ISLAMABAD: Amid the finger-pointing and accusations that surfaced following the passage of the Elections Bill 2017 from the Senate, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has issued a show-cause notice to its parliamentary leader in the upper house for not being present in the house while important legislative business was being voted on.

On Friday, the new election law was passed with a clause that takes away the bar on those disqualified to become lawmakers from holding party office — an amendment seen as being specific to Nawaz Sharif.

The mysterious role played by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the absence of a number of other members during the crucial vote paved the way for the passage of the bill, which had already been passed by the National Assembly.

PPP leaders accuse MQM of reneging on commitment to oppose Nawaz-specific amendment

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Dawn that a show-cause notice had been issued to Senator Nauman Wazir for his absence from the house during the vote on the key bill.

On Friday, when the bill was taken up, seven of the eight MQM senators were not in the house at the time of voting on the amendment, moved by Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan, to bring back the restriction on disqualified persons from holding party office.

PPP sources told Dawn that the MQM had assured the party of its support on the amendment, but MQM parliamentary leader Tahir Hussain Mashahadi, Khushbakht Shujaat, Maulana Tanveerul Haq Thanvi, Dr Farogh Naseem, Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif, Nasreen Jalil and Nighat Mirza were not in the house at the time of voting on the amendment.

The only MQM member present in the house, Mian Atiq Ahmad Sheikh, voted against the opposition.

Other prominent opposition senators who were absent on the day included Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq, Pakistan Muslim League’s (PML-Q) Mushahid Hussain Sayed and Rubina Irfan, PPP’s Rehman Malik, Osman Saifullah and Haji Saifullah Khan Bangash, as well as Awami National Party’s Ilyas Bilour.

Six of the seven senators from the PTI, excluding John Kenneth Williams, were present in the house, but three of them — Nauman Wazir, Liaquat Khan Tarkai and Samina Tarkai — left when the party staged a walkout after an amendment moved by the PTI parliamentary leader was reversed.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had already left the house after his view — that an amendment which was just passed cannot be amended minutes later — was rejected by the house. The PTI members also walked out, announcing that they would not come back until the chairman resumed his seat.

Sources said that the PPP had persuaded PTI senators to convince their party leadership that a boycott would benefit the government and the PTI started calling back those who had left. Nauman Wazir, however, could not be contacted.

When contacted, PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Taj Haider said the MQM’s role and the sudden disappearance of Nauman Wazir were the major reasons for their defeat by a single vote.

However, he ruled out the possibility that the PPP would challenge clause 203 of the bill before a court, saying that a discredited president of the ruling PML-N would be politically beneficial for his party.

He said Nawaz Sharif had lost his reputation and was faced with a number of corruption cases, adding that this questionable reputation would suit the PPP politically. However, he said that as a matter of principle, such people did not deserve to hold party office.

He said Rehman Malik could not come as he was out of the country, while Senator Giyanchand was ill, but still came to the house.

PTI Senator Shibli Faraz told Dawn that he played a role in convincing parliamentary leaders that an abstention would benefit the government. He said that when he tried to contact Nauman Wazir and Liaquat Tarkai after the walkout, the former could not be contacted, while the latter rushed back from Burhan and reached minutes before the vote on the amendment.

When contacted, Nauman Wazir said it was totally unlawful to reopen a closed chapter after the chairman’s ruling. He said it had been decided that the party would stay away from proceedings.

“I fail to understand why all other PTI members went inside,” he said, adding that an abstention would have strengthened PTI’s position.

However, he denied having received any show cause notice from the party.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2017