Opposition certain of victory, even without two MNAs

Published March 30, 2022
This combo photo shows MNAs Ali Wazir (left) and Jam Abdul Karim Bijar. — Photos: NA website
This combo photo shows MNAs Ali Wazir (left) and Jam Abdul Karim Bijar. — Photos: NA website

ISLAMABAD / KARACHI: While the opposition has been pressing National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to issue production orders for the detained independent member from South Waziristan Ali Wazir and Pakistan Peoples Party MNA from Karachi Jam Abdul Karim Bijar to ensure their participation in the vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan, it is hopeful that their move would succeed even without both legislators on voting day.

Members of the joint opposition had submitted a written request on March 25, asking the NA speaker to issue the production order for every detained lawmaker — irrespective of their party affiliation — allowing them to exercise their right to vote.

Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement-backed Ali Wazir has been languishing in jail since December 31, 2020 for allegedly delivering provocative speeches against security establishment. The MNA was granted bail by the Supreme Court in November last year, but his release was stalled after an anti-terrorism court asked for additional verification before another arrest order was issued.

Also, the Sindh High Court on Tuesday dismissed as not maintainable a petition of PPP MNA Jam Karim, seeking not only contempt proceedings against Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid for putting his name on the Provisional National Identification List despite his protective bail in a murder case, but also extension in his protective bail that the court had granted him on March 25.

Speaker yet to issue production orders for Ali Wazir, Jam Karim

Signed by National Democratic Movement chief Mohsin Dawar, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Balochistan National Party chief Akhtar Mengal and others, the letter stated: “As speaker of the National Assembly, the impartiality of your office demands that you may issues production orders of every MNA regardless of party affiliation so that no constituency of Pakistan remains unrepresented.”

Under the assembly rules, the NA Speaker and chairman of a committee have the power to issue production order for any arrested lawmaker to ensure his presence during the sittings of the house and its committees and in the past many speakers have used this discretionary power. Speaker Qaiser, too, once issued the production order of Mr Wazir, who has spent most of the time in jail since the 2018 elections.

Speaking at a news conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said Ali Wazir’s production orders should be issued by the speaker, but at the same time he declared that even if he did not do so, the opposition had the required numbers for the success of the no-confidence resolution.

About MNA Jam Abdul Karim, he said it was the right of an individual to be granted protective bail by a court and the court had done so. While referring to the statement of Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed that the PPP MNA would be arrested, he said: “I hope that the courts will take contempt action against those who are threatening to go against its orders.”

The counsel for the lawmaker earlier appeared before a two-member bench in the Sindh High Court and informed that the teams of police, FIA and other agencies at various airports had been directed to arrest the petitioner despite the fact he was on protective bail. Also, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail had asked the FIA to take the petitioner into custody upon his return from the UAE. The lawyer contended that since the PM was facing no-trust move and all of this was being done to stall any possibility of the MNA to reach the assembly and urged the court to extend his protective bail for 20 days. However, the SHC bench observed the petition was not maintainable before his arrest or the expiry of the protective bail that had been granted to him on March 25.

At the press conference in Islamabad, however, PPP chairman Bhutto-Zardari sounded confident about the success of the opposition’s move even if the two legislators were not allowed to attend the NA session on crucial vote.

The PPP leadership appeared definite due to the announcement by the four members of the BAP, Jamhoori Watan Party MNA Shahzain Bugti and two independents Ali Nawaz Shah and Aslam Bhootani to lend support to the opposition.

At the time of the tabling of the no-trust resolution before the assembly on Monday, the opposition had succeeded in ensuring the presence of all of its members as the motion that allowed Mr Sharif to formally table the resolution had been approved by the chair when 161 opposition members stood up for its support.

At present, the opposition has 163 members in the lower house of the parliament and only Mr Wazir and Mr Karim were not present in the assembly when the resolution was tabled.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2022

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