ISLAMABAD: The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (N) and a key component of the ruling coalition, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, have a history of engaging in war or words in and outside the parliament, but the two political rivals are set to fight, probably the first-ever significant legal battle.
PML-N’s Senator Zafar Ali Shah filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday a petition challenging the command and control of the MQM by Altaf Hussain on the grounds that he was a foreign national and forbidden under the law to become a member of the parliament.
Observers are of the opinion that the timing is significant because the petition had been filed when the general election is round the corner.
The two parties were coalition partners before the Nawaz Sharif-led government was overthrown in a bloodless coup by General Pervez Musharraf in October 1999.
Political differences between the two parties started when the MQM joined the military-led government and touched new heights during the movement for restoration of the judiciary in 2007.
When the PML-N joined the PPP-led ruling coalition after the 2008 general election, the MQM was in the opposition led by the PML-Q.
When the PML-N parted ways with the PPP accusing it of backtracking on its commitment for reinstatement of the judiciary, the MQM switched to the treasury benches.
Since then the PML-N and the MQM have never let go any opportunity of criticising each other. Their lawmakers not only exchanged hot words in parliamentary sessions but on occasions also reached close to physical brawl.
The most recent difference of opinion between the two parties emerged over the issue of dual nationality. While the MQM defends the right of overseas Pakistanis to take part in national activities on the grounds that they send billions of dollars in remittances which strengthen the country’s economy, the PML-N is of the opinion that the constitutional provision on dual nationality must be respected.
Senator Zafar Ali Shah told Dawn that he had filed the petition in his personal capacity. He said he had chosen the timing because the Supreme Court recently disqualified about a dozen members of parliament and provincial assemblies for holding dual nationality.
The PML-N leader said important legal questions had been raised in the petition which, if not addressed, would create imbalance in politics and jeopardise the national interest.
He said the Constitution barred the holder of dual nationality from becoming a member of parliament and asked how could a person living abroad in self-exile and holding a foreign passport be allowed to influence legislation and policymaking in Pakistan through lawmakers belonging to the party he headed.
“It is not legally and constitutionally plausible for a foreigner to influence the lawmaking process in Pakistan while sitting abroad,” Senator Shah pleaded in the petition.
He said dozens of members of parliament and the Sindh Assembly were bound to obey the command of Altaf Hussain under the constitution of MQM. Even under the Constitution of the country, they would face disqualification if they betrayed their party chief in the elections for the prime minister and chief minister and in no-trust motions, on money bill or a constitutional amendment bill, he added.
The petition also questioned the legality of telephonic addresses of Mr Hussain broadcast live by a number of channels and contended that the government was duty bound to stop such speeches and political activities.
The petition requested the apex court to order the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) not to allow or facilitate the broadcast of Mr Hussain’s speeches.
The continuation of Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad for almost 12 years has also been criticised and the petition said he had been appointed by then president Gen Pervez Musharraf on the last day of 2002. “When the president cannot be elected consecutively for more than twice, how can his nominee retain the office for 12 long years?”
It requested the court to declare null and void the Dec 31, 2002 notification appointing Dr Ishratul Ibad as Governor. Dr Ibad also held dual nationality and, therefore, should be disqualified from holing the office of governor.
Besides Altaf Hussain and Ishratul Ibad, the petition claimed, a number of MQM lawmakers were also holding dual nationality and truth of the fact should be inquired from the interior ministry.
The federal government, Cabinet Division, Election Commission, Ministry of Interior, Pemra, Altaf Hussain, Ishratul Ibad and over 80 members of parliament and Sindh Assembly belonging to the MQM have been made respondent in the petition.