Tuesday, September 26th, 2017
Home »Telecommunication » Pakistan » Misuse of USF: Minister, PkMAP Senator trade allegations
In a rare move, State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman Khan on Tuesday threatened to stage a walkout from Senate after she was not allowed to respond to a treasury member who accused her of misusing Universal Service Fund (USF) for building a stadium in Sialkot. During question-hour, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Senator Sardar Muhammad Azam Mushakhail agitated and rejected Anusha's claim that vested interest in Mushakhail district of Balochistan was impeding installation of towers for provision of basic telephone and broadband internet services.

"The senator has talked with reference to Sialkot and let me also give him a befitting response," roared the lady minister. "There should be no one-sided splash of headlines in media. If you don't allow me, I'll stage a walkout," Anusha threatened when JUI-F's Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, deputy chairman Senate who was presiding over the session asked her to take the seat without giving her ample opportunity to respond to the Baloch MP who often accuses her for reasons best known to him.

Senator Mushakhail also walked out of the House when the chair repeatedly asked him to take the seat as he had already spoken on the matter. Mushakhail claimed that the officials who visited his district were treated with hospitality and even provided with security. The senator seemingly annoyed for not giving more time by the chair exited the house in protest. However, he returned immediately and again rose to insist that he would also speak his heart out if the chair gave time to the lady minister.

In an obvious reference to Mushakhail, Anusha insisted that there was a plan to install towers at hills but this led to a tug-of-war among vested interests who wanted these towers within premises of their properties. "The issue is of conflict of interests in that district whereas the ministry sincerely wanted to focus on less-developed areas with regards to latest technology," she hit back.

When again she was given a chance to briefly reply to the allegations, she challenged the senator to name the stadium he was referring to and during which year, it was completed. She sought the chair's help to resolve this issue as it had echoed in the House standing committee meeting. The minister hit hard at the Baloch senator and insisted for formation of a special committee to probe into the matter. She also noted that they had also asked USF about misuse of funds for building a stadium but nothing came out.

As she spoke and wanted to settle the issue of alleged misuse of funds, the senator kept speaking despite the chair asked him again and again to take his seat. The 'mysterious sale' of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane to a German museum, which was operational and flown to its 'destination', again echoed in the Senate.

At one point, in a lighter mood, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheik Aftab Ahmad Khan quipped, "It is a unique happening in history that a plane went missing. In fact, the then MD PIA was a German national who might have taken the plane away after finding nothing else to take along with him when he was sent packing." He said that a fact-finding committee was formed on the issue of the plane but he had no update in this connection. To a question from MQM's Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, the minister expressed his inability to give new date for the start of flight operations from the new Islamabad airport.

Mashhadi said the government had announced that its inauguration was to be made in December last year and then August 14, 2017 was the new date given, which had already passed. The Senate was informed that PIA flights for pilgrims from Pakistan to Iraq (Najaf and Karbala) would start from Karachi from September 15 and afterwards, such operations would begin from other major cities as well upon availability of more planes. The minister conceded that PIA owned just 13 planes while the rest were acquired on lease.

Replying to another question by MQM's Ateeq Sheikh, the minister for commerce and textile said that China, Pakistan and India had a negative trend in their exports as far as textiles and clothing sector was concerned. "All the three countries have complete value chain and are top cotton growing countries, whereas Vietnam and Bangladesh have shown a positive growth despite not having a complete value chain," he explained.

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