Opposition calls for Asad Qaiser’s trial under Article 6

Published March 21, 2022
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaks at a press conference in Islamabad on Sunday. — PPP Twitter
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaks at a press conference in Islamabad on Sunday. — PPP Twitter

ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: Opposition parties on Sunday slammed National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser for not convening the assembly session within 14 days of its requisition to take up their no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan, demanding that he should be tried under Article 6 of the Constitution.

The opposition parties also lashed out at the PM for, what they called, using the religion card in an effort to save his government and accused his party of launching a ‘propaganda campaign’ through its social media team against the army over its ‘neutrality’.

Speaking at a news conference, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari expressed the hope that the Supreme Court would take notice of the violation of the Constitution by the speaker, proving that there was at least one institution in the country for the protection of the Constitution, democracy and right of the vote of the parliamentarians.

Stating that the job of the SC was to protect and implement the Constitution, the PPP chairman hoped that the court “will not facilitate this government on its unconstitutional step” and that it would make a constitutional decision, not a political one.

PTI accused of running social media campaign against army; PML-Q wants PM to take notice of ‘anti-Pakistan’ drive

“We appreciate how the SC sent a message of standing with the law and Constitution, even on a weekend,” he said in an apparent reference to the hearing of a petition of the Supreme Court Bar Association during which the court had reprimanded the government over the attack by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) activists on Sindh House.

He said the SC was already hearing a petition that had not been filed by them, but the bar association. However, he said the court had issued notices to the political parties as well in the case and they would present their viewpoint before it.

“This coward captain [the PM] is running away from the vote of no confidence. He is escaping to the extent that he has made the speaker abrogate the Constitution,” the PPP chairman observed.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari lashed out at PM Khan for using Islam for party politics and asked him not to use the slogan of Madinah state.

“You (the PM) are the foreign-sponsored and foreign-funded agent who has been planted in our system,” he said while criticising the government’s foreign policy. He alleged that the prime minister had been given the task to damage the country’s foreign policy and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and that he had done it “beautifully”.

He accused Mr Khan of adopting the foreign policy of India, stating that there was no difference in the foreign policies of the two countries.

Addressing a separate news conference, PML-N’s senior vice-president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also accused the speaker and the premier of violating the Constitution and committing treason under Article 6 which, he said, was not a joke. He said if anyone would interfere in the democratic process of no-trust move, he would commit ‘treason’.

PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal alleged that Mr Khan was using religion card to cover up his “dirty politics and incompetence”.

Earlier, in a statement, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb stated if the speaker failed to convene the NA session before March 22, he would be guilty of violating the Constitution that was be punishable under Article 6.

Campaign against institutions

During the news conference, the PPP chairman also alleged that the PM and his social media team had launched a ‘propaganda campaign’ to ‘provoke’ an institution so that it could not remain ‘neutral’.

“When a time has come when the media is talking about a neutral environment, Imran and his social media team are trying to spread the propaganda that institutions are not neutral, be it through provocation or creating a constitutional crisis,” he said.

“It is the responsibility of all of us to demand and try for every institution to work within its domain drawn by the law and Constitution, and to criticise when this does not happen. However, it is also our responsibility to oppose the prime minister, his social media team and its members who are provoking and targeting an institution under a conspiracy,” he added.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the prime minister had equated the term ‘neutral’ with animals and had still not apologised to the nation over it. “Our efforts have always been for neutrality. The PM, his social media team and ministers are making desperate attempts to tarnish neutrality. We condemn this,” he said without elaborating.

The PPP chairman, who had not named the institution during his press conference, later asked the Inter-Service Public Relations and the judiciary to take notice of the propaganda campaign by the PM, his social media team and the MNAs aimed at getting “the status of neutrality” changed.

Though Mr Bhutto-Zardari did not give any reference to the army when he talked about the allegation regarding the propaganda campaign against neutrality, the PML-Q and the PML-N came out more openly when they castigated the PTI government for hitting out at army and Inter-Service Intelligence by a party’s woman MNA and an important member of the PTI’s media team.

A video clip with the audio of PTI MNA Kanwal Shauzeb shared from a twitter space “Current political situation” went viral on social media in which she could be heard apparently talking about military establishment. “They have nothing to do with performance and neither they want to manage the country. They had never done it in the past, then why will they do it now. Actually, they wanted to hijack the system and working on an agenda of minus-Imran Khan,” she said in the clip, adding that the real issue was that the premier was not allowing those sitting in “different institutions and all kinds of institutions to continue their loot and plunder” and “that’s why they are now having panic attacks”.

Since Saturday afternoon, an unusual debate has started on Twitter with a host of people, apparently the PTI supporters, trying to make the army leadership controversial by levelling all kinds of accusations. They were found accusing the army chief of trying to undermine the government and the present system.

In response, several people also came out in support of the armed forces, blaming the present government of maligning the armed forces and its chief.

Reacting over the clip, PML-Q MNA Chaudhry Salik Hussain tweeted: “The PTI’s social media team and a woman MNA levelled false allegations on the Pakistan Army and the ISI, which are unacceptable and unbearable.”

Mr Hussain demanded that the PM must take notice of this “dirty anti-Pakistan campaign, otherwise, the PML-Q knew well how to deal with the anti-Pakistan elements”.

Also, the official spokesman for PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, Malik Ahmad Khan, tweeted that the PTI social media team would not be allowed to defame the Pakistan Army. “The state’s existence gets threatened when a state army’s central authority is compromised,” he said.

“When a state will not respect the status of the institution of army, can a state survive?” he asked in a linked tweet. “The strong army is a guarantor of strong Pakistan,” the spokesman said, adding that every Pakistani was ready to sacrifice his life for country’s solidarity and progress.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2022

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