• PPP condemns secretariat’s move sans consulting members over ‘mismatched signatures’
• Supreme Court to take up plea seeking justice for mob violence victims today
ISLAMABAD: The Senate secretariat, in an unprecedented move, has rejected a requisition of the house to discuss the recent Jaranwala mayhem, even as the Supreme Court is set to take up an application seeking cognisance of the tragic incident on Friday (today).
The reason for the rejection, which left many red-faced, has been said to be “unmatched signatures” of some of the 27 members who signed the requisition, raising questions on the secretariat’s authority to verify signatures without approaching the members concerned.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) expressed disappointment and dismay over the decision to disallow the requisition of a session. Twenty-seven senators had submitted a signed requisition notice in the Senate secretariat on Sept 1, under clause 3 of Article 54 read with Article 61 of the Constitution. The notice was submitted on their behalf by PPP Senator Shahadat Awan.
However, five days later on September 6, the Senate secretariat said that the signatures of five PPP senators on the requisition motion “do not match with their signatures on the roll of the members” and therefore the “requisition does not fulfil the requirements for summoning of the Senate session by the honourable chairman Senate”.
The five PPP senators whose signatures allegedly did “not match with their signatures on the roll of the members” were identified by the Senate secretariat as Farooq H. Naek, Mian Raza Rabbani, Palwasha Mohammad Zai Khan, Rubina Khalid and Shamim Afridi. In addition, the signatures of Senator Muhammad Akram were also declared to not match his signatures on the roll of members.
Expressing dismay over this, PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar said in a statement it was surprising that the Senate secretariat did not even call one of these six senators to confirm whether they had signed the requisition notice or not.
Instead, it unilaterally concluded that the signatures did not match, and thus, the number of senators required to sign a requisition fell below the mandatory number and rejected the requisition notice, he said. “It is unprecedented, inexplicable and betrays more than meets the eye”.
He said that it is standard practice to verify the authenticity of purported signatories by placing a phone call to them, but for some reason, this was not done in this case.
“It appears that some elements, for reasons best known to them, did not want to discuss the shameful Jaranwala mayhem, marked by the desecration of churches and the loot and plunder of Christians’ homes and properties,” he said.
He said that the parliament has already been gravely undermined by elements inimical to it through both overt and covert means and one looks up to the custodians of the house to lift it from the abyss to which it has been thrown into.
However, small and insignificant it may appear to be, a requisition notice nonetheless may be viewed as a small bid by the house to assert itself by raising issues of national importance.
“However, when the custodian of the house also appears to be scuttling such a small move and throws the requisition notice in the dustbin the hopelessness increases,” he said.
He said that by rejecting the requisition notice on flimsy grounds, a highly disturbing message had been conveyed to Christians and other non-Muslim minorities.
SC to take up Jaranwala case
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will take up today (Friday) an application by Samuel Makson, Director for Human Rights of the Voice of Christians International, seeking cognisance of the tragic incidents that led to 20 churches and over a dozen homes belonging to the Christian community being torched or ransacked.
A three-judge SC bench, consisting of Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, will take up the case.
In a single-page application moved under Order 33 Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980, the applicant had pleaded before the SC to accept the petition and take action to meet the ends of justice.
The applicant stated that he wanted to bring on record the Aug 16 brutal incident of Jaranwala, which resulted in the burning of number of churches, Holy Bibles and the houses of the residents of the Christian community of the area.
He also recalled that the SC was already seized with a case related to the implementation of a 2014 judgement on minorities rights for promoting a culture of religious and social tolerance.
In 2014, the SC through a judgement on minority rights had decreed the law enforcing agencies to promptly register criminal cases for desecrating of the places of worships of minorities or for violation of any of their rights guaranteed under the law.
Authored by then-chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, the verdict had also ordered its court office to open a separate file to be placed before a three-judge bench for ensuring that the judgement was given effect in letter and spirit. The bench so formed will be free to entertain complaints or petitions relatable to the violation of fundamental rights of minorities in the country.
The verdict had come on a suo motu initiated on Sept 22, 2013 unfortunate Peshawar church bomb attack in which 81 persons lost their lives.
Nasir Iqbal also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2023