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Thursday, November 24, 2011

National Assembly session: PM ends Balochistan protest

By Qamar Zaman
Published: November 24, 2011
Nasir Ali Shah had staged sit-ins in parliament over attacks on Quetta’s Hazara community. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE
A month-long protest against the government’s record in Balochistan ended on Wednesday, after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani assured the disgruntled Syed Nasir Ali Shah of the PPP-led government’s sincerity in improving law and order in the province.
“Target killing in the province is not acceptable,” the PM said as he came to convince Shah to end his protest and attend the National Assembly session.
The PM assured Shah that he would soon convene a meeting of heads of the security forces to evolve a strategy for improving the law and order situation in Balochistan.
Shah had been boycotting the NA and staging sit-ins at the entrance of Parliament House since the last session when 14 people from the Hazara community – an ethnic minority that follows Shia Islam – were gunned down outside Quetta.
When Shah rose up from his seat to address the house, members welcomed him through desk-thumping. “I urge all the lawmakers not to indulge in mudslinging and start focusing on problems of the masses,” he said, while questioning the steps taken for the welfare of Pakistanis over the past 64 years.
Meanwhile, the lower house of Parliament was back to business as it moved on from the memorandum scandal that had dominated discussion over the past few days. Three bills were passed without any interruption from the opposition.
Anti-Dumping Duties Ordinance, 2000 [The Anti-Dumping Duties (Amendment) Bill, 2009], Banks (Nationalization) Act, 1974 [The Banks (Nation-alization) (Amendment) Bill, 2010] and Islamabad Consumers Protection Act 1955 [The Islamabad Consumers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2010] were quietly passed by the NA. The house also unanimously passed a resolution that maternal health be considered a basic human right.
In addition, Fauzia Wahab, chairperson of the standing committee on finance and revenue, planning and development, presented reports of the standing committee on the Bill for the imposition and collection of gas infrastructure development cess [The Gas Infrastructure Development Cess Bill, 2011].
The Islamabad Consumer Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2010 is aimed at implementing the Islamabad Consumer Protection Act, 1995 to curb profiteering, hoarding and black-marketing, adulteration, selling of expired items of food and other items unfit for human consumption or charging excess of the prices fixed by the competent authority.
Later on, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) legislators asked the Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar to consider the non-payment of electricity bills by 132 government organizations.
The minister said that “there is a zero tolerance policy against defaulters,” adding that the government would try to collect dues from all 132 departments within a few months.
Speaking on a point of order, Engineer Amir Maqum of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) said that he had filed a petition before the Election Commission of Pakistan against malpractices in which political parties were engaged ahead of the by-election in Kohistan scheduled to take place on Thursday (today).
Maqum claimed that political parties are openly using money to buy votes. He alleged that Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Amir Haider Hoti’s father and Senator Talha Mehmood were the main players.
“The Election Commission should take notice and stop this practice, otherwise it will be replicated in the next general elections,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2011.

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