ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties have called for immediate convening of a National Assembly session and sought issuance of production orders by Speaker Asad Qaiser to make sure opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif attends the session.

A delegation of opposition leaders comprising Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chairman and leader of the opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq, former NA speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and PML-N lawmaker Rana Tanvir met the speaker at his residence on Saturday and urged him to summon the NA session, where they want to forcefully raise the issue of Shahbaz’s arrest.

The opposition leaders called for immediate convening of a session so that a debate could be held on the arrest.

They informed the speaker that a requisition for convening of the session had already been submitted to the NA secretariat. Speaker Qaiser assured them that the session would be called within 14 days.

In a meeting with Asad Qaiser, PML-N’s Ayaz and JUI-F’s Ghafoor call for immediate parliament session

Talking to reporters later, former speaker Ayaz Sadiq alleged that an attempt was being made to steal the by-elections, pointing out that the government just had a majority of four members.

“[Shahbaz] was called for the Saaf Pani case but was arrested in the Ashiyana case. The PML-N is being made a target of political vengeance. The government is using NAB [National Accountability Bureau],” he alleged.

He referred to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s remarks that Shahbaz’s arrest was the “first step”. He asked if NAB would arrest people on the government’s orders.

He questioned the timing of the decision to place the name of Khawaja Saad Rafique on the exit control list, saying that he was one of the candidates in the Oct 14 by-elections.

The former speaker clarified that he supported the accountability of politicians, but asked: “Who will hold NAB accountable?”

He said he would also contact Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak. He was optimistic about convening of the NA session in the next three days.

Raja Zafarul Haq said that the “entire country was sad” at Shahbaz’s arrest. He repeated Mr Sadiq’s demand for the NA session and insisted that “it was important that production orders for opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif are issued”.

Abdul Ghafoor Haideri termed Shahbaz’s arrest ‘shameful’ and claimed that the government was “making cowardly decisions against one party”.

Ayaz Sadiq contacted Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah over the phone.

Mr Shah informed Mr Sadiq that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had decided to support the move for convening of the NA session. He quoted Mr Bhutto-Zardari as saying that the opposition leader was an important part of parliament.

Mr Shah said the PPP members were not in Islamabad, therefore the requisition could not be signed.

Meanwhile, Mr Bhutto-Zardari observed that the procedure adopted for the arrest of the opposition leader was improper. Talking to a group of reporters here on Saturday, he said it appeared prima facie that the law had not been followed in the matter.

“The procedure which was adopted for the arrest was not proper and the rule of law was not followed for the arrest of opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif and no good impression was given with his arrest,” he observed.

The PPP chief said his party had no issues with accountability but there must be no political victimisation in the name of accountability.

Answering a question, he said it was the constitutional right of the opposition to requisition the NA session and the PPP had no objection over it.

About Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s insistence on appointing its own member as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the PPP chairman said the ruling party was running away from accountability.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2018