ISLAMABAD: Just a day ahead of the by-elections in Punjab, the federal cabinet on Friday constituted a special ministerial committee to pursue high treason proceedings against top office-holders of the former PTI government, and also decided to appoint a commission of inquiry (COI) to probe into allegations of sexual abuse against head of the country’s accountability watchdog and misuse of its evidence for political objectives by the former prime minister’s office.
Briefing the media after the cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the meeting through a resolution welcomed the detailed judgement of the Supreme Court, and constituted a special committee, led by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar and comprising ministers for information and interior and members of all coalition partners, for legal action under Article 6 of the Constitution.
She said the apex court decision was very clear and had mentioned the names of the president, the then prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly who used their constitutional offices for personal political purposes. She claimed the court had concluded that the narrative of regime change through a foreign conspiracy was fabricated, false, and baseless. The resolution also said the former PTI government had made serious efforts to damage economic security and national interest on the foreign front.
The minister said the cabinet also decided that constitutional disobedience and violations and attacks on parliament should be taken seriously to avoid their recurrence in the future. The special committee was therefore directed to come up with recommendations on the future course of action before the next cabinet meeting. The apex court had also buried the law of necessity and observed that constitutional violations had been committed by the PTI government’s top office-holders. The committee would cover all the points raised by the court.
Commission of inquiry also appointed to look into harassment allegations against ex-NAB chief
The SC had ruled that the April 3 ruling of the then deputy speaker Qasim Suri had apparently breached the Constitution and led to a chain of actions, including allowing the then prime minister Imran Khan to hold on to the constitutional office by illegally avoiding the no-confidence motion without a vote by the assembly.
Under Article 6, “any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason”. As of now, proceedings under this article had been held only once in the country under which military dictator former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf was convicted by a special court, but the judgement remained unimplemented.
Ms Aurangzeb further said the cabinet also decided to appoint a commission of inquiry under the COI Act 2017 to probe all aspects of the allegations by Tayyaba Gul and other women against outgoing chairman of the National Accountability Bureau and head of the Commission on Enforced Disappearances, retired Justice Javed Iqbal, and involvement of the Prime Minister Office in the matter for political gains.
She said Law Minister Tarar was designated as the head of another committee of the cabinet to finalise the terms of reference of the COI in line with discussions in the cabinet meeting, as well as asked to suggest a panel to choose a name from for the head of the COI, and return to the cabinet for approval.
Tayyaba Gul, she said, had lodged a complaint on the Citizen’s Portal of the prime minister during the previous government against sexual harassment and abuse by former NAB chief Javed Iqbal and sought justice. Ms Gul was first informed that her complaint had been referred to the Human Rights Ministry, but then called to the PM Office and “held in captivity” for 18 days.
The minister alleged the then rulers “abducted” Gul and kept her hostage, and instead of providing her justice or taking any action, all the evidences and videos were collected from her and used by the PMO to blackmail and pressurise the former NAB chairman to victimise the political opponents of Imran Khan. This way, not only were Mr Iqbal and the NAB as an institution compromised, but were used for political objectives and victimisation of opponents.
The minister further said the COI would be time-bound to conclude its probe because sexual harassment and abuse were not only serious social crimes, but involved the office of the prime minister and its complaint portal.
Not only this, Ms Aurangzeb alleged, Javed Iqbal had emerged as a “habitual harasser”, as many other women had also complained against him in his capacity as chairman of the commission on enforced disappearances. All this happened under the mindset in which the former prime minister used to blame victims of rape for the crime. Those complaints would also be referred to the COI, she stressed.
Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2022