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ISLAMABAD: The Upper House of the Parliament plunged into chaos on Tuesday with the opposition having created furore after the treasury benches produced a "more than 30 years old" official document that showed Kalabagh Dam in the list of "ready for implementation" projects.

During Question Hour at the start of the Senate's 303rd session presided over by Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamat-e-Islami (JI) pointed out that a government report showed Kalabagh Dam and Akhori Dam as ready for implementation projects.

"I am strongly opposed to both these projects. Kalabagh Dam would deprive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of its water resources and create worse water scarcity and Akhori Dam would destroy KP ecologically," he said. The senators from other opposition parties supported the JI senator and started protesting against the government's report regarding the two dams.

The opposition senators announced to stage a walkout and started chanting ant-government slogans while standing in front of the chairman Senate. This did not go down well with Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan. "Think before you speak.

Don't mislead the House. The report you are referring to was prepared in 1988 and it showed both the dams as ready for implementation at that time. We simply furnished the report here in response to a question. The federal government is neither set to build Kalabagh Dam nor do we have any plan to build Akhori Dam. We have made it clear time and again that we would not go ahead with constructing Kalabagh Dam without national consensus," he addressed the opposition senators.

The opposition senators asked the chairman Senate to issue a ruling on Kalabagh Dam. The chairman responded, "How many times should I issue rulings on Kalabagh Dam? I have already issued a ruling that the fate of Kalabagh Dam should be decided by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) that has the representation of all the four provinces and the federation," he said.

The chairman Senate asked the opposition senators to "go back to your seats or leave the House if you want to go ahead with the walkout plan but please don't spoil the atmosphere of the House."

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader and former chairman Senate Raza Rabbani said the provinces have strong reservations over Kalabagh Dam and no project should be executed by the federal government without national consensus.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan responded that the CCI is the relevant platform to discuss thorny issues like Kalabagh Dam and the government has no intention to construct the Kalabagh Dam without taking the provinces into the loop and forging consensus on this issue from the forum of CCI. Later, the opposition senators went back to their seats and did not stage a walkout.

Parliamentary affairs minister told the House that the federal government is providing funds for construction of 60 small, medium and large dams in the country. He said 17 dam projects are to be completed during the current fiscal year. He said work has been started on Diamer Basha and Mohmand Dams which will greatly contribute to enhancing the country's water storage capacity. Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) is also planning to construct several new dams including Kurram Tangi Dam Stage-11 and Sindh Barrage to cope with the issue of water shortage, he said.

The provinces are being given their due water share as per the water accord of 1991, the minister said. Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry told the House that the tech based practices at these farms will help optimize the per acre yield. He said this project will bring revolution in the lives of small farmers.

The senators strongly criticized the performance of government authorities in connection with Lahore motorway rape incident. Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem condemned remarks of Capital City Police Officer (CCPO), Lahore, Umar Shaikh regarding the rape incident. "Our women are our pride and it is the biggest responsibility of the Parliament to pass laws for protection of women," he said.

Leader of the Opposition in Senate Raja Zafar-ul-Haq demanded of the government to hold a meeting of the Committee of Whole, in which, he said judges of Supreme Court, Islamabad High Court and senior police officers should be invited to formulate a mechanism to stop this kind of incident.

PPP Parliamentary Leader in Senate Sherry Rehman called out the CCPO, Lahore, for his "callous sexist statement. Instead of doing his job which is protecting the citizens of this country, CCPO tried to become the guardian of public morality. This was not the time to ask why the victim did not get petrol (before leaving for Gujranwala from Lahore). His late apology left a very bad taste in the mouth as it seemed meaningless and just done to get it out of the way."

Federal Minister for Narcotics Control Azam Swati said exemplary punishment should be given to the culprits involved in rape incidents. Other senators who spoke on the issue included Pervaiz Rashid, Asif Kirmani, Aurangzeb Khan, Mohsin Aziz, Raza Rabbani, Barrister Saif and Mushahid Ullah Khan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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