PIA sell-off bill rejected by Senate


By: Zufiqar Ahmad 

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday once again failed to secure the passage of the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC) (Conversion) Bill, 2015 from Senate.

The bill now goes to a joint-sitting of parliament next week, where it is expected to pass. The combined opposition in Senate where Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is a majority party, shouted ‘shame, shame’ slogans the moment treasury sought to move the motion to get the bill passed.

— It now goes to joint session of parliament

The government made last-ditch efforts to get it passed from upper house of the parliament, but it was ultimately rejected due to lack of majority of treasury members.

The Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat in its report submitted to the house has already recommended that the bill might not be passed. The proposed PIAC (Conversation) Bill, 2015 is aimed at the conversion of the national flag carrier into a private limited company and had already been passed by National Assembly.

The opposition political parties especially PPPP, the major opposition political party in both Senate and National Assembly, have been opposing the privatisation of PIA. The PML-N government will get this bill passed from the joint sitting because of its majority in the National Assembly.

CALLING ATTENTION NOTICE

Speaking on a calling attention notice, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar drew the attention of the government to the European Commission’s recent report on the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

The situation of missing persons will get worse if we continue to deny the need for introducing a measure of transparency, oversight and accountability in the working of the nation’s security agencies, he said. “The parliament is not unmindful of the issue, indeed it has done its job and there is a 2013 report of the Human Rights Committee along with a draft legislation that was unanimously adopted by the Senate,” he said.

To begin with, the government should at least come out with its observations and objections if any to the recommendations and draft legislation for a dialogue and discussion with parliament to address the issue of missing persons.

He said the Senate Committee on speedy and inexpensive justice had called upon the government to submit its report to the senate bi-partisan oversight committee within a month. He asked the minister in charge to apprise the house of the government’s position on the issue.

He said that yet another step forward in addressing the issue was to review the progress made in the implementation of the Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulation, 2011 in tribal areas. “This 2011 Regulation was given retrospective effect from February 2008 to enable the security agencies to bring into the open, for trial in courts, those who had already been in their custody for the past four years but not produced before any court of law,” he added.

He asked the minister to inform the house about the number of persons who were in custody of security agencies since 2008 and surfaced in 2011 together with their present status whether under trial, convicted or in detention.

Senator Babar said that the European Commission’s report had also highlighted the issue of torture in custody. He said the anti-torture bill as passed by the Senate is pending with the joint sitting as the National Assembly could not pass it in the mandatory period of 90 days.

He asked the government to immediately convene a joint session of the parliament to consider the anti-torture bill, the anti-honour killing bill and other bills referred to it under the Constitution. However, Zahid Hamid, the minister for Climate Change said that the opposition lawmaker did not point out the positive aspects as identified by the European Commission.

The report appreciated the government for making legislations on children’s and women’s rights, he said, adding that the government was alive to the situation.

He said the government would constitute at least three separate commissions on rights of children, disabled persons and minorities, adding we will also examine torture bill. “I could not tell the exact number of those persons tried under the Regulation 2011 and the senator should give a fresh question,” he added.

RESOLUTION

The Senate also unanimously adopted a resolution moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar of PPP, calling upon the government to release funds for payment of salaries to the employees of Federal Lodges in all four provinces on yearly basis instead of monthly basis as at present.

It also asked for release of funds on priority basis for the refurbishment and rehabilitation of the Federal Lodges. The resolution came in the wake of the discussion in the senate on Wednesday on a calling-attention notice in which the Minister had candidly admitted the hardships caused to the employees due to irregular payments and the dilapidated condition of Federal Lodges in the country.

WALKOUT

During the question hour, all the opposition political parties staged a protest walkout from the house over the imposition of GIDC (Gas Infrastructure Cess) on provinces.

Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Ilyas Bilour said that all the three provinces had opposed it because the smaller provinces were self-sufficient in gas, asking why it was being collected from them. The opposition walked out following the reply by Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi after he said that no province is self-sufficient in gas production.

Source: Business Recorder