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The award of Rs 700 million contract for up-gradation of in-flight entertainment (IFE) in eight ageing Boeing 777 aircraft to a local company by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) echoed in National Assembly on Friday.

Through a calling-attention notice, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) MNAs Raja Pervez Ashraf, Jam Abdul Karim, Agha Rafiullah, Abdul Qadir Patel and Mehreen Razzaq Bhutto grilled the government for awarding Rs 700 million contract to a 'suspicious' company.

Patel said the local company which managed to get the contract was registered only two months before the tender for the project was floated.

Raja Pervez Ashraf said he was skeptical that company could be owned by the same person under different names in a bid to get millions of rupees contract.

Responding to calling attention notice, Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that regular tenders were offered regarding provision of IFE during fight in 8 Boeing planes of PIA.

"No work order has been given to any company as the matter is sub judice and an inquiry has been ordered into the matter," he added.

Patel said that PIA incurred a loss of Rs 60 billion in last six months.

The minister said that in 2017, PIA losses were of Rs32 billion, but the incumbent government made hectic efforts due to which, at present the PIA is facing a loss of Rs 11 billion compared to Rs 29 billion losses in 2018.

He called upon the opposition parties not to compare the 18-month performance of PIA with 35-year rule of opposition parties, accusing them of bringing down the national entity to the ground. Referring to CEO PIA Air Marshal Arshad Malik, Mehreen Razzaq Bhutto said that a sitting air marshal can not run a commercial airlines which prompted the minister to say that she must not forget the golden eras of Air Marshal Noor Khan and Air Marshal Asghar Khan.

LOCUST ATTACK Minister for National Food Security and Research Khusro Bakhtiar informed the House that Rs7.3 billion would be spent in one-and-a-half-year to combat the locust attacks to save the agriculture sector from their devastating effects.

Responding to a calling-attention notice of MNA Malik Ehsanullah Tiwana regarding unabated invasion of swarms of locusts on standing crops and trees, spread over large areas in Sindh, southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said that the locust went from Cholistan and Thar deserts in Punjab and Sindh to Balochistan and for the first time it was sighted in March last year.

According to the minister, the last attack of the locust in Pakistan was in 1993 and after that year, the Plant Protection Department of the federal ministry which dealt with the problem was neglected as its planes and vehicles are in disrepair.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan also took notice of the issue and called representatives of both federal and provincial governments, who presented an action plan to be implemented in one-and-a-half-year to curb the locust attacks.

He said that after the recent attack of locusts over an area of 0.9 million hectares, action was taken against the pest over 0.3 million acres while an aerial spray was done on 20,000 hectares.

He said the district administrations, voluntary organizations, Aviation Division and armed forces were put into operation to combat the attack and save crops.

He said this time around, the swarms of locusts had not only spread into areas of Punjab and Sindh but they went further afar in Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He said the committee of the National Assembly should help monitor and review the situation arising out of the locust attack and give feedback to the federal government.

"Due to persistent efforts of the government and an early release of Rs 500 million, the crops of rice and cotton were saved from the locust attack," he added.

The minister said the usual entry of the locusts from Pakistan to Iran and Oman was delayed for some days due to severe winter weather and climate change but eventually the insects would enter these countries. Speaking on a point of order, MNA Rana Tanveer demanded that a special committee should be formed to ascertain the causes of sugar and wheat 'crises' and the names of those involved in shortages and increased prices of commodities should be revealed. He said the Prime Minister has already received a report in this regard but he is yet to name those who were behind these crises.

TELECOM SERVICE UNDER USF State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan told the House that about Rs 21 billion has so far been spent to provide telecommunication services in un-served and under-served areas under Universal Service Fund (USF).

Responding to a question during Question-Hour in National Assembly, he said that about Rs 50 billion has so far been collected from the telecom companies under USF and Rs 21 billion has been spent on development of telecom infrastructure and for promotion of services in different under-served areas of the country.

He said that during 2018-19 about Rs 6.4 billion were collected under USF and Rs 6.94 billion had been spent to provide telecom services to remote areas during the same period.

He said that the government through Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) is facilitating local companies in promotion of IT services by way of marketing and subsidization, etc.

The PSEB has arranged four international and four domestic exhibitions. He said that state functionaries in consulates and embassies have been interacted to accord special focus on promotion of IT exports.

The government has exempted Information Technology and IT-enabled services from income tax on export till June 2025 to bolster their exports.

He said that the IT is emerging as a vital organ of the country's national economy and the government is paying great deal of heed to promote this sector. He said two IT parks are being established in Pakistan with the cooperation of the South Korean government.

He said that work on the first IT park in Islamabad has already been started while the second IT park would be established in Karachi to further strengthen this sector.

BISP To a question, the minister said that no deserving beneficiary will be excluded from Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).

He clarified that BISP is not being renamed, adding the government has started a comprehensive Ehsaas Program and enhanced its allocations to Rs 190 billion from Rs 100 billion.

To a question by MNA Agha Rafiullah of PPP, the minister said that 13 unelected people were appointed as advisors during PPP-led government while 14 unelected people were inducted as advisors and special assistants during the PML-N tenure.


Sabir Hussain Qaimkhani of MQM-Pakistan said that on page No. 120 of social studies textbook published by Sindh Textbook Board, Bengali immigrants have been declared internally displaced people (IDPs), which must be reversed.

He said that the book should be seized, adding a committee should be formed for supervision of syllabus in the country and pictures of architects of the nation be printed rather than political party leaders.

BILLS The government introduced five bills in National Assembly which include the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Post Office Cash Certificate (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Post Office National Savings Certificate (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Government Savings Bank (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Emigration (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020


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