Tuesday Sep 21, 2021
ISLAMABAD: A session of the National Assembly on Tuesday saw a heated exchange between the Opposition who decried "historic" inflation and unemployment — including resulting from termination of government employees — and treasury benches that shamed the Opposition leader for his brother having "fled" the country after "looting" it.
Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif censured the move to lay off workers of Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Steel Mills. "Was it us who laid these people off?" he asked.
"How many departments can I begin to list here?" he remarked.
Shahbaz said that five million people in the country are without jobs and have been "forced to beg for money", with which they manage to have "a single meal".
"Where did those 10 million jobs go that you promised?" he asked, in reference to a pre-election pledge by Prime Minister Imran Khan, also stated in the PTI's manifesto.
The Opposition leader said that Minister for Finance Shaukat Tarin had promised no new taxes. "Look at where the price of oil and petrol has soared to," he added.
"Never in Pakistan's history have we witnessed such inflation," he said, adding that "even the heavens weep" looking at the state Pakistan is in.
Shahbaz went on to state that if he were to really delve into the state of affairs the country is in, "we will see no end to what I could say".
"If I were to lay out the facts, it will be difficult for you all to stomach them," he added.
The Opposition leader went on to state that he wishes to "set the record straight" when it comes to the legal troubles of the Sharifs.
He said that in his brother, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif's case, the Supreme Court heard the matter in the case of his work permit (iqama), not the Panama Papers, and the iqama is what the verdict was based on.
Shahbaz said that his family had sold off the Ittefaq Foundry and lands to settle their debts, "down to the last penny".
"We did not have even a penny's worth of our loans waived off," he said, referring to all the times when the PML-N was in power.
"Who put an end to loadshedding?" he asked, in another reference to the PML-N.
"How do you think these LNG projects were set up?" he asked, in yet another.
He said in contrast, the PTI "destroyed people, killed them, but did not set up a project worth a penny in the country".
PML-N MNA Khwaja Asif also lamented the laying off of 16,000 government employees. "These people had been working since 1990. Rendering them unemployed like this is not right," he said.
'Bogus power bills sent to rural consumers'
PML-N MNA Ahsan Iqbal said that bogus electricity bills are being issued in the rural areas of the country.
“The huge bills sent to rural consumers have elicited screams from them,” said Iqbal.
He stressed the need for the government to probe the matter immediately.
In response to Shahbaz’s speech, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said: “They ask the federal government examine its conscience but they should look within before criticising the government.”
She said that there was a time when the Sharif family vowed they would line the country's coffers with wealth. "But instead, his brother looted the country and fled," she said, addressing Shahbaz.
Shahbaz replied by saying: “This lady is honorable for us but the language that she used is condemnable."
Mazari also responded to comments by Asif saying "you should have some shame, some dignity".
"Where were you when these people were being sacked?"
Minister of State for Parliamentarian Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said that the Opposition have expressed their feelings but the government, too, has feelings.
While commenting on Shahbaz’s views about the termination of employees from government institutions, Khan said that PM Imran Khan issued directives for the restoration of 16,000 employees.
He said that the attorney general will try his best to get these employees restored to their previously held positions.
“There are many employees who have died of heart attacks,” said Khan, adding that the legal route is the only way to get the employees reinstated.
We hope to get a favourable decision from the apex court in this regard, he added.
Referring to when Nawaz had claimed in parliament he will show his sources of income, Khan said that the PML-N leader "did not present these sources in the court”.
“Instead, Nawaz brought Qatari letters to the court,” said Khan.
He said that when PM Imran Khan was summoned by the court, he appeared and was declared “sadiq” (honest) and “ameen” (trustworthy) by the court.
“Nawaz, too, should appear in the court as the court has summoned him,” said Khan.
Responding to a call attention notice submitted in the assembly over the delay in completion of Kacchi Canal Project, the minister said that phase II of the project will be complete by August 2022.
Meanwhile, an amendment bill for an increase in the number of Supreme Court judges was presented by PPP MNA Qadir Khan Mandokhail.
“There are only 17 SC judges; why aren’t there 50 judges in the apex court?” asked Mandokhail.
He said that Pakistan stands 128th in the world on the scale of delivery of justice therefore such a bill should be supported in the “naya Pakistan”.
The parliamentary affairs minister supported the bill and handed it over to the relevant committee of the NA.
He said that the bill should be sent to the committee where the opinion of the SC registrar will be sought.
“We want to keep the SC in the loop on the matter of the number of judges,” said Khan.
During the session, PPP MNA Agha Rafiullah presented the National Commission for Human Rights Amendment Bill 2021 in the assembly.
The human rights minister opposed the bill saying that the national commission was formed in the PPP regime.
“The formation of a committee for the appointment of committee chairman exists in the bill,” said Mazari.
At this, PPP MNA Shazia Marri said that the number of members in commissions including the Election Commission of Pakistan is far greater for the appointment of a chairman.
Mazari then demanded a vote be taken on whether the bill should be presented.
During the meeting, MNA James Iqbal presented a bill seeking ban on beggary in the country.
At this, Parliamentarian Secretary for Interior Shokat Ali supported the bill.
“The number of beggars has increased not only in Islamabad, but the entire country,” said Ali.
Moreover, MNA Uzma Riaz presented a bill for the registration of contractors.
MNA Ali supported this bill as well.
During the session, PPP MNA Shazia Marri requested the speaker to grant permission to present a bill against termination of 16,000 employees from government institutions.
At this, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Khan opposed Marri for seeking permission for presenting the bill.
“This case is currently in the court so it should better not be raised here,” said Khan.
At this, MNA Raja Parvez Ashraf commented that the matter can be discussed as the court has passed a ruling.
PPP MNAs protested on Marri not being allowed to speak.
“We point out the quorum in protest for Marri not being given a chance to speak,” said MNA Agha Rafiullah.
At the indication of the quorum, the assembly session was adjourned till Wednesday 4pm.