ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) senators upped the ante against the coalition government during Friday’s session over the ‘inhumane treatment’ being meted out to detained party leader Shahbaz Gill, prompting the chairman of the upper house to abruptly prorogue the house without transacting any business.

‘Down with the government’ and ‘we do not accept tyrannical rules’ reverberated through the house as the protesting PTI legislators, wearing black armbands, gathered around the chair’s podium shouting full-throated slogans, while a minister was on her feet to respond to the allegation of torture.

At the outset of the proceedings, Leader of the Opposition in the House Dr Shahzad Wasim rose in his seat to protest the manner in which Mr Gill was brought from hospital to court and tortured by removing his oxygen mask, which was given to him only after court’s intervention.

The PTI senator said a medical report clearly mentioned Mr Gill came to hospital with a severe asthmatic attack. “He has an old history of asthma, which triggered due to anxiety and stress,” he said. “Where should we take this Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights? You are trying to choke breath of opponents. Your attitude today will haunt you forever,” he asserted.

The opposition leader said there should be “no room for inhumane tactics and torture” and asked lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to take a united stand on it, setting aside political differences.

However, when Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman tried to respond, the opposition members rose from their seats and staged protest in front of the chair’s podium. The minister continued her speech and said there was “no question of endorsing torture”, and assured the house of a probe if it did take place. But a report submitted to the court indicated no evidence of torture, she said.

Also, “the photographs shown to us have no signs of torture,” she said. She agreed that everybody had the right to a fair trial. “Your fascism and torture on political opponents is a separate story,” she said while taking a jibe at the PTI, amidst a continued uproar in the house by the PTI.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi alleged that the PTI, which had devastated the country’s economy during its rule, seemed hell-bent on vitiating atmosphere in the Parliament House. He said their protest had no justification at all while the PTI had set the worst example of witch-hunt against political opponents, who were kept on remand for up to 90 days, disallowing them to see their lawyers and relatives.

A ‘fake case’ had been registered against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Rana Sanaullah, who was then in opposition, at the behest of then prime minister Imran Khan, he said. Nawaz Sharif’s daughter had been handcuffed in front of him and ex-premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had been kept behind bars without any reason, he added.

While Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani kept on asking PTI members to return to their seats and lodge their protest from there, but to no avail. He finally had to prorogue the house even before the start of question hour.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2022

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