ISLAMABAD: Mehmood Khan Achakzai, the outspoken leader of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), stirred up controversy on Tuesday when he told the government that blaming external forces for domestic terrorism “would not work this time” and that intelligence agencies — which failed to protect the people of Quetta — would have to find out who was behind the heinous attack on the city’s Civil Hospital.
Although the National Assembly was supposed to be continuing debate on a resolution regarding Monday’s suicide attack on the Civil Hospital, the lower house was all but empty when the proceedings began, with just half a dozen members on the opposition benches.
However, attendance gradually improved as the house witnessed a hard-hitting critique of the government and a backhanded appraisal of the military’s role from the PkMAP leader.
“Quetta has been living under the shadow of terrorism. There is an armed Frontier Corps (FC) presence and intelligence operatives on every street; Quetta is a city of 12 streets, but thousands of people have been killed there. But none of [the culprits] has been caught or killed; what is the problem?
“It is a 100pc flaw of the intelligence agencies,” he said of the attack, adding that the intelligence agencies used to be able to “find a needle in muddy water” and asked what had happened to their capabilities.
“If all this house is going to do is pray, then I refuse to be a part of it. Is this what we have been reduced to, that people will keep dying and we will keep burying them?
“Nawaz Sharif should order intelligence agencies to deliver tangible results. Saying ‘RAW did it’ or ‘Mossad did it’ won’t cut it. Investigate, find out who [the perpetrators] are and where they are hiding and — with our support — kick them out,” he demanded.
Akram Durrani takes exception to contemptuous statements by TV anchors; NA amends rules on questions, standing committees
“Put Pakistan first, Mr Speaker, I implore you. Consult the leaders of parliamentary parties, consult the Senate chairman, call a joint session and then decide who is in charge,” he said, pointedly.
But Mr Achakzai’s remarks did not sit well with everyone. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who was in Quetta at the time, told reporters that he believed the PkMAP chief was an “Indian agent” and had benefited greatly under the government of Nawaz Sharif.
This is not the first time Mr Achakzai has stirred a hornet’s nest with his remarks. Last month, he was in hot waters over an interview to a Kabul-based newspaper, where he had allegedly said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa belonged to Afghans.
The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s Akram Khan Durrani — who is also a member of the federal cabinet — took issue with the confusion surrounding the attack and the government’s flip-flopping on assigning blame.
“If this is indeed an attack on the CPEC, why are we still speaking in signs? If we know who our enemy is — whatever country, whatever organisation they are from — why don’t we call them out?”
“We tend to keep things from our people. But if we tell them the whole truth, they will be out on the streets to support their government and forces,” he stressed.
Mr Durrani then launched into a tirade against unethical TV anchors, saying that one such broadcaster had termed Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and noted human rights activist Asma Jahangir “traitors” on his TV show.
“Mr Speaker, if an errant anchor makes such claims about a member of parliament and he is not summoned [to the house] to answer for it, how can things improve? [Anyone] watching such programmes will, over time, become convinced that Mr Achakzai and Maulana Fazlur Rehman are, in fact, traitors,” he noted.
Claiming that intelligence operatives had told him that all religious leaders and parliamentarians were under threat, he said: “We must speak our hearts. If we do not speak the truth, each one of us will be killed,” he foreboded.
After Mr Durrani concluded his speech, the speaker clarified that no one had the licence to brand anyone a traitor and called on the information minister to raise this matter with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
In a statement issued later that evening, Pemra acknowledged that Sardar Ayaz Sadiq had complained to the chairman about the inappropriate language being used against parliamentarians on TV shows.
The statement noted that such actions were contrary to the Constitution and constituted contempt of parliament and no TV channel, anchor or analyst had the right to do so.
The house passed the resolution condemning the Quetta terrorist attack and killing of Balochistan Bar Association President Bilal Anwer Kasi, which could not be passed a day earlier as debate on the motion had not concluded.
Law Minister Zahid Hamid also moved an amendment to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, making changes to the procedure whereby queries are submitted for Question Hour. The amendment also limits the number of subcommittees that can be formed by standing committees of parliament to one per committee, although this rule will not apply to the Public Accounts Committee.
Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2016