PM’s adviser makes a poor start in NA
By Raja Asghar
ISLAMABAD: The prime minister’s newly appointed political adviser, Nawabzada Ghazanfar Gul, made a sour beginning of his job in the National Assembly on Wednesday, opening old wounds with a former party colleague-turned-foe when the government seems seeking a smooth constitutional transition in the coming days.
He blasted PML-Q parliamentary leader Faisal Saleh Hayat for his “betrayal” of the PPP in 2002 to support a military dictator as he questioned the former federal minister’s credentials to attack the two-year-old PPP-led coalition government over a bad law and order situation and for allegedly failing to make a promised departure from former president Pervez Musharraf’s policies.
But the adviser, in his first speech to the house after taking office last week, got a sharp rebuff from Mr Hayat, who accused the veteran PPP figure from Gujrat district of the Punjab province of creating bitterness in an attempt to get limelight after a period of political wilderness.
The clash between the one-time colleagues in the PPP occurred during a resumed opposition-sought debate on a deadly March 8 bomb attack at a Special Investigation Agency building in Lahore, after the PML-Q leader had criticised both the government -— for alleged inaction -— and the main opposition PML-N party -— for not doing enough to mount pressure on the government and not taking other opposition groups into confidence.
The PPP has in recent months sought to play down differences with opposition parties while a joint parliamentary committee is formulating recommendations on constitutional reforms it has promised to bring to parliament before the end of this month and has apparently kept a distance from sharp criticism of the PML-N over controversial remarks of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif that critics saw an expression of ideological affinity with Taliban militants.
Mr Hayat wondered why Mr Sharif made such a statement in a speech to a seminar in Lahore on Sunday and questioned the sincerity of PML-N’s claims of opposition to “foreign dictation”, which the Punjab chief minister had cited as a common cause for which he appealed to Taliban to spare Punjab terrorist attacks.
But adviser Gul seemed hardly pleased with the public airing of dissensions between the two main opposition parties and poured his ire on Mr Hayat for his role in the formation of a breakaway “PPP-Patriots” faction of some 20 National Assembly members — after they were elected on PPP tickets in the October 2002 election — to help form a pro-Musharraf government, though he described him as more of one of “PPP remnants” than of “Musharraf remnants” as branded by the PML-N.
“The chains you have made us wear have to be cast off slowly,” the adviser said about the slow pace of change. “This system is moving towards consolidation (and) it is taking roots. Let us move. We are crawling.”
STATE BANK ACT: The house, which was later adjourned until 4pm on Thursday, earlier received a bill seeking several amendments in the State Bank of Pakistan Act of 1956, which the government said “will make the law more conducive to the changing global economic and regulatory environment and will better enable the modern functions of the central bank”.
A statement of objects and reasons accompanying the bill, which was introduced by Minister of State for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar, said the amendment would update the old law “to bring it closer to the current emerging functions of a modern central bank and to better conform to best international practices”.
It said the bill sought to replace the existing Monetary and Fiscal Policies Coordination Board, which it said was “redundant in terms of current practice”, and give the current Monetary Policy Committee a statutory status, with external experts to be appointed by the federal government.
The statement said: “The Central Board will be represented by two members on the committee which will be responsible to formulate, decide and implement the monetary policy and decide on matters such as those relating to key interest rates, supply of reserves, exchange rate policy and the limits and nature of advances and loans to the government.
The main objective of introducing this statutory committee is to facilitate the State Bank’s autonomy in performance of its essential functions in the changing financial environment. Consequently, various sections of the act have also been amended in order to bring them in line with the role of the Monetary Policy Committee.”
Other changes sought by the bill include:
—Restricting lending to the government by insertion of a new section (No 260A).
— Elaboration and clarification of emergent functions pertaining to open market and credit operations and international reserves by the substitution of existing sections.
— Repeal of section 52 of the SBP Act “which provided for the supersession of the Central Board by the federal government since the time the State Bank was privately owned” in conformity with the current autonomy of the central bank of international practice.