ISLAMABAD: In a move that took many by surprise, the government on Monday disowned the attempt to cancel the citizenship of the JUI-F leader and ex-senator Hafiz Hamdullah.

Winding up discussion in the Senate, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati said that after receiving a report from agencies according to which Hafiz Hamdullah had got his computerised national identity card (CNIC) on the basis of fake documents, a notice had been issued to him on Sept 1 and the CNIC had been cancelled on Oct 11. Pointing out that Hafiz Hamdullah had been a senator, he questioned as to why the probe did not take place when he had submitted his documents to contest the polls, if he was an alien. He also said that a Nadra investigation into the matter was under way.

Mr Swati invited the opposition to sit with the government to remove flaws in the accountability law. But in the same breath, he chided the two main opposition political parties — which he said had levelled serious allegations against each other in the past — for joining hands now, saying that the common objective was to obstruct accountability.

Reminding the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) that he had been given a mandate under the law, Mr Swati urged him to hold across-the-board accountability. The emotionally charged minister also said: “Our government is earning a bad name because of you.” He recalled that what Saifur Rehman did in the name of accountability was part of history. “That was what is called political accountability”, said Mr Swati. The minister recalled that his party had taken stern action against 20 of its lawmakers for selling their votes in the March 2018 Senate elections.

Minister urges opposition to help remove flaws in accountability law

Earlier, taking part in the discussion, former interior minister Rehman Malik proposed immunity against arrest to persons who have held the highest portfolios, including president, prime minister, chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate, and speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly. He said investigations should continue, but such persons should not be arrested until convicted by a court of law.

Mr Malik asked the government to immediately allow Nawaz Sharif to proceed abroad for medical treatment, asserting that under current rules, the cabinet was the competent authority to remove a name from the Exit Control List (ECL). He said post facto approval can be given later. Further, Mr Malik demanded the immediate release of former president Asif Ali Zardari due to his deteriorating health condition.

Quratulain Marri also regretted that Mr Zardari was not being given access to doctors and his children were not being allowed to see him. She said a classic example of selective accountability was that all persons nominated in a reference, except the Grand Democratic Alliance MPA Hasnain Mirza, were in jail. “Why has the man whose mother happens to be a federal minister not been arrested?” she asked and said Prime Minister Imran Khan and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak also had cases against them. They should also be behind bars, she added. She also wondered as to why Faryal Talpur had been moved from hospital to jail late in the night before Eid.

Mushahidullah Khan of the PML-N rejected the government’s claim that it had nothing to do with the cases against top opposition leaders. “You were the complainant in the Panama case against Nawaz Sharif”, he reminded the PTI and said that Nawaz Sharif’s name had not been there in the list of 456 people having offshore assets. He said a large number of the 456 were from the PTI but none of them had been acted against. Further, he sought an explanation on the result transmission system (RTS) fiasco at election time.

The house will meet again today (Tuesday) at 3.30 pm.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2019