SENATE Chairman Raza Rabbani is indeed a model for others to emulate. His commitment to democracy and passion for humanity is above board. Time and again he has proved that through acts, the latest being a “walk-out” from the upper house against the intended rise in pay and perks of parliamentarians. This was really something unique, and in fact epoch-making. Parliamen
tarians , those in opposition particularly, do have the tendency to walk out from the House, but for a Chairman, number two in power hierarchy after the President of Pakistan, was something really historic. Saturday night, I have had the opportunity to discuss this with him at a dinner hosted by eminent lawyer-politician Nafees Siddiqi at his Defence Society residence.
Raza explained that describing the event as a walk-out by a section of the media, was incorrect. But he did disapprove of the chorus in the house for a rather unusual rise in pay and perks. He explained that even in the National Assembly, the demand for raising the salaries of MNAs from Rs 36,000 to nearly Rs 300,000, and extraordinary increase in perks in the name of conveyance, and research allowances, was just in the form of a resolution, which was more of an intent. The demand has not been given the shape of a bill for legal sanction. However, he thought that in a country, where poverty, hunger, and squalor was rampant, parliamentarians, elected through popular votes, should show concern more for the ordinary and the common man, rather than in the welfare of their own selves.
Raza has always been a democrat, committed to principles, enshrined in the Constitution, and in the Human Rights Charter of the United Nations, as well for the world’s first ever Constitution, which was the great sermon from the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). He had first opposed the move in the senate from some of the members, and then when finally it came for discussion, he left the House, refusing to be party to that. Earlier also, he had resigned ministry for not being given due place in a party, for which, he had devoted his life. Raza, remained loyal to Bhuttos, and was the most trusted lieutenant of slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto. At the time of Murtaza Bhutto’s killing, he was the first to be contacted by Benazir, and when Musharraf took over in 1999, he again was the first to be contacted by his party leader from London.
During discussions last night, Raza thought that the generally held viewpoint that Senate cannot pass the finance bill or the national budget for not being directly elected, was flawed in nature. He thought that when over 60 nominated members to the National Assembly, too have voting rights, why should Senators, elected by provincial legislatures, be denied the right to pass the national budget. A number of eminent people were present at Nafees Party.
They included consuls general of Russia Oleg Avedeev, of Indonesia Hadi Santoso, the deputy head of the UK Mission in Karachi Steve Crossman, honorary consul of Canada Byram D Avari, Jam Farouk Ali, Kalim Farooqui, Qazi Sajid Ali, and a lot more. Just few days back, the Netherlands Ambassador Miss Jeannette Seppen, was in Karachi to attend the King’s Day celebrations. A grand dinner was hosted by Tarek Khan and wife Adeela at a local hotel.
These days there is almost a mini “ invasion” on Islamabad of female ambassadors. The Canadian high commissioner has returned earlier than scheduled, but there are still six more lady ambassadors now in the capital city. Tarek Khan, and wife proved tremendous hosts. The party was warm, and so was the speech by ambassador Seppen. She is smart lady, very articulate, and pleasing character. The dinner was attended by large number of people, VIPs included. The Netherlands ambassador looked forward to much stronger ties with Pakistan, which was a happy augury. Netherlands is a lovely country, a great tourist attraction in Europe, second only to Switzerland. It is always a delight to be there, a country which is also known as Holland. Tarek Khan and Adeela are indeed lovely characters, very hospitable, and caring—great qualities.