ISLAMABAD: As the opposition smelled a rat in the closure of a PIA-owned luxury hotel in New York, the government on Tuesday told the Senate there was no plan to privatise Roosevelt Hotel.
The opposition said it appeared that the government was preparing ground to sell out the 19-storey hotel at a throw-away price.
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani alleged that the government wanted to bring the national airline into a position where other airlines could be provided space to operate by replacing it. “Is this a conspiracy against the PIA?” he questioned. He said the government wanted to make the PIA redundant to fulfill its dream of privatising it.
Talking about two recent incidents, Mr Rabbani said the government claimed that the order of a court about attaching Roosevelt Hotel in Reko Diq case was an ex-parte order. He wondered how it could be an ex-parte order when the government knew when the hotel was mortgaged in the Reko Diq case.
Opposition insists govt preparing ground to ‘sell out’ the hotel, PIA
“When the decision has come against the government, how it is an ex-parte order?” he asked. “Was the government sleeping or this is being done to sell the hotel at a throw-away price?” Senator Rabbani questioned.
He said that the government also claimed that the seizure of a PIA aircraft by Malaysian authorities was also done on an ex-parte order of the court. “Why CEO (chief executive officer) of PIA has not been asked why he made a vulnerable plane airborne,” he added.
The former chairman of the Senate said Roosevelt Hotel came under the Federal Legislative List Part-II which was controlled by the Council of Common Interests (CCI). “The matter of its privatisation can only be raised before the CCI,” he said, adding that the government’s any step in this regard without approval of the council would be unconstitutional.
He said that the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation was not authorised to privatise all those entities that come under the Federal Legislative List-II and added that privatisation of the PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills were also affected due to the same reason.
Earlier, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan informed the house through a written reply that Roosevelt Hotel was not being sold. “However, Cabinet Committee on Privatisation in its meeting held on 15th November, 2019 … considered the proposal submitted by Ministry of Privatisation regarding Leasing of the Roosevelt Site for setting up a Joint Venture Project,” the reply said. The same was under process in the ministry, he added.
Senator Rabbani in his speech also objected to the remarks made by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) served as a watchdog on the parliament. “No watchdog can sit over the parliament as it is a supreme body,” Mr Rabbani said adding that the remarks were incorrect under the Constitution. Referring to Article 230 (3) of the Constitution, he said that the parliament could legislate even on a matter that had been referred to the CII but latter had not responded to it.
Winding up the debate on the call attention notice, the minister of state told the house that the government would complete the process of appointment of chairman and members of the CCI till the end of February. “The process is under way,” he said adding that President Dr Arif Alvi was the final authority to make these appointments on the advice of the prime minister. He said that these seats had fallen vacant on Nov 7 last year when 12 members of the council had retired after completing their three-year tenure.
Mr Khan said that other seats of the council, out of total 20 members, would fall vacant in May this year and these would also be filled as soon as possible.
Later clarifying the point raised by Senator Rabbani, the minister of state explained that he wanted to say the CII served as a watchdog on legislation so that no law that was against the injunctions of Islam could be enacted. He however also referred to Article 230 and said the constitution stated if the CII determined that any law was repugnant to Islamic injunctions, the president, governors, parliament and provincial assemblies “shall reconsider” the law.
Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq, speaking on his call attention notice, said the government had made a constitutional body like CII inactive as it had not appointed its chairman and members.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2021