Irritated by their absence, the Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani on Tuesday gave a final warning to federal ministers, saying that a repetition of such behaviour would prompt him to bar their entry in the upper house.
“This is the last and final warning,” Rabbani said, when both Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif and his deputy, State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali, absented themselves during the question hour.
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Though this was not the first time that the chairman warned cabinet members of a ruling party, he said this was going to be the last time he had not taken a strict action. According to details, there were around a dozen questions Khawaja Asif was supposed to answer but neither he nor Ali turned up.
Abid Sher Ali had informed the Senate Secretariat that he would be travelling with the prime minister and the State Minister for Petroleum Jam Kamal would respond on his behalf. However, Kamal told the house that he was intimated about this in the morning and was not prepared to answer questions.
Interestingly, the minister in charge of climate change, who was supposed to submit a detailed report on relief activates in the aftermath of recent earthquake, was also absent. This absence prompted Rabbani to adjourn the proceedings of the house for 15 minutes.
The opposition staged a walkout to express solidarity with a Christian student, who was reportedly beaten up for using lavatory in a school in Faisalabad. The issue was raised by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator PPP’s Sherry Rehman.
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Chairman Rabbani asked Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq to look into the matter. He also asked for registration of a case against the school’s headmistress after confirmation of the incident.
The second issue, which the opposition mentioned as a reason for its walkout, was related to media reports suggesting that the government had secretly sealed a 15-year deal with Qatar for import of LNG.
A Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Senator Kamil Ali Agha, who raised the issue, said opposition had been asking the government about the rates of the agreement but the way the deal had been kept secret suggested that something fishy was going on.
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Meanwhile, Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat presented its report in relation to progress on relief efforts in earthquake affected areas. The report suggested minimising the VVIP visits to disaster hit areas. It said that due to these visits the local administration had to divert its resources away from affectees to host the VVIPs and their staff.
The report suggested immediate appointment of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) chairman and deputy chairman. It also recommended enhancing its scope and renaming it as Disaster Risk Reduction Authority (DRRA).
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2015.
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