PPP senators join opposition walkout
ISLAMABAD: The Senate witnessed unprecedented scenes on Saturday when senators from all political parties, including the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, staged a token walkout in protest against the absence of federal ministers from the proceedings.
Not even a single minister was present in the house at the time of the walkout, leaving only three ruling party senators in the upper house – Leader of the House Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, Sughra Imam and Sabir Baloch.
Deputy Parliamentary Leader of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri spearheaded the move by observing that no minister was available to respond to questions of public importance, including the recent increase in prices of petroleum products, loadshedding and doctors’ strike.
Announcing the walkout from the house he appealed to other political parties to join his party in the protest against lack of interest in the proceedings by the ministers. The appeal evoked a positive response and a collective walkout was staged by members from the treasury and opposition benches, forcing Chairman Farooq H. Naek to adjourn the proceedings for 15 minutes.
Another distinct feature of the proceedings was that almost all the house business was conducted through points of order. Even a discussion on the presidential address to the joint session of parliament which has been on the agenda for three days could not commence and it was decided that the issue would be discussed on Tuesday evening.
The issue of doctors’ strike and loadshedding and water scarcity in 16 districts of Balochistan dominated the proceedings.
Chairperson of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Health Kulsum Parveen said that all members of the committee had visited the Polyclinic Hospital for two consecutive days and found that 80 per cent of the protesting doctors’ demands were genuine.
Wasim Sajjad, Zafar Ali Shah, Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, Shirala Malik, Mir Hasil Bizenjo and Abdul Rahim Mandokhel called for urgent steps to solve the problems of doctors. They were of the view that the coming generations would be averse to coming to the profession if the doctors’ demands were ignored.
One of the suggestions was to give incentives to the doctors willing to perform duties in rural areas by offering them double salaries.
Nayyar Bokhari said health was a provincial subject after the passage of the 18th Amendment. He expressed sympathy with the families whose dear ones had lost their lives because of non-availability of proper treatment.
He said the health secretary was negotiating with the doctors in the federal capital territory. He asked the house committee to formulate recommendations and promised that the issue would be resolved soon.
Hasil Bizenjo complained that there had been no water in 16 districts of Balochistan from Pishin to Khuzdar for 22 days. He said it was playing havoc with crops, besides killing a number of cattle.
Ismael Buledi said Iran was ready to provide electricity for Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar, but regretted that signing of an agreement in this regard was being delayed. He asked the water and power ministry to explain when a delegation would be sent to Iran to sign the agreement.
Abdul Rahim Mandokhel also raised the issue and said that an area of about 50,000 square miles was being affected because of water shortage caused by the long spell of power outage.
Nayyar Bokhari said that electricity and water problems in Balochistan were because of damage of a transmission line caused be a blast.
Farooq Naek termed it a serious issue and asked the leader of the house to ensure that the water and power ministry submits a detailed report on Tuesday.
Shahid Bugti alleged that hundreds of people had been killed in Balochistan over the past few months and mutilated bodies were being found daily, but Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had ignored the real threat and only said in the Senate on Friday that the government was trying to resolve the issue and he had taken Baloch leaders to India to watch the Cricket World Cup semi-final between Pakistan and India.
“Taking Baloch lawmakers to India will not solve the problem,” he remarked.