Aitzaz assails govt, defends president
28 August, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday came up with a strong resolve to ensure freedom of the media and ruled out the possibility of imposing curbs on it in the Senate.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Pervaiz Rashid and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan assured the opposition as well as media persons that freedom of expression will be upheld.
Meanwhile, opening the debate on the presidential address to the joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate, Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan said in the Senate that the PML-N leadership had promised to end load-shedding in 15 days, eliminate corruption and deal with terrorism.
But after coming into power, he said the prime minister issued a statement that power outages could not end even in three years. He also referred to the Nandipur power project, whose cost had been increased to $574 million and hence $174 million would be eaten up as commission.
Similarly, he said some heinous acts of terrorism had happened in the last two months, whereas the government wanted to combat terrorism. "They can't handle one Sikandar, how can they deal with terrorism," he remarked. He lauded the role of media in the restoration of the judiciary and then alleged that it also played a prominent part in damaging the judiciary. He noted that how the media showed mere observations by judges and hence trampled the pre-requisites of justice.
Aitzaz lauded President Asif Ali Zardari for upholding tolerance and reconciliation. He said now the media and the courts would start realising that the PML-N was in power. He gave credit of smooth transfer of power from one government to the other to President Zardari.
He regretted that how in just one hearing, the Supreme Court changed the schedule of presidential election, which was the exclusive domain of the chief election commissioner. Aitzaz complained the media was not giving balanced coverage to the opposition.
However, on the issue of FIR against a private TV channel, treasury senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, who is also vice-president of the ruling National Party in Balochistan, said this was done on the orders of the Supreme Court, adding they were ready to adopt whatever line of action the House and media would suggest.
The PPP and treasury members also wrangled over the issue of privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).On a point of order, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani told Chairman Senate Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari that despite a commitment and assurance from the Leader of the House Friday, the minister concerned was not present in the House to reply to his calling attention notice regarding the privatisation of the PSM.
He charged that the government appeared hell-bent on giving the mills to a capitalist crony. He insisted the opposition would not let this happen this way.Leader of the House Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq acknowledged that Rabbani had given a notice but the minister informed the government and the House in writing that he was busy in the wedding of his niece and would be back to the House by August 29. While he was speaking, Rabbani tried to say something, prompting Saad Rafique to start speaking loudly and then there was pandemonium in the House that last for some minutes.
Zafarul Haq urged the chair to defer to which Rabbani hesitatingly agreed but Nayyar Bokhari said that the sense of the House would be followed in case as the minister did not turn up despite his commitment.
The House again witnessed a brief verbal stand-off between Federal Minister for Railways Saad Rafique and Rabbani, who were promptly joined by some of their colleagues. The government again came under fire from an opposition senator for not adopting a clear-cut policy to deal with the menace of terrorism.
Opposition senators forced suspension of the proceedings for about 30 minutes after they stormed out of the Senate against registration of an FIR against journalists of a private TV channel by the Balochistan government.
Later, during the question hour, interior minister asserted that the practice of lifting persons from houses should stop as it does not behove a civilised society.He said credit should be given to the Supreme Court, which intervened and helped recovery of several missing persons. "There are different views regarding the missing persons: some say, few of these are with the Jehadi groups. Some blame agencies for the missing persons. The real issue is exactly how many are missing," he noted.
The minister continued that the exact figure could be determined and the government was trying to satisfy the families of missing persons and political groups. To question by Senator Muhammad Talha Mehmood, the minister said that the issue of unverified SIMs was a complicated and the government was diligently working on it.
He said a person got several new SIMs without showing his CNIC. The minister said cellular companies would be made accountable, as the 'menace of illegal SIMs' had increased manifold. The minister said 199, 569914 SIMs had been verified so far. But conceded there was no idea as to how many unverified SIMs still existed.
He made it clear that terrorism could not be contained unless the issue of unverified SIMs was tackled and said this was in the interest of Pakistan as well as the multi-national companies.NISAR told the House that eight persons, having dual nationality were working in Nadra and they are Chairman Tariq Malik, director general Fizzah Shahid, directors Ahmad Kamal Gilani and Sohail Jehangir, deputy directors Adnan Qureshi, Waryam Shafqat and Imran Ahmad and assistant director Sohail Irshad.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson of Nadra contacted this correspondent to point out that neither the constitution nor the Nadra Ordinance barred any one from serving in the department. Tariq Malik was made chairman last year after having served as deputy chairman.