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Allies ‘embarrass’ govt in NA ahead of crucial vote

Updated Mar 21, 2017 08:08am


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ISLAMABAD: Despite its success in winning over opposition parties, the government on Monday faced embarrassment in the National Assembly when two of its allies refused to unconditionally support the bill seeking revival of military courts in the country.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai put forward five conditions, saying he would only vote for the 23rd Constitutional Amendment Bill if they were accepted.

Naeema Kishwar Khan of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), meanwhile, declared that her party would make a final decision on whether to vote or not after moving an amendment and gauging the government’s response to it on Tuesday (today).

Besides these two speeches, other members made speeches similar to the ones made at the time of the passage of the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill in 2015, saying that they were “swallowing a bitter pill” by endorsing the revival of the courts under “unusual circumstances”.

Achakzai makes his support for military courts bill conditional; JUI-F says will wait until bill is tabled before deciding to vote

One of the major demands put forward by Mr Achakzai was that the army should “apologise” for overthrowing elected governments and imposing martial law in the country, as well as pledging it would never happen again.

Besides, Mr Achakzai said, parliament should pass a resolution in its joint session, saying that the day the Cons­titution was abrogated again, the entire country should take to the streets.

The PkMAP chief further said that his support to the bill was linked to the passage of resolutions from the parliament to pay tributes to the judges of the superior courts who had refused to endorse martial laws and even sacrificed their jobs, while condemning judges who had taken the oath under Provisional Constitutional Orders (PCOs) during the military regime and paying homage to political workers who faced prison and lashes under military rule.

“My vote is not for sale,” Mr Achakzai said. “Accept these demands and only then will I cast my vote. Otherwise I will not vote.”

Mr Achakzai was of the view that voting for the military courts bill would amount to an expression of no-confidence in the country’s judicial system.

The PkMAP chief regretted that the country had been brought to the brink of a “dangerous situation” through “mistakes and shortcomings of all of us”, warning that victimising smaller nations and ethnic groups would endanger the federation. Criticising the government’s recent actions against Pakhtuns and Afghans, Mr Achakzai said that Pakhtuns, Sindhis and Balochs were not “conquered people” and all were equal in the eyes of the Constitution.

The PkMAP chief was immediately confronted by Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who supported the revival of the military courts with full force, asking the government to overhaul the country’s judicial system in the next two years. He warned that if the people did not get justice, they would pick up guns and the country could face a disastrous situation.

Mr Ahmed also lashed out at the PML-N for ignoring parliament, saying that it was the opposition that had actually been running the house for the past three-odd years; the ruling party was not even able to maintain quorum.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) parliamentary leader Syed Naveed Qamar said it was unfortunate that they were voting for the “suspension of the fundamental rights of the people” in a democratic era for a second time.

“This is the indictment of not only the judiciary, but of the government and the parliament,” the PPP leader said, detailing his party’s efforts to put some checks in the original draft to ensure that the law would not be misused for political purposes.

Naeema Kishwar of the JUI-F and Sahibzada Tariqullah of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) expressed their concerns over the inclusion of the word “misuse of religion” in the draft, and called for its deletion. Both of them said they would move amendments to the clause concerned on Tuesday.

Sheikh Salahuddin of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) created a stir when he drew the attention of the members towards the reports that the PPP and the PML-N had struck a deal.

When Speaker Ayaz Sadiq asked him not make the army courts bill controversial, the MQM members said there was speculation in TV talkshows that the PPP had struck a deal over the cases against Dr Asim Hussain and Sharjeel Memon.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid assured the opposition members that the resolution seeking formation of the parliamentary committee on national security would be presented before the house also on Tuesday.

Losing the support of the JUI-F or the PkMAP may not be the end of the world for the ruling party, since both parties have only a few members in the house. The PkMAP has four MNAs and three senators, while the JUI-F has 13 MNAs and five senators.

In the 342-member National Assembly, the support of 228 legislators is required to get a constitutional amendment bill passed. In the Senate, where the government is in a minority, the endorsement of 70 senators is required in the 104-member house.

If both parties stick to their guns, the amendment may not pass unanimously.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2017


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Comments (27) Closed

aga Khan Mar 21, 2017 08:43am

The bill will pass. Healthy debates are fruitful and education for our infant democracy.

High voltage Mar 21, 2017 08:47am

Topi drama ; ultimately they will agree and vote in favor.

M Jamal Mar 21, 2017 08:51am

Pakistan is moving towards the right direction. Whatever has been discussed in the assembly will bring real democracy to Pakistan.

imran ali Mar 21, 2017 09:17am

I stand with Mr Achakzai

Syed F. Hussaini Mar 21, 2017 09:30am

Each MNA represents around half a million people.

Before voting he has got to talk to them--if not all at least 50 of them.

He owes it to the people not to the party leader.

The MNA has to ask his constituents if they would like to be denied a fair trial.

He has to ask the people if they want him to send them to a military court.

His people have an override on the party leader and on his own conscience.

AAhmed Mar 21, 2017 09:35am

PkMAP presenting the senseless conditions. By conditional approval I thought they might be asking for limitations and addition of disclosure of court proceedings. But I think from people who based their politics on ethnic inflammation could not pragmatic and sensible. They knows nothing more than the mob politicking. Apologizing for the actions of past Generals would do nothing to benefit the people who will be tried in these courts nor by promising that military will not interfere in the future would be binding on future general who would decide to suspend the constitution and run over the country. Lousy conditions.

Naveed Khan Mar 21, 2017 09:36am

For the first time i agree with Achakzai , Particularly with condition of passing a resolutions for coming to streets against military coup.

however the condition of apologizing is unrealistic .

Zeeshan Mar 21, 2017 10:30am

People of facing bad kind of democracy. This type of democracy very dangerous for Pakistan.

Inam suri Mar 21, 2017 10:56am

Mr Achakzai Sir, please add one more demand that all those politicians who remained part of any Military govt be banned for the life time from politics :-)

Abdulla Hussain Mar 21, 2017 11:33am

National security is above all considerations. I don't think there is a need of any debate on such sensitive issue at all. Regretfully our political parties don't like to decide on issues on prima facie, they have their own hidden political agenda. The Armed Forces are the best judge for such issue.

Asfand Iqbal Mar 21, 2017 11:48am

INAM SURI--Spot on. they can only blame others

Make Pakistan great Mar 21, 2017 11:56am

@Inam suri

I fully agree with your suggestion - all the so called CHAMPIONS of democracy should press for disqualification of all those politicians from politics who were at any time associated with any military government, whether it was Gen. Zia's government or Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government.

zubair Mar 21, 2017 12:56pm

Mr Achakzai all politicians must first apologize to the nation for their corruption and resign. They must also return all looted money to Pakistan.

Saif Zulfiqar Mar 21, 2017 01:01pm

Some politicians have habits of always putting conditions or demands. Let this bill is passed by majority.

Wali Mar 21, 2017 01:18pm

They all talk about "swallowing the bitter pill and the right to fair trial but has the government or any other party worked at all towards improving criminal justice system. It is safe to say we will be standing at the same point when the proposed tenure of military court ends in 1 or 2 years time

Asif Mar 21, 2017 01:20pm

Perhaps need more money or perks....thats how it works here....

wATANPARASTH Mar 21, 2017 01:28pm

Mahmood Khan Achakzai should get laud from the government where he's asking for the rule of law through country's judiciary not military courts. Because we have right to hear the elected leadership in the parliament and that's the beauty of democracy, it is hurting when the PMLN elected members ignore such an important message from Achakzai, who's put forward his suggestions.

Kakar Mar 21, 2017 01:50pm

Well it all does not add up to as to why the politicians voted in favor of the previous bill. How come military courts are an anathema now but constitutionally palatable two year before. There should be an acceptable standard to measure legality of legislation on. But taking diametrically opposite position temporally is hard to digest. If politicians reckon that they have overstepped their mandate they should then seek apology from the voters and then vehemently oppose the bill. I think it is a playing-to-gallery moment.

Mehboob ali lalani Mar 21, 2017 01:51pm

Pakistan needs great surgery. Any attempt to subvert peace in the country is highly condemnable.

If not military court then what is the substitute proposed for speedy trial without fear?

Military courts should be formed not as bitter pile but learn from them how to conduct trial in speed without delaying proceedings years and years.

Syed F. Hussaini Mar 21, 2017 01:58pm


The politicians and the bureaucrats had been ruling the country in cahoots.

Would Mr. Achakzai say an unconditional no to the military courts?

Parvez Mar 21, 2017 02:25pm

PML-N allies remain allies.....only if their pockets are lined.

salar Mar 21, 2017 02:48pm

@Naveed Khan

Stated perfectly Naveed. Let the past be, but fix the future. We cannot allow extrajudicial process to be part of the country's fabric. Fix the judicial system and rely on it to make the right decisions!

Shahid Mar 21, 2017 03:08pm

Mr. Achazai is out of his mind. His demands would recognize the army as a separate entity through a parliamentary process. Like in all other departments of the government, the individuals who commit crimes should be punished or asked to apologize but not an institution.

Shahid Mar 21, 2017 03:23pm

Mr. Achakzai, all politicians including yourself too should apologize for looting our tax money, misuse of powers and being part of martial law governments.

Waseem Mar 21, 2017 03:27pm

@Naveed Khan Do you believe people will take streets only because an absent, inactive parliament asked them to do so? Power of politicians comes from theie higher moral standards. you loose that ground and no one will listen you. When Mr Achakzai will apologise something he is directly responsible for? worst form of nepotism !!!!!!!

Love Your Country Mar 21, 2017 03:50pm

On national security issues, political parties in all parts of the world play politics in the parliaments but go along with the sitting governments proposals. Same may be at play here in Pakistan, I hope.

طارق شبير Mar 21, 2017 04:03pm

Pakistan is a democratic country, it gives us right to express our opinions. I am with Mr. Achakzai. Really healthy debate.