Broadsheet: Govt, opposition agree on Senate debate

Treasury and opposition benches on Monday reached a consensus on convening a meeting of a committee of the whole House to discuss UK-based firm, Broadsheet LLC, revelations

Broadsheet head Kaveh Moussavi, in an interview to a web channel, had said that the Sharif family had assets not only in the UK but across the globe, adding that the family required plenty of explanation about their resources of amassing these assets.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz endorsed a proposal of a senior legislature of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to form a committee of the Whole of the Senate to discuss the Broadsheet issue in detail.

“I respect the thoughts of [PML-N Senator] Javed Abbasi and fully agree with his suggestion to form a committee of the Whole of the Senate to discuss the issue of Broadsheet in detail, so that the nation could know the truth behind it,” said the minister while speaking in the Senate.

Earlier making the suggestion, Senator Javed Abbasi said it would be a test case for the Senate. “The nation should know the truth as to who was the beneficiary and who has done the agreements.”

Abbasi requested the Senate chairman to constitute the committee.

Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani also demanded of the government to present details of the agreement before the House and formation of a committee “whole house” to probe the matter related to the UK-based firm as people had the right to know the truth.

“The agreement with the firm was initially signed during the tenure of former president General (retd) Pervaiz Musharraf, while General (retd) Mohammad Amjad was incharge of the National Accountability Bureau,” said the Pakistan Peoples Party leader Rabbani, presenting the opposition’s version on the issue.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Barrister Shahzad Akbar said the Broadsheet case had been made public on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Sharing the details, he said, “We are paying the price of NROs (National Reconciliation Ordinances) given by the past government to the corrupt elements.”

He said the NROs had cost the national exchequer as Pakistan was compelled to pay 20 per cent of the detected corruption money stashed abroad to the Broadsheet.

The looted money could not be recovered owing to the deals inked by the past rulers with Nawaz Sharif and other corrupt elements.

He said the agreements were signed with the Broadsheet and International Assets Recovery by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) during the time of Pervaiz Musarraf for detection of corruption money abroad.

He said PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif left for Saudi Arabia in December 2000 after getting an NRO from General Pervaiz Musharraf, and NAB cancelled the agreement with the Broadsheet in October 2003.

The Broadsheet was paid twice $2.25 million and $ 1.25 million in 2008 after signing of settlement agreements during the tenure of Yousaf Raza Gilani, he added.

Shahzad Akbar alleged that the Broadsheet judgment was kept hidden by the PML-N government.

Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of JUI-F alleged that rigging had been done in the elections of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla criticised the economic policies of the PTI government and questioned the role of NAB in conducing accountability

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisles presented their versions on the issue, while the federal government assured senators to present the details of the agreement with the UK-based asset recovery firm in the House.

The session held under the chairmanship of Sadiq Sanjrani.

While Federal Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar maintained that the Broadsheet case reflected the cost of the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) granted by the former regimes. “The nation has to bear the cost of Broadsheet due to the NRO conducted years ago,” he said.

Also, the opposition lawmakers termed the Gilgit-Baltistan elections “historically rigged”.

In his speech, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Pervaiz Rashid challenged the results of the polls, saying the PTI government was formed in the region through the support of independent candidates who were forced to join the ruling party.

“The party leaders should not be offended while they are being called selected government,” said Rashid, criticising the government.

During the course of the session, members of the opposition censured the government for borrowing hefty amount of debts during its tenure.

The Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Sherry Rehman said so far the federal government had borrowed Rs35 trillion during its tenure out of which $16 billion were borrowed during the last year. “Summing up all the debts of the PTI government, it has borrowed Rs11 trillion more than the previous two regimes.”

Raising the issue of accountability conducted by the NAB, Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwala said the bureau chairman was being blackmailed. “The head of the anti-graft watchdog should clearly expose blackmailers as he will not remain the chief for life time,” he said, adding the chairman would assert that he would not be blackmailed.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said the existence of public funds were impossible without a watchdog. “Which type of accountability they desire,” said the premier’s aide, referring to the opposition.

He added the accountability should ensure that the public funds wouldn’t be misappropriated. “Reforms in the law can not be made through blame game,” he said, adding the protests were being held against the chief election commissioner.

The House unanimously passed a resolution against the detention and torture of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik and other IIOJK leaders by the Indian occupational forces. Malik and other freedom fighters were kept in death cell, said the resolution, adding the leader had spoken out against atrocities.

The resolution demanded immediate release of the leaders, including Malik and Asiya Andrabi, adding the Kashmiri leaders’ issue should be taken up at the international level.

It further maintained that the Foreign Ministry should inform the Upper House about the steps taken in this regard within 45 days.

The senate session was adjourned indefinitely.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)