ISLAMABAD: Reiterating the call for holding a grand national dialogue on key issues, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique has said recent court judgements in the Nawaz Sharif disqualification case and the Benazir Bhutto murder case have “increased doubts” about the system under which the country is being run.

“If a national dialogue is not conducted now, then the internal rifts will further increase in the country,” the railways minister said in a statement here on Friday.

Moreover, the minister said, the resolution of key national issues through dialogue among stakeholders would also help the country face international challenges and foreign enemies.

The call for a national dialogue had come from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party for the first time after his disqualification in the light of the July 28 Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case. The leaders of the PML-N have since been calling for a national dialogue in order to improve the judicial system and amend the Constitution with a view to changing the provisions of Articles 62 and 63 dealing with the qualification and disqualification of legislators.

However, the ruling party received a cold response almost from all the major parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), to its proposal. The opposition parties criticise the PML-N for not initiating any exercise for a national dialogue during its four-year rule, saying the party has floated the idea only after the disqualification of Mr Sharif in the Panama Papers case. The leaders of the PPP and the Awami National Party took the PML-N to task for its opposition to their proposal to amend controversial Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution at the time of finalising the draft of the 18th Constitution Amendment in 2010.

“The results of the Nawaz Sharif disqualification and Benazir Bhutto murder cases have raised doubts (in the minds of the people) about the whole system,” Mr Rafique said in an apparent move to woo the PPP over its proposal to have a national dialogue aimed at improving the judicial system and democracy in the country.

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Rawalpindi on Thursday announced the verdict in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, acquitting five Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan suspects and announcing 17-year imprisonment for two former police officers for negligence in security arrangements which subsequently led to the assassination of the former prime minister in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007.

The court also declared former president and military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the case. The judgement received widespread criticism from almost all the parties, especially the PPP.

Mr Rafique said the heirs of Ms Bhutto and the PPP leadership did nothing practically to seek justice in the case and spent time issuing verbal statements only.

“It has been proved that (former president) Gen Pervez Musharraf is more powerful than Pakistan’s judicial system,” the minister said.

Without naming anyone, Mr Rafique alleged that the credit for the escape of Gen Musharraf, who was the biggest accused in the murder cases of Ms Bhutto and Nawab Akbar Bugti, killings in Lal Masjid and judges’ detention, “goes to those who staged sit-ins and those who had managed these sit-ins”.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2017

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