Opp takes on govt over ‘NRO-2’; minister wants debate on cipher leak

Published October 1, 2022
This photo shows the Senate session held on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
This photo shows the Senate session held on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: The opposition and treasury benches sparred with each other in the Senate on Friday over PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s acquittal in the Avenfield apartments case and the recently leaked audio conversations from the Prime Minister House.

As opposition leader in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem called the acquittal “a part of NRO-2” (a term used to refer to relief in corruption cases) that the sitting government had secured for itself, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar said the Islamabad High Court decided the case on merit after dozens of hearings and termed it a slap on the face of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) accountability narrative.

Speaking on a point of public importance soon after the question hour, Dr Waseem chided the treasury benches for distributing sweets on Ms Sharif being pardoned in what he called a clear case of theft.

He noted that things have reached to such a level that the flaws within the system stood exposed.

PTI senator says Maryam’s acquittal exposes flaws within system; law minister says IHC decided case on merit

“An extremely tragic and painful game is being played with the nation,” he added.

He explained that in a democracy, the will and the voice of the masses played a decisive role, but in Pakistan, people had been sidelined from democracy and a ‘make-believe system’ put in place. For instance, he claimed, no pro-public legislation was done in parliament and the opposition was not even being allowed to speak while bills were being “bulldozed”.

The PTI leader further claimed the “biggest gimmick” played by the incumbent government was in the form of “NRO-2”, adding a law of their choice was enacted as a consequence of which corruption cases against the coalition leaders were ‘quashed’ and their crimes pardoned.

About the Sharif family’s London properties, he said the Avenfield apartments not only existed, but were being used since 1992-93. Despite contradictory statements from the Sharif family members, he claimed, the apartments’ ownership had been accepted.

“The buildings were there, but the money trail was missing.”

Referring to the audio leaks controversy, the PTI senator said the conversations proved it was a security breach and the ruling party’s business interests were dearer to them than the masses.

Responding to Dr Waseem’s hard-hit­­ting speech, Law Minister Tarar said the Avenfield case had been decided on merit after a legal battle of four years. He said the previous PTI government had implicated its political opponents in “false and fabricated” cases.

On the criticism over purportedly bulldozing legislation, he recalled how the former ruling party had rushed through the State Bank of Pakistan, Nepra and elections acts. “They are mentally upset after their US conspiracy narrative has been exposed.”

He chided Imran Khan over the audio leak wherein a voice purported to be that of the PTI chief could be heard telling the then principal secretary to “play up” the diplomatic cipher. “He was, in fact, asking for playing with the fortunes of Pakistan,” the minister remarked. “The aim was to stay in power.”

He suggested the house hold a debate on the audio leak featuring Mr Khan so people could know who was loyal to the country and who was a traitor. Responding to the suggestion, Dr Waseem accepted the idea.

Moreover, the house passed three bills — the Publication of Laws of Pak­istan Amendment Bill 2022, The Exp­ort Import Bank of Pakistan Bill and The Diplomatic and Consular Officers (Oath and Fees) Amendment Bill.

Also, around a dozen treasury members filed a motion under Rule 218 for a discussion on the audio leak pertaining to the cipher involving former PM Khan and his then principal secretary Azam Khan.

According to the motion: “This House may discuss the audio leaks circulating on social media of the former prime minister and his principal secretary, about misusing the classified diplomatic cable for political motives. The former PM has misused his office and authority to sabotage and misinterpret the facts making it look like a foreign conspiracy.”

It was signed by Mr Tarar, Irfan Siddiqui, Saleem Mandviwala, Maula Bux Chandio, Bahramand Tangi, Sardar Shafiq Tarin, Rubina Khalid, and Haji Hidayatullah.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2022

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