ISLAMABAD: Delivering his maiden speech in the National Assembly, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Monday lambasted the “establishment” for “constantly interfering” in politics and announced his party’s plan to launch a protest movement from next month against the alleged rigging in the Feb 8 polls.

The announcement from the JUI-F chief to begin the protest movement with a “million march” in Karachi on May 2 came as the National Assembly hastily passed the Tax Laws (Amendment) Act 2024 after suspending the rules and without allowing a general debate, prompting the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) members to lodge a protest and stage a walkout.

Before staging the walkout and in an effort to block the passage of the bill, a PTI member pointed out lack of quorum, but Speaker Ayaz Sadiq after a headcount declared the house in order and gave the floor to Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar to present the bill for passage.

The JUI-F chief, who had come to the assembly first time after taking oath on Feb 29, announced that his party would hold “million march” in Karachi on May 2 and in Peshawar on May 9 and warned against any efforts to stop them from carrying out the rallies. “This system is not acceptable to us. If anyone tries to stop [protest marches], he will invite trouble for himself,” he warned while asking the PML-N and the PPP to join him, after handing over government to the PTI.

Asks PML-N, PPP to join him; blasts ‘establishment’ over ‘interference’ in politics; NA passes first bill in controversial manner

“Out of sympathy, I am asking Nawaz Sharif, [PM] Shehbaz Sharif and my son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari that if you are the representatives of the people, then let’s face the people together. Leave this power, come and sit here [in the opposition benches] and if the PTI is really a larger group [with seats], then give them the government,” he said, adding that perhaps he would be seen as speaking “foolish things”.

Recalling the country’s checkered political history, the Maulana said the country had most of the time remained either under semi-martial laws or complete martial laws. “Does this parliament represent people or has it been constituted by the establishment?” asked the JUI-F chief while criticising the bureaucracy and the “establishment” for deciding as to who would become the prime minister.

The term “establishment” is generally referred to the military top brass that has always been accused of manipulating the elections and political process in the country. He said the parliament even could not do legislation without the approval of the powerful quarters. “How long we will continue to make compromises? How long we will continue to beg before them [establishment]?” he asked. He said they considered that people’s mandate had been stolen in both the 2018 and 2024 elections. He alleged that they had the reports that the assemblies had been “sold and purchased” in the recent elections.

The JUI-F chief regretted that those who should be “subservient” to the politicians had become their “masters”. He alleged some forces controlled the country from behind the wall, but politicians were put on the front to take the brunt and abusing from the people.

The JUI-F chief also expressed his concerns over the law and order situation and alleged that there was no writ of the state in many parts of the country, especially in Balochistan. He said how the terrorists had returned to the country after becoming more powerful despite successful military operations against them in the past. He recalled that former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had announced they had erected a fence on the Pak-Afghan border, then how those 30,000 to 40,000 people managed to cross the border. He said billions of rupees were spent on the border fencing, but “no one is here to be made accountable”.

The Maulana said Pakistan was justified in asking the Afghan government as to why it had been failing to prevent the terrorists from entering Pakistan, “but you are also here on the border”. “Pakistan has become an insecure state. Who is responsible for it?” he said, adding that his party was not allowed to run election campaign. He said despite the Taliban’s announcement that they would not carry out any action during the elections, the JUI-F leaders continued to receive “threat letters”.

“As soon as the elections are over, the threat letters have also been stopped,” he said, while questioning as to how the militants succeeded in targeting the JUI-F function in Bajaur in which 80 people were killed.

The Maulana also endorsed Asad Qaiser’s demand that the PTI should be allowed to hold public meetings as it was its constitutional right.

Earlier, Mr Qaiser had condemned the government for not allowing PTI’s rallies and for arresting party workers. He remarked Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi was the “real prime minister”, but warned that if the PTI was pushed to the wall, they would not let this assembly run.

Tax Laws (Amendment) Act

Later, the NA passed the Tax Laws (Amendment) Act, 2024 seeking to amend the Sales Tax Act, 1990 aimed at expediting the process of the recovery of over Rs2 trillion held up in litigation before the Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue (ATIR).

The bill was presented for the passage by the law minister after approval of a motion seeking to suspend the rules under which the bills are referred to the standing committees.

PTI’s Barrister Gohar Ali Khan and Opposition Leader Omar Ayub Khan demanded that the passage of the law should be deferred till formation of the standing committees. But the minister said they required to pass the bill before the commencement of the next financial year on July 1.

Immediately after passage of the bill, the speaker then read out the president’s prorogation order.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2024

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