ISLAMABAD: Mem­bers belonging to the country’s mainstream political parties on Tuesday lodged a strong protest in the Senate against the hasty passage of a controversial resolution by the House on Monday in support of military courts and called for its immediate withdrawal.

Due to the strong protest by the senators and lack of quorum, Deputy Chairman Mirza Muhammad Afridi adjourned the proceedings within minutes and without taking up any agenda item.

At the outset of the sitting, Sadia Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) took the floor to “condemn” the pa­s­­s­age of the out-of-age­nda resolution “in a haste”, stating that the res­olution had been passed at a time when only a dozen senators were present in the house.

“We don’t endorse [the resolution]. Come what may, we cannot allow military courts [to function], and neither we are supporting them. Whatever the Supreme Court has done, it has done in the larger interest of the people,” said Ms Abbasi while referring to the resolution passed by the upper house of the parliament on Monday rejecting the SC’s Oct 23 verdict declaring “unconstitutional” the military trials of civilians for their alleged role in attacks on army installations on May 9.

The two-page resolution was tabled by independent senator Dilawar Khan and supported only by Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) senators. It had termed the SC’s Oct 23 verdict “an attempt to rewrite the law” and an “impingement upon the legislative authority of the parliament” and had asked the Supreme Court to “reconsider” it.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had allowed the tabling of the resolution and put it for a vote without any debate after completing the agenda and minutes before adjourning the sitting when only a dozen members were present in the house.

Only two senators — Raza Rabbani of the PPP and Mushtaq Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) — had protested against the hasty passage of the resolution, but Mr Sanjrani ignored their protest.

Ms Abbasi, whose party is officially supporting the military trial of civilians in the wake of the May 9 incidents, declared that the Senate resolution did not reflect the viewpoint of the majority of the Senate members.

“Tomorrow a resolution can be tabled [in the house] calling for imposition of martial law in the country,” she added, while declaring that they could not support the military courts.

“Withdraw this resolution which doesn’t reflect the aspirations of the members,” she said, while questioning the haste shown in the passage of the resolution and termed the act “a negation of the democratic norms” and against the parliamentary traditions.

She asked the deputy chairman to set aside the agenda and allow them to debate the controversial resolution.

Ms Abbasi, who is the sister of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, was supported by PPP’s Raza Rabbani, Mushtaq Ahmed of the JI and Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party (NP). These senators protested when Mr Afridi denied them the floor to have more discussion on the issue.

Mushtaq Ahmed even protested in front of the dais of the deputy chairman, asking the latter to allow them to speak on the matter.

The deputy chairman, however, insisted that he would allow them to discuss the issue only after disposing off the day’s agenda.

The members were still protesting when Senator Saifullah Abro of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) pointed out lack of quorum. The deputy chairman adjourned the sitting till Friday morning after declaring that the house was not in order due to lack of quorum, for which the presence of one-fourth members [26 members] is required in the 100-member house. Only 15 senators were present in the house when the quorum was pointed out.

Meanwhile, in a written reply to a question asked by PPP’s Bahramand Tangi, the Senate was informed that the President’s Secretariat had incurred an expenditure of Rs1.8bn over the last five years.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2023

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