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ISLAMABAD: Amid strong protest by the opposition against the placement of the controversial National Accountability (Amendment) Bill 2022 in Parliament’s joint session agenda, the Senate on Thursday passed two government bills — Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (Amendment) Bill 2022 and The National Rahmatul-Lil-Aalameen Wa Khatamun Nabiyyin Authority Bill 2022.

State Minister for Finance and Revenue Aisha Ghaus Pasha presented the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (Amendment) Bill 2022.

Leader of the House in Senate Azam Nazir Tarar requested Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to put the bill before the house for passage instead of referring it to the committee.

Despite strong opposition, Sanjrani did not refer the bill to the committee.

Instead, he put it up for voting—leading to the passage of the bill by the house.

The bill has already been passed by the National Assembly and now requires the president’s nod to be signed into law.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (Amendment) Bill 2022, it aims to provide reduction in the federal fiscal deficit and ratio of public debt to gross domestic product by an effective debt management.

The bill proposes the following main amendments in the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act, 2005: (i) Limit the stock of government guarantees at 10 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product), (ii) Publication of medium-term national macro-fiscal framework, (iii) Institutionalize debt management functions in a single office reporting to the finance secretary, (iv) Assignment of additional functions to debt officer, and (v) Create two additional senior management positions with debt office.

The National Rahmatul-Lil-Aalameen Wa Khatamun Nabiyyin Authority Bill 2022 was unanimously passed by the house.

The bill has already been passed by the NA and now requires the president’s nod.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill, the government intends to establish a National Rahmatul Lil Aalamin Wa Khatamun Nabiyyin Authority to undertake several interventions to promote Seerat research and lessons, in the light of Quran and Sunnat, from it for positive changes in Pakistani society, and provide a factual narrative about the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Meanwhile, the opposition staged a walkout from the Senate over the National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2022 been placed in Parliament’s joint session agenda. The bill was later passed in the joint session.

Treasury Senator Faisal Sabzwari from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) brought the protesting senators back in the house.

The National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was previously passed by the National Assembly and then the Senate but President Arif Alvi refused to sign it into law and returned it back to the government with some objections. Overlooking those objections, the government finally got this bill passed from the Parliament in its joint session on Thursday.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem lambasted the government over this controversial bill. “This imported government wants to abolish the NAB (National Accountability Bureau). These rulers want to get NRO—they will fail in their evil designs,” he deplored.

Ijaz Chaudhry from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) shouted the slogans: “NRO namanzoor—imported hakoomat namanzoor (NRO unacceptable— imported government unacceptable).”

Former deputy chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwalla demanded that the wealth assets of NAB officers be made public.

Law and Justice State Minister Shahadat Awan said probe was launched against 300 NAB officials and criminal cases against them are pending in the courts. Some of the NAB employees have been sentenced by the courts, he added.

He alleged that former prime minister’s accountability advisor Mirza Shahzad Akbar sent money abroad through Hundi. The state minister said he would “urge” the NAB to launch an inquiry against Akbar.

To a question, Tarar said, the NAB chairman would be appointed in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

The finance and revenue state minister presented before the Senate the Second Biannual Implementation Report on National Finance Commission (NFC) Award.

The Senate chairman asked Pasha to convey to Finance Minister Ismail to attend the Senate proceedings. “He doesn’t show up and sends you here—tell him to be here sometime,” Sanjrani said.

Mohsin Aziz from the PTI demanded that prayer be held for Maqsood “chaprasi (peon)”, a major accused in the money laundering cases against the Sharif family, over his demise.

“Let the house continue with its business agenda,” the chairman Senate responded to the PTI senator.

The Board of Investment (BOI) Minister, Chaudhry Salik Hussain, informed the house that the federal government revived work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) “with speed and the long-term plan is being translated into an implementation matrix.”

Responding to a question in the question hour, the minister said that joint working groups are being convened to pave the way for 11th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting.

Petroleum State Minister Musadik Malik said 26 per cent of natural gas was consumed by domestic consumers. The existing gas resources do not meet the growing demand of gas, he said, adding that the liquefied natural gas (LNG) would play a vital role to meet gas demand in the coming times. The house was adjourned till Friday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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