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Senate disallowed discussion on sending Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia

22 February, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The Upper House of Parliament on Wednesday disallowed an adjournment motion moved by a PPP senator to discuss the decision of sending Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia while bypassing the unanimously adopted parliamentary resolution affirming neutrality in the ongoing military conflict in the region.

Senator Farhatullah Babar tried to move the adjournment motion but Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani didn’t allow him to present it. Rabbani was of the view that the defence minister had already made a policy statement and a number of senators had spoken on the subject, therefore further discussion was not necessary.

Pressing his point, the PPP senator said that the ISPR announced the decision last week after a meeting between chief of army staff and Saudi ambassador in Islamabad which was preceded by a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia during which the COAS also met the crown prince and some military commanders.

Babar listed two questions which, he said, remained unanswered and necessitated further discussion on the subject through the adjournment motion. One: whether during the recent meeting of the army chief with the Saudi crown prince, the Pakistani ambassador in Saudi Arabia was also present and whether a representative of the Foreign Office was present in a subsequent meeting between the Saudi ambassador and the army chief at the GHQ. Two: even without disclosing the location of the troops to be dispatched to Saudi Arabia, what was the guarantee that they would not be deployed along the Yemen border.

Babar said that several other questions remained unanswered, including the nuanced FO statements condemning the Houthi missile attacks as a threat to the kingdom and the Holy Mosques.

Minister for Energy Awais Khan Leghari dispelled the impression that China was tilting towards India regarding China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Giving ministerial response to a matter of public importance, he said that CPEC was part of the Belt and Road Initiative and a bilateral project between Pakistan and China with no third country part of it. He said that the project would usher in an era of development in Pakistan as well as the entire region and that other countries could also benefit from it.

Regarding another matter of public importance, Awais Leghari said that there was no ban on launching renewable energy projects in Pakistan.

The Senate adopted the report of the special committee on PIA constituted to probe the circumstances under which a PIA Airbus 310 was allegedly sold to a German firm. The committee was mandated to determine who played what role and how the former CEO, a German national, was allowed to leave the country despite his name being on the ECL.

A sub-committee headed by Senator Farhatullah Babar and including Senator Nauman Wazir and Tahir Mashhadi had been formed to probe the matter. The report said that the sale of the airbus was unauthorised, with glaring flaws in the tendering process. The normal procedure was bypassed and the plane was sold at a very low price, it said, adding that entire blame could not be laid on the shoulders of just two individuals and the culpability was much wider.

The report recommended that the former CEO be brought back to Pakistan and in this connection the Foreign Office should take up the matter with the German Embassy in Islamabad on whose guarantee and commitment the permission was granted.

The Senate was informed that energy projects with a total capacity of 17,045 megawatts would be executed under the CPEC. Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal, while responding to a question during the Question Hour, said that projects with a capacity of 1,110 megawatt were on the advanced stage. He said that the Chinese experts were also undertaking studies to fund hydel projects on River Indus, like Diamer-Bhasha, Bunji and other projects. He said that China had agreed in principle to fund hydel projects on River Indus.

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