Senate Question-Hour: ‘Corruption, malpractices decreased in railways in four years’

The News

ISLAMABAD: During the Question-hour in the Senate, it was informed that corruption and malpractices had decreased in the Pakistan Railways during the last four years. However, Minister for Railways Sh Rashid told the House that the deficit of the railways was Rs30.5 billion in 2013 and it had reached Rs41 billion in 2018 and there was a case of 1,800 inferior quality hopper wagons, 58 Chinese locomotives while 30 of them were useless, all procured through single bidding.
He said there was a major case of 55 engines from the United States twice at the price of what India had purchased. Meanwhile, the joint opposition marred the Senate proceedings with two back-to-back walkouts, one over remarks of Minister for Railways Sh. Rashid Ahmad, forcing the acting Chairman Salim Mandiwala to adjourn the House till Thursday.
The opposition senators staged the first walkout from the House during the Question-Hour to agitate on the remarks of the Minister for Railways, which were expunged along with those made by PML-N Senator Ch Tanvir Khan against the minister. Both hail from Rawalpindi.
The absence of the opposition left the House short of quorum. The chair ordered for ringing of bells for five minutes; even then the House was not found in order. The proceedings were suspended for 30 minutes for want of minimum presence of 26 senators in the House.
However, before the chair ordered for count, there was an interesting exchange of remarks between Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry and PML-N Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi, who pointed out the quorum along with PkMAP Senator Muhammad Azam Musakhail and said, “First ensure the quorum in the House in the Naya Pakistan”.
To this, Fawad retorted, “Don’t joke like kids. One minute of the proceedings cost the nation’s millions of rupees. You will go back home and sleep.” Later, he in a reconciliatory tone he said the government and the opposition run the House together.
The railway minister was informing the Senate about the details regarding the land belonging to the railways and pointed out that it had a total of 170,000 acres of land, of which 126,000 acres was ‘workable’, whereas they had decided to retain 20,000 acres and the details of the rest would be presented to the cabinet for a decision about its usage.
The minister noted that he was getting a conflicting figure about the revenue generated through the land leased out during the tenure of the previous government and added the figure was Rs40 billion, Rs42 billion and Rs47 billion.
He said they had no intention to dislodge the katch abadis on the Railways land but would not spare the railway officers who had occupied the land along with the land mafia and even commercial plazas had been built. At this point, he made the remarks, which led to protest in the House. Senator Tanvir responded in the same way and alleged the minister had also occupied the government land, referring to the Lal Haveli.
Adviser to PM on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan rose to request the chair to expunge the particular remarks, made by the minister and then by Senator Tanvir. The chair expunged those remarks. However, this failed to cool the tempers down, leading the opposition walkout.
The second time opposition legislators made exit from the House was when PTI Senator Muhammad Azam Swati moved a calling attention notice to draw the attention of Minister for Parliamentary Affairs towards the alleged failure of the result transmission system in the general election, 2018 and the performance of the Election Commission of Pakistan in this regard.
As the House resumed, again there were noisy scenes with ex-chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani objecting to allowing a member to make a speech through a calling attention notice, whereas he insisted the government wanted to eyewash the raging issue of electoral controversy, for the opposition had already called for constitution of a parliamentary commission to probe the entire exercise.
“But the government appears to eyewash this matter by asking for a probe into RTS failure,” he alleged amid protest by PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan and some other opposition Senators also stood up and start expressing their views.
The chair appeared helpless and asked the senators to resume their seats, as under the rules, a calling attention notice mover could speak for ten minutes and let him first finish what he had to say. There was also slight argument between the chair and Rabbani.
“We will not sit down. Unless you let us speak and make him silent,” retorted Mushahidullah referring to Senator Swati. However, the tempers cooled down when a call for prayers was made. But silence lasted for few minutes and again opposition senators and Senators Swati and Rabbani were on their feet and speaking.
“Is this martial law? Whom are you representing in the House? Polling officers were sent out and results were changed and there was also pre-poll rigging,” the PML-N senator charged. Swati called for investigation into the RTS failure and seeking opinion of forensic experts. Senator Musakhail drew the attention of the chair towards lack of quorum, as the Opposition senators against stormed out of the Senate.
Bells were rung for five minutes and Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz and some other treasury members tried to convince the Opposition senators to return to the House but they did not and there was no quorum in the House. As a result, the House was adjourned till Thursday morning.
Fawad Chaudhry told the House that the previous government used massive amount on advertisement for self-projection and its publicity and this was managed at the PM House and it was run by Maryam Nawaz.The previous government, he claimed, in the Center spent Rs17 billion on ads and if the amount spent by the Punjab government was also accumulated then that figures reach Rs40 billion. He noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had given clear instructions that no amount would be spent for self-projection or the publicity of the government.
Replying to a question, Babar Awan said the government would speed up the process of reforms in seminaries. He said this would help bring the seminary students in the national mainstream and also create job opportunities for them.
He pointed out that 689 seminaries had been registered in Fata while in the rest of the country 176 seminaries had so far been registered in addition to 202 registered by Nacta. He said the previous government had also done work in this connection.

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