Members of the Senate refused to let Attorney General of Pakistan Salman Akram Butt off the hook for leaving unanswered their questions about the perks and privileges enjoyed by ex-chief justices.
Earlier, the attorney general sent a note of excuse to the Senate, expressing regret over his inability to appear before the house due to pressing engagements over a Supreme Court case involving local government elections.
Senate Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, however, was in no mood to let go of the issue. “The attorney general is supposed to appear in the next proceedings,” said Bokhari while proroguing the session ahead of the Senate elections.
The issue came up when the law minister informed the Senate in response to a question of PPP Senator Saeed Ghani that former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was driving a 6,000CC bulletproof Mercedes Benz, citing a January 2014 ruling of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Since January 30 last year up to 4,689 litres of petrol have been topped up in the car’s tank while a repair estimate of Rs337,5029 has been presented to the law division for which funds are required from the finance division, he added.
Meanwhile, President Mamnoon Hussain summoned the Senate session on March 6 in which the outgoing senators would be given an opportunity to speak and share their experiences during the term.
There are around 1,500 Pakistanis imprisoned in different jails of the UAE on various minor and major crimes, the ministry of foreign affairs informed the house during the proceedings and which otherwise were dull as there was nothing except a question and hour session and a couple of points of order.
In response to a question of Col (retd) Tahir Hussain Mashhadi from MQM, adviser to the prime minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said, “Our missions in the UAE provide relief to the temporary detainees and in this regard had also issued 6,958 emergency passports in 2010, 5,363 in 2011 and 7,287 in 2012 for repatriation.
Responding to a question, he also said the government cannot provide legal assistance to all detainees and can merely facilitate them. “We cannot interfere in the legal system of the other countries,” he added.
To another question about a possible prisoner exchange with the UAE, the adviser said it was under way but the number of prisoners who wanted to come back could not be ascertained as “many prisoners say conditions over there [in jail] are better [than Pakistan]”.
Replying to another question, Sartaj Aziz said 11 Pakistani prisoners were awaiting capital punishment on drug trafficking charges and one on robbery in Saudi Arabia.
Similarly, 380 Pakistani prisoners (264 civil and 116 fishermen) detained in Indian jails as per the information shared by India on July 1, 2014. The number of Pakistan nationals under detention in the consular jurisdiction of Washington was 38 and “our missions in the US provide all necessary consular assistance,” he added.
Meanwhile, Saeed Ghani asked the government to share details of an LNG import deal from Qatar with the house, saying “shipments are about to reach but the government has not disclosed rates”.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2015.