Opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly fired a broadside against the government on Tuesday over the ongoing energy crisis and the dilapidated condition of roads, as well as rising crimes in the country.
During the session, chaired by Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the lawmakers, while speaking on their cut motions in various ministries, also criticised the performances of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).
Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) said that load-shedding in electricity and gas was taking place all over the country, while the tariffs were being increased. “Even 24-hour load shedding is observed in some parts of the country, she said.
Mirza pointed out that power theft was not possible without the involvement of the staff of the relevant utility. “The losses due to corruption in the power and gas companies, are transferred to the people,” she added.
Her viewpoint was endorsed by Ramesh Kumar of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Kumar called for the privatisation of the loss-making distribution companies (DISCOs) in order to generate revenues.
PTI members, Riaz Mazari and Afzal Dhandla also demanded end to load shedding. They said power theft was being committed with the connivance of the staff of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), while petrol and diesel prices had gone out of people’s reach.
Both Mazari and Dhandla were critical of the poor condition of roads across the country. “No road is safe anywhere in the country, as soon as we get off the motorways. The quality of roads should be improved,” said Mazari.
Dhandla said the presence of the motorway police on the Indus Highway was nominal. He asked why local people were not being recruited in the motorway police. Both the lawmakers urged the government to improve the performance of the communications department.
Replying to the two opposition lawmakers, Communications Minister Asad Mahmood said that government would follow the vision of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who laid a network of motorways and built high-speed roads during his tenures.
Narcotics Control Minister Shahzain Bugti told the house that drugs worth $8 billion were being seized every year. He added that the Narcotics Control Ministry had the manpower of 3,600 people. “We have asked the prime minister to allow us to recruit 10,000 new recruits.”
Speaking about the drug use in educational institutions, Bugti said that steps were being taken to control the issue. “Yes, there are drugs [use] in schools. Students between the ages of 12 and 30 are addicted,” he admitted.
“We want to impose a fine of Rs 2 million on the campus if a child is found using drugs there,” the minister said, adding that if an employee was caught while selling drugs, Rs 4 million fine will be imposed.
Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of the Jamaat-e-Islami said that crimes were on the rise in the country. “Money is being snatched from shopkeepers in the broad daylight and the people are not getting justice. Drugs have become common,” he added.
He further said that the communications department had failed in its performance, saying that eh country’s roads were no longer passable. He added that one would weep, seeing the dilapidated condition of the GT Road.
Chitrali also raised the issue of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is sentenced to 86 years in prison by US court. “Aafia Siddiqui must be brought to Pakistan,” the lawmaker demanded. He also said: “Jihad is a must, if Kashmir is to be liberated.”
PTI’s Jawariya Zafar Ahir said that Ogra and Nepra both had failed in regulating their sectors. “Why not their budget is cut,” she said on the opposition’s cut motion for the Energy Ministry. She urged the government to focus tourism to generate revenues.
Speaking on the cut motion for the Interior Ministry, Ahir pointed to the purchase of useless tear gas shells. “When the tear gas was used during a sit-in, no one had any tears. Why this budget was wasted,” she asked.
In the future, Ahir continued, “if you buy tear gas, use it in a legal way”, she said, adding that At least it should induce tears. “So that when the people come on TV screens they have real tears in their eyes and they do not have to pretend,” she said.