• MQM’s Sabzwari sees game of ‘selective justice’ being played in the name of contempt
• PTI senator insists parliament must not be used to advance personal agendas
• Law minister says issue is not a ‘clash of institutions’

ISLAMABAD: As criticism of the judiciary continued in the Senate for a second consecutive day on Wednesday, ANP Central President Aimal Wali Khan regretted that parliament was being used against the institution.

The house saw the issue, raised a day earlier by Senator Faisal Vawda, developing into a full-fledged discussion on superior courts’ contempt powers, with more members taking part in the debate.

Aimal Wali Khan noted that the agenda for the session was different on the papers, but it appeared the session had specifically been convened to call the judiciary and judges into question. “I believe that parliament is once again being used, with nobody talking about those using it.”

He said those who were clamouring about the rule of law and Constitution today were the beneficiaries in the past. He said a game was being played under which beneficiaries of the past become victims and vice versa.

“They accept everything when they are among beneficiaries,” he added. He said they would not talk about missing persons, adding that it was the issue of enforced disappearances that had brought the judiciary and parliament face to face.

Senator Mohsin Aziz of the PTI said the dignity of parliament has to be protected, but at the same time insisted that the forum must not be used to advance personal agendas. He recalled that Mr Vawda had been disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the decision had been upheld by the judiciary.

He lamented that nobody ever talked against denial of a level-playing field to the PTI during the general elections, registration of politically-motivated cases against the party’s founder and the resolution seeking to delay the polls passed by the house in the presence of just 12 members. All institutions should be respected, he asserted.

‘Selective justice’

MQM-P’s Faisal Sabzwari earlier said a game involving selective justice was being played in the name of contempt, adding that it appeared that apart from the chosen representatives, everybody else has respect. He regretted that insulting remarks against elected representatives are passed and beamed on TV screens.

He said the judiciary not only allowed Gen Musharraf to rewrite the Constitution, but a former chief justice also rewrote the Constitution. He insisted that parliament was supreme and no institution was above it.

PML-N Senator Talal Chaudhary said he was awarded the contempt of court sentence for standing by his party leadership in the Panama Papers case.

He said he had demanded removal of PCO judges during a public meeting and had not talked about any lawful judge. He said the dignity of the judiciary can be enhanced by punishing breakers of the Constitution and not the framers of the Constitution.

JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza said his party stood for the respect of the members and the house, but the only objective behind summoning the session, in haste, was apparently targeting some judges.

“A Supreme Court judge and some judges of IHC are on the target,” he said, adding that reasons for this were crystal clear. “Judges are targeted in the country when judgements do not come according to wishes of some certain people,” he added.

Senator Allama Raja Nasir Abbas, in his maiden speech in the house, said there should be rule of law in the country which should be run under the Constitution. He said the country’s present precarious situation was due to the power politics.

PPP’s Sherry Rehman, who was presiding over the session, towards the end of the discussion told Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar that Mr Vawda had raised an issue and called for it to be brought to its logical conclusion with a report from the Senate Secretariat. “We will all be able to work better if institutions work within their limits. Now take this issue to its logical end,” she said.

The law minister in his winding up speech made it clear that the issue was not about a “clash of institutions” and went on to laud Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa. He reiterated his recent criticism of remarks uttered by IHC Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani in a case about a missing poet.

“I own every word of mine. The Constitution does not allow any court to utter whatever it wants in anger,” he said, referring to the judge’s warnings of summoning the prime minister and federal ministers over the issue.

Mr Tarar said it was no way to conduct court proceedings, adding that whatever the judge intended should be carried out through orders and verdicts. He said parliament was the supreme institution and called on the lawmakers to respect themselves and that of their associated institutions by speaking and protecting their rights. He quoted the Constitution as stating that all institutions must work within their own limits and domain.

“The members of this house are also respected. To unnecessarily say that someone is an agent of so and so is inappropriate. I respectfully request that this matter be referred to the Senate Secretariat. It has capable officers present and they can always prepare a report on all our talks so far and refer it to the Senate chairman for future course of action and that the matter can be placed before the house,” he said.

Mr Tarar endorsed the remarks of Aimal Wali that lessons had not been learnt from the past mistakes and underlined the need for some introspection. He said that politicians must speak and protect their rights for the respect of their own institution. He said that it was inappropriate to say about a member of the house that he was an agent of someone.

He said contempt should not be used as a weapon and the judiciary should decide the matter while keeping in view the principle of exercising restraint.

Sherry Rehman ruled that the matter raised by Mr Vawda was of serious nature, and directed the Senate Secretariat to examine it in the light of constitutional provisions and house rules and submit the case to the Senate chairman.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2024

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