Pandemonium in Senate on Kalabagh dam
ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Farooq H. Naek had to interrupt the proceedings for 15 minutes on Thursday in order to soothe tempers after the house saw barbs fly over the Kalabagh dam issue.
During the budget debate, Tariq Azeem Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q called for a dispassionate reassessment and consensus of all stakeholders about construction of the controversial dam. The Sindh Assembly had adopted yet another resolution on Wednesday to express opposition to the dam.
The house appeared divided for quite some time both on party and provincial lines as the chairman tried to persuade the lawmakers opposing the dam, led by Zahid Khan and Ilyas Bilour of the Awami National Party, to take their seats and let the PML-Q senator finish his speech.
As Mr Azeem refused to discontinue his argument in favour of the dam, the opponents, who had returned to their seats once again, started shouting, leaving no option for the chair but to stop the sitting for some time. Slogans of ‘ghaddar’ (traitor) and ‘Kalabagh namanzoor’ (Kalabagh unacceptable) rent the air.
The ANP lawmakers returned with renewed vigour when the proceedings resumed and were joined by Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour.
However, the issue was abandoned by the PML-Q lawmaker, apparently on persuasion of his colleagues.
Most loud voices against the dam were heard from senators belonging to Sindh, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam’s Dr Khalid Soomro.
Allah Bakhsh Chandio of the Pakistan People’s Party and ANP’s Haji Mohammad Adeel also joined voices, leading to a free for all.
Mr Azeem appealed to the government to call renowned international experts on dams to ponder over the benefits and harms of the dam, instead of giving up the idea as a whole. He called for turning the statistics division into an autonomous body headed by an honest official to put a halt to a tradition of fudging figures.
He said people were not ready to listen to the rulers because their expectations had been betrayed and the day was not far when they would take to the streets to launch a movement for a revolution.
The house referred to its privileges committee a privilege motion by Haji Adeel, supported by members of coalition parties, against objectionable language used by senior lawyer Akram Shaikh in and outside the Supreme Court against parliamentarians and the parliamentary committee which had prepared the 18th Amendment.
Haji Adeel said that parliament and the parliamentarians had all the respect for the judiciary and judges and it was incumbent upon courts to stop lawyers from speaking against the country’s supreme body during their proceedings.
PPPÂ’s Safdar Abbasi said the government had failed to control heavy borrowing, the debt had swelled to over Rs9,000 billion and Rs850 billion had to be earmarked for repayment and servicing of debts.
He said the Friends of Democratic Pakistan group had not paid any amount out of the expected $5 billion during the current year. He said it was imperative to review the economic policy to return to self-dependence from reliance on foreign grants and loans.