ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Thursday strongly reacted in the Senate to a statement made by Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan in the Supreme Court that the federation was weighing constitutional and legal options with reference to Karachi and asked Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to summon the top government lawyer before the house to seek an explanation.
The issue was raised by PPP leader Raza Rabbani while speaking on a point of order after smooth presentation of five FATF-related bills already passed by the National Assembly by ministers Ali Muhammad Khan and Azam Swati which referred to the committees concerned by the chairman as per agreement between the government and the opposition.
Later, a number of other PPP members also criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government at the centre over the AG’s statement and they were also supported by Senator Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and the latter even called for sacking of the attorney general for making such a statement.
When the PPP launched a tirade against the government over the AG’s statement, the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senators protested over the brutal use of force against party workers and registration of cases against parliamentarians at the time of appearance of the party’s vice-president Maryam Nawaz in the National Accountability Bureau in Lahore on Tuesday.
All opposition members also staged a token walkout over the Lahore incident under the leadership of Opposition Leader Raja Zafarul Haq.
Drawing the attention of the house towards the statement of the AG before the SC registry in Karachi, Mr Rabbani stated that the federal government was “playing with fire” and “walking in a dangerous territory which can sharpen the already existing fault lines in the country”.
Appearing before a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed in the Karachi registry on Wednesday, the AG had stated that he had talked to the prime minister over the multiple civic and other issues of Karachi. He said the federal government had no intention to interfere in the affairs of the provincial government, but added that keeping in view the worsening situation of the provincial metropolis, the federal government was considering available constitutional and legal options in order to fix these issues.
Mr Rabbani, who had served as the Senate chairman, said that the AG held a constitutional office and he could participate in the parliament’s proceedings and, therefore, he should be called in the next sitting to give an explanation for making a statement which could cause a “clash of institutions” in the country.
The PPP senator recalled as to how the country faced East Pakistan tragedy in 1971 when excise duty on jute was withheld from the then East Pakistan and a One-Unit system was imposed.
Without elaborating, Mr Rabbani said the state had created a political party in an effort to divide people’s mandate in Sindh and then that party went out of state’s control. He said it seemed that the efforts were being made to revive One-Unit through “greater centralisation” and to place the 1973 Constitution under the shadow of the 1962 presidential constitution.
“If the state wants the revival of the 1962 era, then you are working on an agenda that can have far-reaching effect on the federation,” he said, adding that he was not speaking in the defence of the Sindh government but seeking compliance of the Constitution.
PPP’s Sassui Palejo said the cat had come out of the bag after the AG’s remarks in the court. She said that if the PTI was not a “mafia”, then it should provide a level-playing field to all parties. She said if Sindh could approve a resolution for joining Pakistan at the time of partition, its people could defend their constitutional and political rights as well.
“They must not take us for granted. You will not find a place to hide in Sindh,” she said, while warning the centre against interference in provincial affairs.
PPP’s parliamentary leader Sherry Rehman said that no one should consider Karachi as their colony. She also questioned Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s recent statement on Saudi Arabia where he threatened Riyadh that if the Saudi-led OIC failed to summon a meeting, “Pakistan would be ready to go for a session outside the OIC”.
“Has there been a willful shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy that the country or Parliament is unaware of? Is the PTI government issuing statements with any thought or are they usual blunders?” she asked.
Stating that the PTI government’s careless statement could have repercussions for Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia, she said the foreign minister needed to come and brief the parliament on the logic and reasoning behind his statement. At the moment, she said, the ministers were too busy bringing each other down to care about Pakistan.
PPP’s Rehman Malik alleged that Karachi was intentionally being discriminated as almost all the country’s metropolitan cities were facing same issues.
Maula Bux Chandio in hard-hitting speech also targeted the AG, saying that an employee of the state could not talk about the “division of Sindh”.
Earlier, PML-N senators Pervez Rasheed, Musaddiq Malik and Mushahidullah Khan condemned the police action against party workers and leaders in Lahore and termed the incident a part of the ongoing campaign of the government to victimise the opposition. They accused the police of using “poisonous gas” and torturing the party workers even after their arrests.
Mushahidullah Khan said that the party had got the forensic report of the bomb-proof vehicle in which Maryam Nawaz was travelling, saying that it had been proved that its windshield had not been damaged by stones.
Leader of the House Shahzad Waseem termed the Lahore incidents a “staged drama”. He ruled out any plan to impose the governor’s rule in Sindh, saying that the federal government only wanted to resolve problems of the people of Karachi who could not be left helpless.
The Senate chairman referred the Lahore matter to the house committee on human rights.
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2020