ISLAMABAD: Senators from both sides of the aisle on Wednesday traded barbs, with the treasury members accusing the opposition lawmakers of committing corruption and money laundering and the latter alleging that a witch-hunt was going on in the name of accountability.
The highlight of the day was an announcement by the minister for parliamentary affairs that the government would convene a regular session of the Senate in the next two to three days during which all the recently promulgated ordinances would be laid.
Former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani noted that it would be more appropriate if the ordinances were laid before the house during the current requisitioned session. He said there was a room in the rules for bringing government business after the requisitioned session’s business was over. He pointed out that the session was requisitioned because the government had not convened a session for over two months.
Later, the upper house of parliament passed a motion seeking a discussion on the recent wave of alleged political victimisation and denial of fundamental rights to the opposition members as well as revocation of citizenship of a former member of parliament.
Minister promises that all the recently promulgated ordinances will be laid in the upper house of parliament
Taking part in the discussion, former law minister Farooq H. Naek of the PPP announced that the opposition would disapprove the recently promulgated National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, which he described as the worst form of political victimisation. He recalled that an amendment had been made in the NAB Ordinance during the days of former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf under which a person facing a corruption charge of over Rs50 million would get C-class in jail. He said it had been done because all political opponents of the present rulers were facing concocted and fabricated charges of over Rs50m.
He said that under the jail manual, the class in a jail was allocated as per the status of the accused in society and the amount he paid in taxes. He referred to Article 25 of the Constitution which guaranteed equality before law and argued that classification was allowed on the basis of reasonable facts. “If all are to be treated equally, then my perquisites should be equal to that of the ministers,” he remarked.
Mr Naek said it had become difficult to hold the offices of president and prime minister in Pakistan and pointed out that former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Yousuf Raza Gilani were among the victims of witch-hunt. He was of the view that those who held important offices in the past should be given respect.
The PPP senator said the case against Mr Zardari and Faryal Talpur had been transferred from Karachi to Islamabad, regretting that no reference had been filed and charge was yet to be framed, but they were in jail.
Senator Mushtaq Ahmad of Jamaat-i-Islami alleged that NAB was being used for political engineering and victimisation. He lamented that a former member of the Senate, who also served as a provincial minister in the past, had recently been declared an alien. He sought an action against those responsible for it.
PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman noted that the only solution [the incumbent government has] to Pakistan’s crisis was to victimise their political opposition.
“These one-sided accountability mechanisms are being used as a tool to silence their political opposition, which is tarnishing the image of Pakistan abroad; everyone is asking questions about this political witch-hunt in Pakistan. If you are in PTI, or are a friend of PTI, you are exempt from all forms of accountability,” she remarked.
Ms Rehman said the PM House’s expenses had increased by 18 per cent this year and wondered why an inquiry had not yet been initiated into the matter. She said that ordinances had been promulgated and the Senate sessions were delayed for fear of them being disapproved by the house. She noted that political stability was not possible by frequently promulgating ordinances and giving C-class in jail to political opponents.
Senator Faisal Javed of the PTI said the “political victimisation card” of the opposition would not work, adding that the PML-N and PPP had united for their interests to save those involved in corruption and money laundering.
He also criticised Maulana Fazlur Rehman and said the one who was leading Azadi march lost the election in his home constituency and never filed an appeal in the Election Commission of Pakistan, election tribunal or a court of law. He said the man [Maulana Fazl] remained part of every government in the past and was desperate now as he found himself helpless.
Retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum of the PML-N said implicating someone in a false and fabricated case amounted to “intellectual” corruption, adding that the rule of law had to be applied across the board if Pakistan was to be put on the path of progress. He said merely victimising the political opponents would bring a bad name to Pakistan.
The PML-N senator regretted that the judge who was to announce verdict in the case cooked up against Rana Sanaullah was changed at the last minute through a WhatsApp message. He was of the opinion that people must not be put behind bars on the basis of mere allegations.
Raza Rabbani said the treatment with those representing the people and those representing the establishment had remained different since Pakistan’s inception. He said Asif Ali Zardari had been incarcerated during investigation while military ruler Pervez Musharraf facing a treason charge had been taken to the CMH on his return from the court, and was later allowed to leave the country. Mr Rabbani also drew comparison between Shaukat Aziz and three other former prime ministers.
Describing the NAB Ordinance as a black law, he conceded that it was the negligence of the PML-N and PPP that they could not bring a law for across-the-board accountability having no room for sacred cows. He said that if the peers were to try accused judges and military officers, politicians should also be tried by parliament.
Minister for Communications Murad Saeed accused the PML-N and PPP leadership of committing corruption and said both had been accusing each other in the past but were now together to serve their vested interests. He also lambasted Maulana Fazl while referring to a WikiLeaks report revealing that the JUI-F chief had assured the United States that he would serve the US more than Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto if given a chance.
The Senate will meet again on Friday (tomorrow) at 10.30am.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2019