LAHORE: Former health minister Khwaja Salman Rafiq, who is under NAB custody, attended the Punjab Assembly session on Tuesday after Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi issued his production orders, urging the National Assembly to amend NAB laws to protect basic human rights of all those arrested by it.
The treasury and opposition benches welcomed the [under-arrest] MPA and resolved to concertedly protect democracy in the country.
The speaker had issued the production orders before the start of the session under the assembly rules which were jointly amended for the purpose by a committee comprising members from both the treasury and opposition benches on Monday.
Kh Salman attends session after production order
Khwaja Salman was led to the house by his colleagues amidst slogans. He and former speaker Rana Iqbal thanked the speaker, deputy speaker and the law minister for allowing the facility which earlier missed in the rules.
Rules of the National Assembly and the assemblies of the other three provinces already allow speakers to issue production orders of members who are under arrest.
Mr Salman is in NAB custody along with his brother Khwaja Saad Rafique in connection with the Paragon City scam. He did not complain of any maltreatment by NAB during his captivity, and avoided to discuss the case against him saying it was sub judice and he believed courts would dispense justice.
He conceded that the NAB laws should have been changed in the past, and said the current National Assembly had already worked on the laws a great deal, and should now amend them. The PTI chairman (Imran Khan) should also be approached for the purpose, he said.
Salman said the parliament should revisit the NAB powers to obtain 90-day remand of the accused in any case. It should also check whether a poor government official could afford to pay high fees of lawyers to defend against [NAB] allegations.
Mentioning Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Saad Rafique and others, he said the PML-N leadership was in jail. (Outside the assembly he said the PML-N was facing targeted accountability).
Salman said the PPP and the PML-N had undergone several tests (of hardship), and did not wish the same for the PTI. “We should stop watching self-interest and start thinking of collectively,” he said. The parliamentarians should make a national road map and serve the nation.
The former minister said all political parties had sacrificed lives, mentioning his father, Saad Rafiq, Dr Nazir and Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi and others who were murdered. At this point Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari added the name of Nawab Akbar Bugti in the list of martyres, and welcomed Khwaja Salman in the house.
Rana Iqbal thanked the speaker, law minister and the treasury benches for amending the rules that allowed Salman’s production. The deputy speaker termed the move a victory of the house.
Law Minister Raja Basharat said by amending the rules, the assembly acted independently. “Let us resolve to concertedly protect democracy and its institutions for all times to come,” he said.
PPP’s Parliamentary Leader Hasan Murtaza thanked the assembly and the government for taking a positive step. “Some people think that the unity of politicians would squeeze their space,” he said.
After the house was adjourned till Wednesday morning, Khwaja Salman called on the speaker in his chambers to pay his regards [for issuing the production orders]. The speaker had earlier told the media that he had issued the orders after consulting the prime minister the CM, the law minister and the entire house.
WHEAT STOCKS: Earlier, the speaker took exception to Food Minister Samiullah’s lack of knowledge about the rotting huge wheat stocks, fixing time for debate on the issue on Wednesday (today). “Check the wheat policy and present it in the house at 2pm tomorrow (Jan 16),” he said after the law minister agreed on the debate.
The issue was agitated by PML-N’s Malik Arshad who asked the government to clear its 2.2 million ton wheat stocks by selling it to people at subsidised rates or exporting it to get rid of the burden and create room for further procurements after two months.
Malik Kamran said the clearance of the stocks was necessary to protect the economic rights of wheat growers. “The government is paying daily Rs 40 to 50 million to banks as interest for huge loans it had obtained for procuring wheat. It is better to sell the stocks to people at subsidized rates,” he said.
The minister said the government would not give any subsidy, and it would be able to clear the stocks anyways.
The deputy speaker, who soon replaced the speaker, referred an adjournment motion to the special committee for report in two months. The motion highlighted the attitude of the Benazir Bhutto Hospital’s [Rawalpindi] medical superintendent with regard to Dr Areeba Abbasi, daughter of the jailed PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi.
The motion was moved by PML-N’s Naseer Ahmad mentioning the victimisation of Dr Abbasi and putting on social media the telephone call of the law minister seeking some relief for the lady doctor after recording it.
The deputy speaker said the MS should have been suspended in the first place as “this may happen to me, you or anyone else.” He ignored the pleas by Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid that there was no victimisation and action against the medical superintendent would be taken within a week.
RESOLUTIONS: The house adopted a resolution moved by PTI’s Momina Waheed asking the federal government to have the Constitution and the elections law amended to allow for the cancellation of the assembly membership of those who fail to take oath of their office three months after their election.
Adopting another resolution moved by PTI’s Seemabia Tahir, the house paid tributes to the army for destroying an Indian spy drone in the Bagh Sector after it crossed over the Line of Control. The action proved that the army was ready to counter any aggression by India and would use all its capabilities to protect every inch of Pakistan, the resolution said, praying for further successes of the army.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019