Senators spar over anti-army campaign amid PTI walkout

Published August 19, 2022
Leader of the House and Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar speaks during a Senate session on Thursday. — Photo courtesy Senate of Pakistan Twitter
Leader of the House and Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar speaks during a Senate session on Thursday. — Photo courtesy Senate of Pakistan Twitter

ISLAMABAD: Barbs flew in the Senate on Thursday as lawmakers from treasury benches criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for allegedly running a campaign against the Pakistan Army, whereas the opposition accused the government of creating a rift between the PTI and the military.

The opposition senators also staged a walkout against the alleged torture of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill who has been in jail for making ‘seditious’ comments relating to the military.

During the session, Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman praised the army for risking lives in relief and rescue operations in flood-hit areas and slammed PTI over alleged trends against the armed forces.

“Other political leaders have compromised and spent years in jails: Asif Ali Zardari spent more than 11 years in jail, his sister Faryal Talpur was picked up in a military-grade vehicle in the middle of the night from the hospital like a terrorist; Maryam Nawaz, too, had a similar experience,” she said while questioning special treatment meted out to PTI chairman Imran Khan.

PPP leader slams PDM over treatment meted out to Gill

“PTI’s gross hypocrisy has been exposed even more acutely. They hired an American consulting firm Grenier Consulting in 2021 run by a former CIA station chief in Islamabad to lobby and advise the party on Pak-US relations. Remember that this was when the PTI was still in power while Imran Khan was making speeches against the US and slowly isolating Pakistan, with a foreign policy in ruins,” Ms Rehman said.

These “shocking details” of PTI’s deals kept on surfacing, she said, adding that first it was Grenier Consulting and recently it is Fenton Arluck, and also questioned the ‘real freedom’ campaign by Mr Khan.

Earlier, a bill seeking to provide protection to a person during custody from all acts of torture perpetrated by public officials (The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill, 2022) landed in the house. The bill, already passed by the National Assembly, was referred by the chair to the standing committee concerned.

Leader of Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem vehemently criticised the government for the alleged torture on Mr Gill and wondered what the anti-torture bill stood in this regard.

He claimed Mr Gill was finding it hard even to breathe. “When it comes to its political designs, the government can go to any extent. The message is clear; he must be subjected to so much torture that a statement of their choice could be extracted from him to use it against Imran Khan and PTI,” he claimed during the speech.

‘Legal way adopted’

Leader of the House and Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar insisted that legal recourse was being adopted to obtain the physical remand of Shahbaz Gill, but the Punjab government was standing against the federation instead of complying with the court’s orders. He agreed that in the Constitution and the law, there was no room for torture and added that it was “wrong to run away from investigation in the name of torture”.

PTI Senator Ijaz Chaudhry said the ruling coalition leaders including Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Khawaja Asif, and Ayaz Sadiq had used “harsher language” against the army compared to the remarks made by Mr Gill.

Meanwhile, PTI Senator Faisal Javed appeared to have changed his earlier position on the issue and said proceedings against Mr Gill should be stopped till all other political leaders who have made such remarks were brought to the dock. Earlier, he had endorsed legal action against the PTI leader while speaking in the House and said that Mr Gill had committed a blunder as he should not have made such remarks.

PPP leader Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar also shared his two cents on the alleged torture faced by Mr Gill. He tweeted: “Have seen very disturbing pictures of physical torture on Shahbaz Gill. No matter how much you disagree with or dislike him, a man’s dignity should not have been violated like this. Either the govt of Mian Shehbaz [Sharif] is complicit or spineless to prevent such atrocity! Shame on us.”

He added: “Include the so-called Pakistan Democratic Movement in it too. Serving democracy by torturing political opponents. What a farce!”

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2022

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