National Assembly debates Broadsheet scandal, regularization of P.M. Khan’s Banigala residence
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has blocked around one million URLs of “objectionable content” related to religious and the integrity and defense of the country, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan informed the National Assembly on Friday.
During Question Hour, he said that the regulatory body was taking “effective measures” to remove or block from access any content that was against Pakistan’s laws. He said that there would be zero tolerance for any user or website that promoted pornography, blackmailing of women, and personal attacks. He also urged the public to report any pornographic and anti-Pakistan content to the PTA so action could be promptly taken.
Separately, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Murtaza Javed Abbasi lamented that mobile phone companies were charging 30 to 40 percent taxes on bills. “These companies are collecting advance tax, sale tax and tax of mobile cards,” he complained. In a rare show of unity between the treasury and opposition benches, Adviser to the P.M. on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan endorsed Abbasi’s viewpoint, and said that incumbent government had reduced withholding tax for mobile phone users from 14 percent to 12 percent.
The Lower House of Parliament also debated the issue of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Banigala estate after PMLN lawmaker Afzal Khokhar moved a privilege motion against the Punjab government’s razing of his house in Lahore last Sunday. Questioning the tabling of the motion, minister Awan claimed the House “cannot defend land grabbers.”
Khokhar alleged that Khan’s house had been regularized for Rs. 1.2 million while his “legitimate house” was demolished. “If we are land grabbers, then Imran Khan is qabza mafia as well,” he said, adding he had been the fifth person to purchase the demolished property. He also pointed out that the local administration had carried out the operation around 4 a.m. while his daughters and sisters were sleeping inside, adding that they had been forced to stand outside in the cold weather.
Alleging that he had been punished for his loyalty to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, he urged Speaker Asad Qaisar to send the matter to the relevant standing committee for further discussion. However, the speaker reserved his ruling and did not send the matter to any privilege committee.
Opposition lawmakers, meanwhile, questioned whether awarding damages to Broadsheet came under the purview of the Assets Recovery Unit, and if the government had hired any other firm to trace offshore properties and assets of Pakistanis.
Replying to Pakistan Peoples Party leader Naveed Qamar, Adviser to the P.M. on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said the incumbent government had not made any agreements with assets recovery firms. “We are now focusing on government to government deals,” he said.
PMLN member Shiza Fatima asked for the criteria under which the number of Ehsaas program beneficiaries had been increased. “The last poverty survey was conducted in 2018 and we heard that the government had excluded over 800,000 beneficiaries from the Benazir Income Support Program but later included hundreds of thousands under what basis,” she said, adding a query on why the number of Higher Education Commission scholarships had been reduced.
In response, a treasury member claimed that scholarships had in fact been increased as a large number was being provided through the Ehsaas program.
In a written reply, the Ministry of Climate Change informed the House that there are approximately 10,000 brick kilns in Pakistan, of which 1,286 have been converted to Zigzag technology. It also informed the House that the State Bank of Pakistan had announced a subsidized loan at 6 percent with a 10-year payback period for kilns that were being converted.
The House was adjourned till Monday, when proceedings will resume at 5 p.m.