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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Railways and Aviation Khawaja Saad Rafique said that the government has planned to get as many as eight A330 aircraft on lease and is making efforts for the restoration of various international routes of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

Responding to a question during the question hour in the National Assembly on Wednesday, the minister expressed the hope that the government will manage to get revived the PIA’s routes for the United States and the United Kingdom this year. He said once these routes are restored then there will be no justification for the European Union to bar the PIA from operating in the EU countries.

“We have arranged four aircrafts in which two aircrafts will get included in the flying schedule next month. We will follow the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules for getting airbuses on lease,” he said.

Talking about the Roosevelt Hotel, Rafique said this hotel is a precious asset of the PIA that needs to be protected. He called for the operationalisation of the hotel, which has been lying closed for a long time.

He said that the building of the Roosevelt Hotel is 100 years old and we want to enter into a joint venture to make it operational and profitable. I have placed this issue before the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) for approval,” he said.

Answering a question during the question hour session in the National Assembly, Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman said while highlighting the alleged corruption in the previous regime’s nature conservation projects said that the Billion Tree Tsunami Project implemented in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was already under investigation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), whereas, investigation and audit of the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project, which was partially funded by provinces was also underway at the federal level.

She said that as many as 14 cases of this project are under the NAB investigation. She said that the NAB did not share any information about these cases with her ministry.

About the performance of the Ten Billion Tree Project, she said that there is 61 per cent performance of Punjab, 65 per cent of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 12 per cent Balochistan, 72 per cent Sindh, and 18 per cent Gilgit-Baltistan. He said that the provinces are responsible for this project.

Sherry Rehman said that the National Forest Policy was approved in 2017 by the government for the promotion of plantation in the country, adding that the policy provided a basis for the federal government to extend support to all the provinces and territories towards achieving their respective targets related to forestry and meet international obligations by fulfilling capacity and financial gaps.

The minister said that various major initiatives have been taken to implement the policy. She said that the Federal Forestry Board was reactivated to ensure integrated efforts for the improvement of forests, whereas, six meetings of the board have been held since 2018.

Responding to a calling-attention notice moved by Qadir Khan Mandokhail and others, Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services Dr Sobia Aslam Soomro assured the House that the availability of lifesaving drugs at affordable prices will be ensured.

A total of three bills were introduced in the House on Thursday. These were, “The Railways (Amendment) Bill, 2022”, “The Qanun-e-Shahadat (Amendment) Bill, 2022”, and “The Control of Narcotics Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021.”

The chair referred the bills to the standing committees concerned.

Noor Alam Khan, a dissident of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who has been bestowed with the coveted slot of chairman Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – on Wednesday said that proceedings of parliamentary committees are part of parliament which cannot be challenged.

Speaking on a point of order in the National Assembly, he said that the proceedings of parliamentary committees were challenged at some forums, which is unconstitutional.

He continued that the lawmakers appear before the courts out of respect but if any institution makes an attempt to infringe upon the rights of Parliament, the lawmakers will have to stand up as legislation is the job of the parliament.

He demanded the NA speaker to give a ruling on the issue, saying the parliamentary committees are bound to take notice of the issues confronting the masses, and no one has the right to interfere in its matters.

He said that no one should be allowed to ridicule the state institutions under the pretext of freedom of expression, as there is a limit to everything.

The National Assembly, on Wednesday, passed four bills and witnessed introduction of three bills which were referred to the relevant committees for further consideration.

The House passed bills; the National Metrology Institute of Pakistan Bill, 2022, the Public Private Partnership Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Iqbal Academy Pakistan Bill, 2022, and the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2022.

Through a motion under Article 64 (2) moved by Shahida Rehmani of the PPP which was passed by the house, the seat of Muhammadmian Soomro was declared vacant for remaining absent from the house for 40 consecutive sittings without seeking leave.

Earlier, the house offered Fateha for the departed souls of Pakistan Army soldiers, martyred in a suicide attack in North Waziristan.

Paying tribute to the martyred, Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said that the whole nation is proud of the martyred security personnel, adding that the Parliament is firmly standing with the families of the martyrs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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