ISLAMABAD: Reacting to the statement of the ISPR on the government’s bad governance, the Senate on Thursday advised that no state institution had the right to act like a supervisor of the government and insisted that all state institutions should operate within their constitutional limits.
It also said the military had no right to issue such a statement after the corps commanders’ meeting.
The joint opposition also staged a walkout against the absence of Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar despite his commitment to the Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani that he would be present in the House on Thursday to respond to queries about foreign and local loans and the NFC issue.
Punjab was castigated for not sending the name of its private member to the National Finance Commission.
The opposition senators asked if it was not deliberately aimed at stalling the commission’s work.
The federal government was accused of being non-serious in running constitutional bodies and using delay tactics.
Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani again suggested that the government summon an in-camera joint sitting of parliament’s two chambers on the National Action Plan (NAP) and foreign policy. He said if the joint sitting was not possible, then an in-camera session be called on these two important matters.
He said solution to all issues could be found from the platform of parliament and this would help strengthen the democratic system and the rule of law.
Raising the issue, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said the ISPR’s formal press-note was far-reaching, as it said the army had achieved and had been achieving its targets under the NAP, while the government was unable to do so due to bad governance. He conceded that the government had very serious issues of governance and was incapable too.
He said the government had failed to appoint a full-time foreign minister and defence minister and reneged on its promises with regard to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“Yes, the government is incapable and has poor governance issues but was it proper to announce it after the corps commanders’ meeting or to adopt a formal mechanism for raising matters among the state institutions?”
Babar noted that concerns should not have been conveyed to the government through a statement rather the army chief could have taken it up with the prime minister during their meeting a day earlier on the NAP.
The PPP senator said it appeared as if he was the government’s spokesman and conceded it was so bad to find himself in the situation.
He noted that the civil government, be it of PPP, PML-N or PML-N, had always been in the spotlight of parliament, the civil society and the media for its policies.
He said good governance of the army could also be questioned, as it had been announcing killing militants and statistics indicated as if hundreds of them had been killed but a question could be asked about the names of few and their photographs which were never provided.
Babar said the army had been doing a commendable job and tribute must be paid to it for its achievements during the Zarb-e-Azb operation but there was no record of how many displaced persons had not been sent back.
“Poor governance can be in the judiciary, parliament and the armed forces and this can be pinpointed, but there has to be a way of doing so,” he noted.
He said the civil government needed to do more and must do more but the commanders should also be a bit less righteous.
Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said he was extremely disappointed by the performance of the government but would stand by the prime minister. He said there was corruption and bad governance, but the ISPR had no right to issue such a statement against the government.
He contended that the army chief should have talked to the prime minister instead of raising the issue of governance at the public level.
“It is unfortunate that Mehmood Achakzai spoke on this issue in the National Assembly but no one from the ruling PML-N had the moral courage to speak up. We will stand with you when there will be none on your right and left,” he said to the prime minister.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator from Balochistan Usman Kakar said certain state institutions were not willing to work under the Constitution and Parliament.
“Intelligence agencies are constantly meddling in the affairs of interior and foreign policies,” he said.
He said the government had shown weakness on many matters, but it must not compromise on the supremacy of the Constitution and democracy. He complained about those who were constantly trying to send the elected government packing and bringing in non-elected people.
The ruling PML-N Senator from Karachi, Nihal Hashmi, charged that many state institutions had been transgressing their domains and asked them to stay within their constitutional limit. He said parliament had played the most responsible role.
“There should be talk on improvement in governance but there should be no point scoring,” he maintained.
Prof. Sajid Mir, another ruling party senator, said the main reason behind Pakistan’s major issues was the military’s indirect and sometimes direct rule over the years and keeping many national matters in its hands. He advised the army not to act like a supervisor of the civil government, insisting all the institutions should function within their limits.
Earlier, the government had to face drubbing not only from the opposition, but also from the treasury benches for alleged gross violation of the Constitution by not thrashing out the new NFC Award and delaying summoning the Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting for the last several months and hence depriving the federating units of their financial rights.
The treasury and opposition lawmakers called for full-fledged secretariats of the NFC and the Council of Common Interest and strict adherence to the Constitution to take the provinces forward, safeguarding their financial and administrative rights.
They contended the commission should not be under any ministry. It was noted that there was an independent NFC in India that worked throughout the year.
The senators insisted that the CCI and NFC were constitutional instruments, which strengthened the Federation and its units. They called for revisiting the divisible pool and also taking backwardness and ignorance into account in giving funds to the provinces.
The senators wondered how sustainable development goals (SDGs) would be achieved without linking them to the NFC, as primarily it would be the job of the provinces to achieve targets under the SDGs.
It was pointed out that since the government was formed in 2013, only one meeting on NFC was held reflecting non-serious attitude of the finance minister, as the four provinces had their meeting in Sindh on their own on this issue already.
The government was asked to write a letter to the Punjab chief minister to nominate its private member for the NFC and it was feared that if the rulers evinced no interest in the commission, it might collapse ultimately.
The first biannual monitoring on the Implementation of the National Finance Commission Award (July-December, 2014) was laid in the House by the National Party Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo.
Those who spoke on the report included Senator Farhatullah Babar, PML-Q’s Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Usman Kakar, Sirajul Haq of Jamaat-e-Islami, treasury Senator Mohsin Leghari, Salim Mandviwala, Sherry Rehman, Khalid Parveen of PPP, Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan, PML-N’s Javed Abbasi and Ilyas Bilour of ANP.
Though Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi offered to speak in response to the discussion, he wished the House should listen to the finance minister, who would be around Friday (today).
This led to agitation from the senators and the Senate chairman also wondered why the minister had not turned up, as he had personally assured him of his presence at 11:30am Thursday.
The chair formed a committee in consultation with the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition having representation from all the parties in the Senate to see the PIA affairs.
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