A view of a National Assembly  session. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The anniversary of the Oct 12 military coup provided an opportunity to the ruling PPP and opposition PML-N to jointly condemn the 1999 military action in the National Assembly on Wednesday, but a debate on the issue soon degenerated into mutual accusations with each side blaming the other for providing support to military dictators.

It all started when PML-N members, while denouncing the overthrow of the party’s government by the then army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf, reiterated their demand for initiating a treason case against the military dictator and accused the present rulers of providing protection to him under a clandestine deal.

MNAs Ahsan Iqbal, Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar and Khawaja Saad Rafique in their hard-hitting speeches on points of order not only assailed Gen Musharraf’s policies, but also lashed out at the PPP government for providing Gen Musharraf an honourable departure.

They blamed Gen Musharraf for the crises the country faced today and demanded that he should be hanged.

But, PPP’s legislator from Sargodha Nadeem Afzal Gondal came up with an equally hard-hitting speech amid desk-thumping by treasury members in the presence of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. He said he would like to know why had the PML-N singled out Gen Musharraf and spared others, including the judges who had allowed a man in uniform to carry out changes in the Constitution.

An angry Gondal said the PML-N should not claim the credit for the reinstatement of superior court judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who, according to him, had been reinstated because of the intervention of the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) and not because of the opposition’s long march.

“Long march was just a drama and a farce. The judiciary was restored when the ISI wanted it,” Mr Gondal said.

He also alleged that it was on ISI’s directives that the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, took a stand and said ‘no’ to Gen Musharraf when the former president had asked him to resign on March 9, 2007.

He asked the PML-N why was it not demanding action against the army generals who had been with Gen Musharraf in the past and were “nowadays playing golf in Punjab”.

Interestingly, the chief justice also came under criticism from the opposition when PML-N’s Muhammad Safdar questioned his inaction on the May 12, 2007, incident in which over 40 people had been killed in Karachi during the chief justice’s visit to the city.

“If the CJ does not provide justice to families of those killed, then one should not expect justice from the CJ,” he said.

The PPP MNA was of the view that had the then PML-N government constituted a commission on Kargil, the nation would not have suffered the Oct 12 military coup.

Mr Gondal said if the PML-N announced a long march against the army generals, then he himself would participate in it. He also accused the PML-N of having links with extremist groups, particularly the outlawed Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan.

Soon after completion of the question hour, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal took the floor on a point of order and said that under the law, only the federal government could institute a treason case against a person. He said if the government could not do it then it should change the law so that the PML-N’s provincial government could take the step. He said if the PPP government would not lodge a treason case against Gen Musharraf, then it would amount to committing treason.

Mr Iqbal claimed that the Musharraf regime had received $85 billion as result of the 9/11 incident, but that money was not spent on the country’s infrastructure. He said that Gen Musharraf used intelligence agencies for his personal interests and for creating the PML-Q.

PML-N MNA Capt (retd) Safdar, son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif, called for framing treason charges against all those who had supported Gen Musharraf and jointed his cabinet.

This prompted PML-Q’s Amir Muqam, who was a member of the Musharraf cabinet, to take the floor. He said he was ready to face action provided action was also taken against all those who had been in the cabinet of military dictators Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Ziaul Haq.

He said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was a minister in the Zia-ul-Haq’s cabinet. He said instead of merely criticising the dictatorship, the rulers should prove with their deeds that democracy was better than the military dictatorship.

Khawaja Saad Rafiq asked rulers as well as the military leadership to tell the nation why a “criminal” had been allowed to leave the country and given a guard of honour. He said the military leadership should now realise that the people’s attitude had changed and they would not accept any military intervention in future.

The PML-N lawmaker said it was Mr Sharif’s mistake to appoint Gen Musharraf as the army chief, ignoring the seniority list.

BILL INTRODUCED: Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh presented before the house the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (Regulation and Enforcement) Bill 2011.

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