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ISLAMABAD: Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani Monday came down hard on the top officials of Power Division for their absence from the Senate sitting and warned that he would "ask the PM to suspend secretary Power Division" while directing the secretary to be available at the next Senate sitting.

Sanjrani appeared to have lost his cool when his attention was drawn towards the absence of top officials of Power Division during debate on electricity tariff on a motion moved by Kamran Murtaza from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F). "Problems being faced by the common lot of the country due to recent exorbitant increase in the electricity tariff by the Government," the motion read.

The chairman Senate inquired whether the secretary or joint secretary from Power Division was sitting in the Senate's gallery to take relevant notes.

Upon learning that no senior official from Power Division was present, Sanjrani said, "Where is the secretary? Why he remains absent? I will ask PM to suspend him. Why doesn't the secretary make himself available here? This is the matter of House of Federation. Who will note down the points?" he said.

Taking the floor, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan defended the top officials of Power Division, saying they did not enter the Senate gallery due to Covid restrictions. "The joint secretary arrived in my office. But he could not be here in the gallery due to Covid restrictions (imposed by Senate Secretariat).

The chairman responded, "This is not an excuse. The senior officials of the relevant ministries/divisions/departments should be here when the relevant agenda items are taken up in the House."

However, the minister did not budge back. "It's criticism for the sake of criticism. As I said, the joint secretary Power Division visited me in my office. And they have no problems to come here. There should be clear directions whether or not Covid restriction rules should apply to them-and whether or not they should be here."

Speaking on the motion, Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed strongly criticised the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) governments, saying they signed highly controversial agreements with independent power producers (IPPs) that were costing the country dearly.

"Our hands have been tied. We cannot get rid of these agreements even for the next 30-40 years. I ask, what was the need to sign such expensive agreements? The need was to take commission and fill in their own pockets at the cost of weakening the country's economy," Saeed said.

He said Rs 700 billion loss which the country was to face in future was prevented due to certain IPPs contracts renegotiated by the present government.

The minister said circular debt was Rs 464 billion last year which has been reduced to Rs 260 billion this year. "Isn't it because of the performance of this government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan that the circular debt has been drastically reduced?" he asked

He said joint investigation into Fake Accounts case unearthed the names of Asif Ali Zardari and Murad Ali Shah. His remarks did not go down well with PPP that strongly protested against the minister.

However, Saeed appeared undeterred and continued with the criticism against opposition parties.

Putting his weight behind federal government's initiative to build dams, Saeed said, "Our future lies with the 10 dams that we are building. These dams would enable Pakistan to become prosperous and self-sufficient in power sector."

Mohsin Aziz from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) moved another motion; "This House may discuss the report of Broadsheet Commission headed by former Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh regarding investigation of the Broadsheet scandal."

Speaking on the motion, Kamran Murtaza said Broadsheet Commission report "should not be discussed in the House."

"The Broadsheet Commission became disputed even before it was formed. Everyone knows why this report was prepared. It is not appropriate to malign someone using this House," he said.

Murtaza and PPP's Sherry Rehman opposed laying Broadsheet Commission report in the House.

Shahzad Akbar said the government is ready to lay report in House if the Chair so directs.

"The discussion was supposed to be on Broadsheet Commission but corruption became the topic of discussion. I don't know how," he said.

Responding to opposition's criticism, Akbar said National Accountability Bureau (NAB) made recoveries of Rs 484 billion and Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment made recoveries of Rs 197 billion in the last two years compared to recoveries of Rs 480 million in 10 years. "If NAB and other institutions are not performing, where all these remarkable recoveries are coming from? If anyone feels victimised, courts are there to provide justice."

He said "We will lay Broadsheet Commission report in Senate. First, you read it and then debate it. We will respond to your queries and we are here to address your concerns."

The chairman Senate then declared the motion as talked out. He directed that copies of the Broadsheet Commission report be sent report to the secretary Senate office and all the senators. However, Sanjrani avoided directing that the report be laid in the House. The House would meet again Thursday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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