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Khawaja Asif gave an in-camera briefing on RAW activities

21 April, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif on Wednesday gave an in-camera briefing to the upper house of the parliament about the arrest of a high profile spy of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) who operated across the country, especially in Balochistan.

A senator who attended the briefing told reporters that there was nothing in the briefing, but could not say anything because it was kept secret. However, he said, senators’ questions embarrassed the government.

The defence minister on Tuesday requested an in-camera briefing on the arrest of the RAW agent because it was a sensitive issue. He said he could not comment on it because an investigation was in progress. The minister termed the arrest of RAW agent Kulbhushan Yadav as a major breakthrough, which led to other leads and networks of foreign agents, which were being dismantled. He told the Senate that the government had indisputable and unimpeachable evidence about the Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan.

Senators Mohsin Leghari, Azam Swati, Mohsin Aziz, Sehar Kamran and Hafiz Hamdullah had moved an adjournment motion for a discussion on the activities of the RAW in Balochistan and the arrest of the RAW agent in the restive province. The motion was adopted on the condition that the briefing would be held in-camera. Following the adjournment motion, the House was given in-camera briefing about the arrest of the Indian spy.

Before the briefing, the chair admitted an adjournment motion for a discussion on the recent sit-in at D-Chowk. The House took up a Calling Attention Notice about non-payment of salaries to the employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills for the last five months. State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs responded to this notice. The House did not take up another Calling Attention Notice about the relocation of a summit on science and technology from Pakistan to Kazakhstan due to absence of the minister concerned. The House passed a motion under Rule 194 (1) seeking extension of 30 days to submit a report about a demand of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

The chair suspended the proceedings of the House for sometime over absence of the federal minister for planning and development during the Question Hour. The Standing Committee on Defence chairman presented a report on the mid-year review of budget of the Ministry of Defence.

During the Question Hour, the House was informed that the government had taken appropriate measures to discourage smuggling of goods in the country and during the last eight months Rs9.950 billion smuggled goods were confiscated.

In 2014-15, the government confiscated Rs9.582 billion smuggled goods. Due to a strict monitoring system at borders, smuggling of goods minimized, said the Ministry of Finance while responding to a question during the Question Hour. Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar said the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was conducting a meaningful and robust survey with help of qualified experts to ascertain the quantum of smuggling and analyse its impact on the national economy. He said the survey would help the government chalk out an effective strategy to control smuggling.

To control smuggling at the Pak-Afghan border, the minister said, anti-smuggling powers under Section 6 of the Customs Act, 1969 had been given to the FC, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. Similarly, the Political Administration of FATA had been given anti-smuggling powers. In a recent initiative of the Pakistan Customs, a comprehensive anti-smuggling strategy was chalked out. Available resources and manpower, although meagre, had been pooled up for optimum use. In this regard, he said, joint efforts, including intelligence sharing and operations, had been launched by Customs Collectorates and Directorates General of Intelligence and Investigation (Customs) with the help of other law enforcement agencies in the settled areas. All main roads leading to down country were being monitored.

However, the minister said that Pakistan Customs operated through notified Customs Stations along Pak-Afghan border with sole purpose of regulating imports and exports and safeguarding the state revenue. It was an admitted fact that Customs had no physical presence on the international borders for control on smuggling, which normally takes place through unfrequented routes manned by other law enforcement agencies. Owing to the aforementioned reasons, it was difficult to ascertain the exact volume of smuggling. A study to this effect is being undertaken by the FBR.

To another question, the House was informed that the total foreign and domestic debt stock as of end of January 2016 was Rs18.694.2 trillion. This includes foreign debt of Rs 5.573.6 trillion ($ 53.122 billion) and domestic debt of Rs 13.120 trillion. The present government has repaid foreign debt of $ 10.730 billion, including repayment of $4.415 billion to IMF from June 2013 to January 2016.

Answering a question, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said that work on the western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was in progress and it would bring economic revolution in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Replying to a question asked by Farhatullah Babar, Iqbal said there should be no ambiguity about the western route. It was never ignored. It was included in the monographic study on transportation sector of China and Pakistan, he added.

He said the federal government did not fund the Orange Line project of the Punjab government. It was planned, financed and executed by the Punjab government. He said the Punjab government had obtained a loan from China for 20 years and would return it form its own annual development plan. The federal government had only approved the project.

Senators also debated the Panama leaks and demanded constitution of the judicial commission under the chief justice of Pakistan to investigate the issue.

Taking part in the debate, Siraj-ul-Haq said that Panama leaks were a serious issue and the judicial commission headed by the CJ should look into it. He urged reforms in the National Accountability Bureau to make it a powerful and impartial organisation.

He said the country needed to launch a National Action Plan against corruption.

Ilyas Bilour said that all political parties had been demanding judicial commission on the Panama leaks and wanted investigation under the chief justice and foreign audit and forensic experts. He called for an across the board accountability of people from all walks of life.

Usman Saifullah said that verdicts were being given without any investigation into the Panama leaks. No offshore company was registered in his name, he claimed.

Kalsoom Parveen said that parliamentary committee was a better forum to investigate the Panama leaks. She said that accountability should be carried out across the board.

Abdul Qayum said that Panama leaks might be a targeted effort to malign the leadership of a few countries, including Pakistan. The issue should be investigated but there should be no violence, he added. Azam Swati said across the board accountability was need of the hour and demanded probe by the judicial commission. Mohsin Leghari said being parliamentarians they should set high standard of moral authority for others. He demanded an impartial inquiry into the issue.

Daud Khan Achakzai said that an independent and impartial judicial commission should investigate the issue and the Parliament should be taken into confidence on the matter. Saifullah Magsi demanded an impartial inquiry, which was acceptable to people of the country. Shibli Faraz said that people should invest money in their own country, adding that Panama leaks issue should be investigated. Senator Hamza said that investigation should be conducted across the board. Najma Hameed said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was using the Panama leaks issue for political purposes. Shahi Syed called for across the board investigation into the issue.

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