If any channel is shut, others will also face the same fate, Senate told

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UK rally backs on ban geo

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers in the Senate on Wednesday cautioned against the backdoor elements pushing for derailment of the federal parliamentary system so as to sneak into the power corridors.

Senators called on the government to take the ongoing crisis, stemming from the assault on Hamid Mir, seriously and take corrective measures to arrest it or some forces unhappy with the 18th Amendment and revival of 1973 Constitution could intervene.

Senator Prof Sajid Mir insisted that after the apology by the Geo management, the matter should have ended there and then and instead of banning the channel, the entertainment show team might be penalised.They opposed curbs on Geo and called on media houses to join the democratic forces to wriggle out of the crisis, as its escalation would endanger the entire system.

Led by PPP’s Mian Raza Rabbani, the opposition legislators walked out of the House to register their protest on what he called the government’s capitulation to the terrorists and against a handful of IPPs, who have warned that if the outstanding Rs300 billion are not paid to them, loadshedding would jump to 14 hours a day.

Rabbani recalled how the rulers had promised to the nation to end the loadshedding after coming to power and now were looking the other way. He added it was also committed in June 2013 that after payment of Rs480 billion to the IPPs to end the circular debt, there would be a marked decrease in power outages but that was not visible.

While making payment of circular debt, he alleged, some favourites were given benefits and now the IPPs association had written a letter to the Ministry of Water and Power, warning that if Rs300 billion outstanding were not paid, loadshedding would increase to 14 hours per day.

“Have the rulers mortgaged the state of Pakistan to a handful of capitalists who have now hurled a threat at the government? Has the writ of the state reduced to this level?” he wondered.

Leader of the House Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq in a lighter tone proposed that it should be made part of the orders of the day that the opposition would stage a walkout from the House, which has now become a routine.

He promised to ask the minister concerned to present in the House a list of IPPs which had introduced this policy and struck an agreement on much higher power tariff with the IPPs.Awami National Party Senator Afrasiab Khattak, taking part in the debate on the latest political situation, pointed out that from time to time, the democratic system in Pakistan faced threats, a sequence which had started from the era of General Ayub Khan to prove that politicians and parliament were bad.

He noted how after some politicians were found to be having bogus degrees, all politicians were called cheats following the 2008 polls. Now one year after the last year’s election, the entire electoral process is being made controversial and big rallies organised by raising voice about rigging in the polls.

The senator recalled how three big political parties were asked not to take part in the elections while terrorists supported others to win and form the government. “We also have reservations over the polls but never want to derail the democratic system,” he said.

While the political parties had matured during the 1990s and learnt their lessons, now new characters (Imran and Qadri) were leading rallies and subverting the national consensus that an operation must be launched against the terrorists and that non-democratic forces should not intervene.

“One decision has to be taken who should run the country, elected representatives of masses or others,” he said. On the media front, Khattak charged that majority of the media houses were playing the role of Raja Porus elephants who had trampled own troops. He said had the Media Commission’s recommendations been implemented, the situation would have not escalated to the present level.

He alleged that the electronic media had been turned into factories of ‘kafir sazi’. The senator accused the government of inaction over the present situation and said it was trying to make imperial its own rule by turning its back to parliament, as neither the prime minister nor his ministers or even secretaries come to parliament.

About the latest military action against the terrorists in North Waziristan, Khattak said the government should take parliament into confidence as to what had gone wrong, for they had been talking about the success of the peace process with the Taliban.

Like the politicians who had rendered sacrifices for democracy, journalists had also won the freedom of expression through a painful struggle. Prof Sajid Mir of the ruling PML-N said levelling allegations against the top intelligence agency was not a strange thing, as it had been done in the past as well and even in the missing persons case, fingers were pointed at them.

However, he said that it was wrong to focus on the ISI for eight hours and insisted the family viewpoint of Hamid Mir should have been presented only once. Then he turned to the rallies and alleged these consisted of either those who on their own could never come to power or who belonged to the banned outfits, having their strings attached to the military institutions.

Senator Mir saw in the ongoing media outcry an element of professional jealousy and added certain media houses and newspapers were overplaying the Geo-related issue. “If any channel is shut, it will set a bad precedent and other channels will also face a similar fate in future,” he warned.

On the 2013 poll controversy, he contended that electoral disputes should have been decided earlier and should be raised at proper forums instead of taking to roads and streets. He added some sponsored events were taking place that people of choice should come forward and some parties that were nurtured by the military were leading for derailment of the system.

He defended the government’s steps with regard to the Hamid Mir attack and the Geo issue and pointed out who had formed a judicial commission, referred the ISI’s complaint to the Pemra and said the government wanted the resolution of poll issues as per the law.

Senators Kulsoom Parveen and Kamil Ali Agha strongly opposed the bid to defame the military and the ISI and said Pakistan’s security and strength were making them stronger.

They called on the government to act with impartiality in dealing with the Geo issue or institutional controversy would increase further. Senator Kusloom said Imran had a political status and no one had the right to call him inexperienced or immature and insisted that it should be left to the people to decide.

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