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ISLAMABAD, Aug 29: The Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Thursday staged a walkout from the Senate in protest against “mass arrest of their innocent workers” in Karachi, with the MQM reiterating its demand that the metropolis be handed over to the army under article 245 of the constitution.

The walkout came a day after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said a number of extortionists, target killers and other criminals in Karachi had been identified and most of them had political backing.

Haji Adeel of the ANP raised the issue by saying that activists of his party were being arrested for the last two days and so far over 100 of them had been rounded up. “We have no objections if someone involved in crimes is arrested but we strongly protest over these uncalled for arrest of innocent people,” he remarked before walking out of the house.

Soon afterwards, retired Colonel Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of the MQM pleaded that army be called out to help improve law and order situation in Karachi. He criticised the Sindh government for arresting workers of the opposition parties, including those of the MQM and ANP.

“Do you want to throw the people of Karachi into the sea? Do you want 1992-like situation?” he asked before storming out of the house.

PPP Leader Senator Raza Rabbani read out article 245 of the constitution and said if the article was invoked, the jurisdiction of the high court would be taken away and fundamental rights of the people of the city would be suspended. He said that according to his information, 45 PPP workers had also been arrested from Lyari.

Earlier, Saeed Ghani of PPP alleged that the PML-N and judiciary were behind the MQM’s demand for handing over Karachi to army, but did not elaborate.

He said there was an allegation against the PPP that it did not restore the judges sacked by Gen Pervez Musharraf, but said it was a misconception. He said around 70 judges had been sent packing by the-then military ruler who had been offered to take oath under the constitution to resume their work.

He said most of them did so but some who had not felt bad about taking oath under the PCO showed hesitance in taking oath under the constitution.

Criticising the role of the judiciary, he said it allowed Musharraf to contest presidential election while in uniform, but had an objection against President Asif Ali Zardari holding dual offices. “If there is some institution weakening other institutions, it is Supreme Court,” he remarked.

He said Imran Khan was pardoned in contempt case even without asking for it, but the-then PPP Ministers Rehman Malik and Babar Awan were not treated in the same manner. He said the requests of the-then prime ministers --- Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf --- for changing the bench and Ali Musa Gilani and Moonas Elahi’s pleas for changing the investigation officers were turned down, but on Arsalan Iftikhar’s plea the FIA and NAB were dissociated from the inquiry against him.

Nasrin Jalil of the MQM said her party was against army’s involvement in politics, but when it demanded that army be called out in Karachi it showed how bad the situation was in that city.

She said the banned outfits were taking part in elections and the workers of MQM and other parties were becoming victims of target killings. She also accused the Sindh government of protecting criminals. She said former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza had conceded that he had issued 300,000 arms licences.

Afrasiab Khattak and Haji Adeel of the ANP showered praise on the outgoing president.