialogue process was in its early stage and (it’s advisable) to wait for something important to happen.

“Pakistan has a role in this, but we have adopted a cautious approach since Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to be uncomfortable.”

Not pleased with his response, Rabbani said the media was reporting on the key role Pakistan was playing in the negotiations, but “here you are saying it was too early to brief the Parliament”.



“It seems that you have changed your mind after consultation with the bureaucrat who has been appointed an adviser on foreign affairs,” he said, in an apparently reference to Advisor to prime minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

Citing a report published in The Express Tribune on Thursday, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said it had mentioned every role Pakistan was playing in the process but the government was dithering in taking the Senate into confidence.

He added he could not understand why US Secretary of State John Kerry dramatically rescheduled his visit to Pakistan from this month to a later date.

“I don’t understand why he cancelled his visit to Pakistan despite Pakistan’s significant role in the dialogue process, and has preferred instead to visit India.”

Walkout

Following the session on the Afghan peace process, the opposition senators staged a token walkout over another hike in the power tariff – by Rs1.12 per unit – saying it would increase the burden on the poor people.

Rabbani said this was the third increase in the power tariff in 10 days since the new government came to power.

“Those who take decisions to raise power tariff on a daily basis have their vested interest as they own IPPs (independent power producers),” Rabbani added.

Later, former finance minister Saleem H Mandviwala said that a 10% increase in the salaries of government employees was not proportional to the rise in inflation.

Lastly, Senator Mukhtar Ahmad Dhamrah described the new budget as anti-poor and pro-investor and said no relief had been provided to the common man in it.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.

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