ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has summoned on Dec 15 a session of the upper house of parliament requisitioned by the opposition to take up several crucial issues, including a bill regarding the Panama Papers inquiry and the continued detention of PPP leader Dr Asim Hussain.
According to sources, the opposition has submitted a five-point agenda with its requisition notice which carries the signatures of 36 senators belonging to the PPP, Awami National Party and PML-Q.
The session of the opposition-dominated Senate is expected to be a stormy one since the agenda includes all the points which are contentious and on which the government and the opposition parties have been at loggerheads for months.
It also includes resolutions seeking disapproval of the controversial Companies Ordinance 2016 and formation of a parliamentary committee on national security, besides adoption of a report of the special house committee on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Panama Papers inquiry bill, Dr Asim’s arrest on agenda
Instead of mentioning in the agenda the name of Dr Hussain, a former adviser on petroleum and natural resources to the prime minister, the opposition has sought a debate on the issue of “political prisoners”.
Facing allegations of terrorism for treating terrorists in his hospital in Karachi, Dr Hussain has been in jail for over a year despite the PPP having its government in Sindh.
The PPP has alleged that Dr Hussain, a friend of former president Asif Zardari, is being politically victimised and the federal government wants him to become an approver in a number of corruption cases against other party leaders.
Talking to Dawn on Sunday, PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said the party had requisitioned the session to provide an opportunity to the government to implement its four demands for which its chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had set the deadline of Dec 27.
Mr Babar admitted that by including in the agenda the issue of “political prisoners in the country”, the party wanted to highlight the prolonged detention of Dr Hussain.
He said that by requisitioning the Senate session, the opposition had proved that it wanted to see the resolution of all the issues through parliament.
The bill titled ‘Panama Papers Inquiries Act 2016’, introduced by the opposition in the Senate on Sept 26, has been pending before the Standing Committee on Law and Justice, headed by PML-N’s Senator Javed Abbasi, because of a deadlock between the government and the opposition.
During the last session, the committee’s chairman had sought an extension in the period for the consideration of the bill, but the request was rejected. The Senate chairman asked the committee to submit its report to the house.
Now the opposition wants the committee’s chairman to present the original draft of the bill before the house.
The bill proposes a judicial commission to investigate setting up of offshore companies by hundreds of Pakistanis, including the children of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as revealed by the Panama Papers leaks.
The government is opposing the bill, terming it “infructuous and useless” since the Supreme Court has already taken up petitions of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and others on the issue.
However, the PPP wonders that if the apex court also decides to form a commission to probe into the issue, then under what law it would be given powers since the court had earlier rejected an inquiry commission under the existing 1956 Act.
The opposition’s bill suggests a forensic audit of all the money sent abroad through secret channels.
The proposed law makes it binding upon all those whose names have appeared in the Panama Papers to provide judges of the commission access to their bank accounts. It contains all the terms of reference proposed by the opposition for the commission, which the government has already rejected.
The bill binds the commission to investigate Prime Minister Sharif and his family before proceeding against the other Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.
On the other hand, the government managed to get a new inquiry commissions bill passed from the National Assembly last month despite the opposition’s protest and boycott.
The opposition has already announced that it will block the passage of the government’s bill in the Senate.
Mr Babar said the opposition would move a resolution in the Senate to disapprove the Companies Ordinance 2016 which the government recently laid before the National Assembly in the form of a bill.
The ordinance, according to the government, provides adequate measures against fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing and necessary provisions have been proposed in it regarding powers of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan to hold an investigation, including joint investigation, and requiring officers of a company to take adequate measures to curb such violations.
The opposition believes that the ordinance has been promulgated by the government to protect the offshore companies of the members of the ruling party.
If the resolution for its disapproval is passed by the Senate, the law will immediately become ineffective. It will be the third ordinance which the opposition may reject in the upper house, after the PMDC and PIA ordinances.
courtesy : dawn news