LAHORE: Just a couple of days after extending unconditional support to the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act in parliament, senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khurram Dastgir Khan hinted at pressure on the party leadership for the legislation while its firebrand lawmaker Rana Sanaullah insisted that the PML-N did not step back from its narrative of ‘respect for vote’.
Addressing a session titled Parliament Today at the Afkar-i-Taza ThinkFest at Alhamra on Saturday, MNA Dastgir, who was defence minister in the PML-N government, said: “If there was any pressure to vote for the Army Act, it was on our leadership, not on the parliamentarians like me.”
However, he added, “If it is said that there was no discussion on this Act by parliamentarians, it is not true. The PML-N and PPP parliamentarians held detailed deliberations on it, and eventually decided to vote for it.”
The PML-N lawmaker further said the draft of the proposed bill had been shared with the opposition a week before the legislation but disclosed that an “interesting incident happened only a day before the parliament session that paved the way for the opposition voting for the proposed bill.
Sanaullah insists opposition party did not step back from its narrative of ‘respect for vote’
“But I cannot provide any details of it,” he said while addressing the session, which was moderated by Pildat’s Ahmed Bilal Mehboob and also attended among others by former senator Javed Jabbar.
Mr Dastgir said there was a need to accept the fact that the army had a stake in politics. “Whether we accept it or not, this will remain a fact,” the former defence minister insisted.
While criticising the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government’s incessant use of ordinances, the PML-N lawmaker said the government should use the option only in “emergency situations”. “The government will accord importance to parliament only when the backdoor [ordinance] for legislation is shut,” he added.
Separately, when asked what happened a day before legislation on empowering Prime Minister Imran Khan to give extension to the services chiefs, a senior PML-N leader confided to Dawn that a senior federal minister managed to persuade the opposition legislators. “A senior federal minister visited us [a group of PML-N and PPP parliamentarians] in Islamabad a day before the legislation and begged us to vote for the bill. He only left after we gave him our word,” he claimed.
While clarifying PML-N’s stance on the Army Act legislation process, party’s Punjab chapter president Rana Sanaullah told a presser that the party had not moved away from its narrative of ‘Respect for vote’. “Nawaz Sharif and his party have not stepped back from this narrative, as we believe in civilian supremacy,” he claimed.
Mr Sanaullah said: “The PML-N voted for the extension in service to the army chief, as it did not want to do politics on this important matter. In fact the inept PTI government had mishandled the issue. Through this [legislation], the office of the prime minister has been empowered [to give extension to the three services chiefs].”
However, Mr Sanaullah was of the opinion that PML-N should not have become part of the ruling party’s agenda of “undue haste” in the passage of the amendment bill. “Our parliamentary party became part of the PTI government’s undue haste that we believe was a bit of an error,” he said.
He recalled that in his message, Nawaz Sharif had said, “do not become part of undue haste which makes it look like that this parliament has become a rubber stamp”.
He claimed that Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, too, had supported the army chief’s extension in principle though he abstained from voting.
In reply to a question about PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz’s silence, Mr Sanaullah said: “Maryam Bibi is worried about the health of her father [Nawaz Sharif].
“No one has asked her to keep mum,” he insisted. He also clarified that she had not resigned from the office of party’s vice president over the issue of voting.
He explained that she wanted “to go abroad to look after her father for six weeks and will return after that”.
Mr Sanaullah also said Prime Minister Imran Khan could easily be removed through an in-house change. “The PM House is not someone’s personal property. The in-house change is very easy. If the country has to move forward, we will have to get rid of Imran Khan and a new prime minister should be elected with consensus,” he said.
Meanwhile, responding to his presser, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan regretted that certain elements were using religious card for political gains, adds APP.
Talking to the media in Islamabad after inaugurating the Smart Expo of Future Development Holdings, Dr Awan said Mr Sanaullah had only been released on bail in narcotics case and not acquitted of the charges, as the narcotics case against him was still under trial.
Instead of ‘misleading’ people, she said he should vent his anger on his party leadership as the government had nothing to do with the PML-N leadership’s approach towards its workers.
Dr Awan said the government was committed to strengthening national institutions and all-out efforts were being made to bring about changes to the system, besides addressing lacunae in the judicial system so that powerful elements could not take undue benefits.
Shahbaz terms it collective decision Talking to the media in London on the issue of Army Act legislation, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif said the PML-N had taken a ‘collective decision’ after consultations within the party regarding its support to the bills pertaining to the tenure of services chiefs, adds monitoring desk.
In the latest instance, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly said, the decision to grant the extension was taken by the parliament unlike the “past military dictators who extended their tenures themselves”.
Mr Sharif said it was a fact that there had been no “outrage or protest” from any side when the Khan government had granted extension to Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and issued a notification in this regard. The Supreme Court then directed the parliament to legislate on the matter and “we carried out legislation according to that court verdict and supported the bill,” the PML-N president added.
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2020