Senate not briefed on mandate of Saudi-led military alliance
By Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD: The mandate of the Saudi Arabia-led Islamic military alliance continues to be an enigma, with the government yet to explain its position on the reported statements of Saudi authorities that the coalition will also act against rebel groups posing a threat to the security of a member country.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz was scheduled to make a statement on the mandate of the alliance in the Senate on Wednesdayover a calling attention notice.
He did come for a short time merely to inform the house that he was required to attend a meeting of the cabinet`s national security committee. He sought the chair`s permission to leave and come back after Zuhar prayers to make a statement.
Later, Mr Aziz sent a message to the chair that the meeting was still going on. At around 3pm Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani told the session that he had just checked with the prime minister`s house that the meeting was still under way and adjourned the house to meet again on Thursday (today) at 1.30pm.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had also been summoned, but he did not turn up.
The adviser in all probability will now make a statement on the issue on Thursday (today).
Mr Rabbani referred to the Senate standing committee ondefence an adjournment motion seeking to discuss an `alarming rise in occupation of land by the military` in Quetta district, causing unrest among the people. The chair directed the committee to submit a report to the house in a month.
The chairman regretted that the government had f ailed to act despite several resolutions passed by the Balochistan Assembly on the issue.
A highlight of the Wednesday`s proceedings was the first appearance of Deputy Chairman of Senate Abdul Ghafoor Haideri after the Mastung attack and another was the last appearance of Nehal Hashmi, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz senator, who had to resign after his controversial remarks against the judiciary and joint investigation team probing the assets of the Sharifs following the SupremeCourt judgement in the Panama Papers case.
Incentives for farm sector sought Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah of the PML-Functional said subsidy on fertilisers and availability of loans had led to substantial growth of the agricultural sector, but stressed that the backbone of the country`s economy needed more incentives. It would have a positive impact on other sectors as well, he said.
He advised the government to continue the subsidy on different fertilisers, besides proposing abolition of general sales tax on fertilisers, imported sunflower seed and hybrid seeds. He also called for zero duty on import of tractors and cool chain machinery and equipment. He said mark-up on agricultural loans should be reduced to seven per cent and general sales tax onlocally manufactured tractors should be brought down from five per cent to two per cent.
Mushahid Hussain Sayed of the PML-Q justified the opposition`s decision to hold a parallel session of the National Assembly and said it was the right of the opposition leader to go on air live (on PTV while speaking on the federal budget).
He criticised the government for ignoring the recommendations of the health ministry on smoking and alleged that the tobacco lobby had finally prevailed. He pointed out that actors were seen smoking on TV screens and highlighted that seven million people died each year due to smoking. `They include passive smokers.
Mr Sayed proposed a dedicated TV channel for broadcasting parliamentary proceedings.
Taking part in the discussion on the budget, Ilyas Bilour of theAwami National Party said that exports were declining by $1 billion per year. He said the volume of the exports stood at $25bn at the end of the previous government`s term and the target for the current year was $20bn dollars which, he opined, the government would not be able to achieve.
He said the reason for decline in exports was increase in the cost of doing business. He said it was due to ascending power and gas tariff as well as new security requirements.
Without naming anybody, he said the cabinet had a minister who hated Pakhtun people and another `who has grey hair but continues to tell lies`.
He criticised the government for announcing the budget without announcing the National Finance Commission award and said it was tantamount to giving `charity to orphans`.