Nuclear Programme: Bill Seeking Changes in NCA Act Dropped

ISLAMABAD: A bill seeking amendments in the laws dealing with Pakistan’s nuclear programme was withdrawn in the upper house of parliament at the last minute on Monday after the proposer cited ‘reservations of the stakeholders’.
Senator Farhatullah Babar, withdrew his private member bill seeking modifications in the National Command Authority (NCA) Act, saying he had been going through an “extraordinary situation ever since he submitted the bill”.

Without elaborating any further, the PPP lawmaker said the stakeholders had expressed reservations and he wished to withdraw the bill for broader consultations and discussions.

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The aborted bill had proposed barring the prime minister, the NCA chairman and the command authority from transferring some of its functions to any individual or institution.

The NCA has a board of governors headed by the prime minister and comprises virtually all important members of the civil and military establishment.

Two of its most important functions include, as in Section 7(a), exercising complete command and control over all nuclear and space related technologies, systems and matter while Section 7(c) authorises undertaking the specialised scientific and technological work.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill said this “onerous and most sensitive responsibility” must be exercised by the authority alone and delegating this power to any other individual would have serious consequences.

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Seeking further changes, the proposed bill also suggested the post of the NCA’s Strategic Plans Division (SPD) director-general should be rotated among officers of all three defence services as well as the civil services to attract the best of the best.

“Restricting it to only one service is not the best way to attract the best officer for this important position. Furthermore, it is also not helpful to the morale of a large number of equally competent and brilliant officers,” the statement added.

Earlier during the proceedings, the Senate passed a resolution moved by PPP’s Karim Khawaja, asking the government to revisit the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. The government lawmakers initially opposed the move while shifting burden on past governments.

Meanwhile, the opposition lawmakers demanded the government come clean on the proposed legislation on both local and international non-profit organisations.

They suggested setting up a committee comprising representatives from the Foreign Office, Economic Affairs Division, parliamentarians and civil society organisations to thrash out the contours of the proposed law in a transparent manner instead of leaving the matter entirely to the police and interior ministry.

Senator Babar remarked entrusting the entire job to the interior ministry was like asking the wolf to protect the sheep.

MQM’s Muhammad Ali Saif said the rulers who stashed money abroad were a threat to country and not the INGOs, who were serving the people.

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Though a large number of senators endorsed the views, JUI-F’s Hafiz Hamdullah said some INGOs were involved in anti-state activities and referring to the infamous polio campaign, which is said to have led to the Abbottabad operation.

State Interior Minister Baleeghur Rehman said the government did not stop the INGOs from working until the final decision on their registration.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2016.


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