ISLAMABAD, Feb 27: The government put off its plan to get the controversial new province bill passed by the Senate for the second consecutive day on Wednesday for lack of numbers as it faced a tough day on two other issues on which the ministers concerned appeared helpless.
In an apparent move to provide ample time to the PPP to ensure presence of maximum treasury members in the house and get the bill passed, Chairman Nayyar Bokhari adjourned the session till Monday amidst opposition’s protest.
The government requires the support of 70 senators (two-thirds of the 104-member house) for the passage of the 24th Constitution Amendment Bill seeking creation of the Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab province. The PML-N has already announced to block the bill.
The bill was also on the agenda of Tuesday’s session, but the government did not put it for voting realising that it did not have the required numbers.
Earlier, the government found itself in hot waters when PPP’s Raza Rabbani blasted it for reportedly granting permission to the US Army Corps of Engineers to build a tactical command and operations centre compound at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi to exchange information with Pakistan Customs Drug Enforcement Cell.
The response of Finance Minister Salim Mandviwalla that he would respond to the issue in the next sitting infuriated Mr Rabbani who termed it a violation of the “Terms of Engagement with US” as approved by a joint sitting of parliament.
Mr Rabbani, who is known for his anti-US sentiments, is the head of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) that had drafted the “New Terms of Engagement” with the US, Nato and Isaf against the backdrop of Salala attacks, killing 24 Pakistani troops in November 2011 and which were approved by parliament in its joint sitting in April last year.
He termed the deal a violation of Clause 8 of the PCNS report on “New Terms of Engagement” under which all agreements and MoUs, including military cooperation and logistics, were required to be circulated to the PCNS for vetting and making recommendations in consultation with the stakeholders and forward the same to the federal cabinet. The minister concerned is also required to make a policy statement on the agreements in both houses of parliament, says the clause.
The PPP leader asked the minister to explain who had made this deal with the US if it was not in his knowledge. “On one hand, the Americans have been given permission to build tactical command and operation centre at the Jinnah Terminal, and on the other hand the minister is saying that it is not in his knowledge. How it has happened? Who will guarantee the country’s sovereignty?” he went on saying.
Mr Rabbani, who had raised the matter through a call attention notice, said if the minister had not done it then “who is running the state of affairs?”
The PPP leader said a clarification on the issue in today’s newspapers that the tactical command and operation centre would be operated solely by Pakistanis had further made the matter suspicious as according to a US website, “the project will enable coordinated quick response to constantly evolving narcotics and contraband smuggling tactics in and around Karachi, including entire coastal line of Pakistan”.
The chairman, however, asked the finance minister to respond to the points raised by Mr Rabbani in the next sitting.
The government also faced an embarrassing situation during question hour when Minister of State for Interior Imtiaz Safdar Warraich said that the officials in his ministry were not providing answers to the questions that had been pending before the house for several months.
PML-N’s Nisar Mohammad Khan, MQM’s Tahir Mashhadi and ANP’s Zahid Khan criticised the interior minister for not attending the session regularly and not responding to a large number of questions.