ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly on Tuesday passed a motion to form a special parliamentary committee to probe rigging charges in July 2018 elections.

The house, through a motion moved by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, authorised the National Assembly speaker to finalise terms of reference (ToRs).

The committee, comprising only National Assembly members, will have equal representation of members from the government and opposition side. The chairman of the committee will be nominated by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The government believes in strengthening the democratic norms and value and this special committee is being formed in this spirit,” the foreign minister assured the opposition on their criticism over the formation of the committee.

Qureshi said that transparency would not be compromised under any circumstances. “We (government) have decided to form a special committee on the demand of the opposition to address their reservations,” said the minister, responding to the objections raised by the opposition parties.

About the formation of the committee, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said this committee was being constituted on the special directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The PTI had to wait for four years in previous era (PML-N government), as its demand of opening only four constituencies was accepted after four years,” said the minister, mentioning that the present government with this gesture shows his grace.

The opposition side mainly insisted for the equal representations of government and opposition in the committee. They also demanded chairmanship of the special committee to probe the allegations, which could be accepted. PML-N’s central leader Ahsan Iqbal said that there should be equal representation of the opposition and government side in the committee.

PPP’s Shazia Marri, supporting the demand of major opposition parties, said head of the committee should be from opposition side. Sharing some examples of the committee formed in the previous governments, PPP’s Naveed Qamar and PML-N’s Khurram Dastagir also spoke in favour of appointing head of the committee from opposition side. The National Assembly speaker, after the arguments from both sides, ensured the house that the parliamentary committee would work as per rules to ensure transparency.

Earlier, the senior members of the opposition and government amicably settled the matter and agreed to form a committee during the proceedings outside the house in the lobby area.

STATUS OF REFUGEES 

Prime Minister Imran Khan sought suggestions of the lawmakers from both sides of the aisle for deciding the status of refugees living in Pakistan for a long time.

A consensus would be made on the issue of granting citizenship to Afghan and Bengali refugees before taking a final decision, he said, responding to the matter raised by BNP(Mengal) Chief Akhtar Mengal.

Terming it a ‘humanitarian issue’, the premier said there was a need for a policy to grant citizenship rights to those who have been living here for decades even born or married here.“I am saying on humanitarian basis that there is a need to formulate a policy on this matter, as it is a human rights issue,” said Khan.

“Pakistan is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland,” he said, mentioning that if this issue was not addressed on humanitarian grounds it might develop into a problem. He said the decision to grant them citizenship will be made after consultations.

“We have to formulate a policy on it,” said the premier.

He further said that Bengali families had been living in Karachi over the last 50 years. The policy about the settlement of Bengali families will be formulated after taking suggestions of legislators. The street crimes in Karachi, he viewed, increasing with the growing underclass in the city.

The premier also agreed with BNP chief Akhtar Mengal on a matter that Pakistan had inked an agreement for the return of the Afghan refugees.

However, BNP (Mengal) chief Akhtar Mengal from treasury benches was unsatisfied with the response as he left the house in protest. The lawmakers from opposition also created a rumpus over the issue, saying that the prime minister should have taken parliament into confidence before making any policy statement.

Khan, talking to media in his Karachi visit, had also vowed to grant citizenship to Afghan refugees born in Pakistan. More than 1.4 million Afghans are registered as refugees with hundreds of thousands more living in the country.

According to the UN, Pakistan has the largest refugee population in the world, mostly made up of 2.7 million refugees from Afghanistan. Many fled the Soviet invasion in 1979 while others came across the border due to violence and economic turmoil.

RESOLUTION PASSED TO

CONSTRUCT DAMS

The house also passed a resolution about constructing new dams in the country. The major opposition parties especially the PPP-P asked the government to clarify its statement as it should not be confused with the construction of dams other than Bhasha and Mohmand dams.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi clarified that there was a consensus to resolve the water issue in the country. He avoided to indulge in debate on the issue of constructing Kalabagh Dam.

PML-N central leader Khawaja Asif said that water policy had already been approved in the era of previous government. “There was a consensus on the construction of Bhasha and Mohmand dams,” he said. PPP’s Yousaf Talpur said this resolution should not be confused with the construction of Kalabagh Dam.

RESOLUTION PASSED TO PAY TRIBUTE TO KULSOOM NAWAZ

The house expressing grief over the sad demise of former first lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz passed a resolution to pay tributes to her services for democracy.