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Call for Musharraf’s arrest echoes in Senate

March 14, 2013

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Former President of Pakistan General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Now that former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf has declared his intention to return to the country this month, a PPP leader on Wednesday reminded the Senate of its resolution unanimously adopted last year calling for the dictator’s arrest and trial for committing treason.

The reminder came from Raza Rabbani while speaking on a point of order after the house unanimously struck off a Musharraf-era amendment from an electoral law to exempt politicians from delivering their nomination papers to election officers in person.

Mr Rabbani raised the issue when several speakers praised the senators for adopting the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill-2013 which removes the amendment inserted in the law by Gen Musharraf to keep Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif out of election as both had been living in exile.

Reading out excerpts from the resolution, Mr Rabbani said: “Gen Musharraf held the Constitution in abeyance twice and brought the judiciary into disrepute. The former president aided, and was allegedly an accomplice, in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti.”

The resolution, he said, had declared that Gen Musharraf had committed “acts of criminal nature” and “compromised vital national security interests through clandestine deals and unwritten agreements with foreign governments”.

Mr Rabbani, who had moved the resolution in January last year, reminded the senators that the upper house through the resolution had called upon the government to arrest Gen Musharraf upon his arrival in the country and institute a treason case against him under Article 6 of the Constitution.

The resolution, which is virtually a charge-sheet against the former dictator, was supported by all the parties, except the PML-Q and the MQM which had been allies of Gen Musharraf.

Earlier, the Senate unanimously passed a key anti-terror law seeking establishment of a National Counter Terrorism Authority to integrate the government’s fight against terrorism and extremism. The bill had already been passed by the National Assembly last week.

Mr Rabbani made some objections to the draft law, but later voted for it after the law minister said shortcomings could be removed at a later stage. Mr Rabbani was particularly critical of the role given to the Inter-Services Intelligence in the affairs of the proposed authority.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, speaking on a motion “regarding the names of superior court judges having dual nationality”, called for amending the Constitution to provide for a federal constitutional court to resolve constitutional issues.

The motion had been jointly moved by him and Aitzaz Ahsan to discuss the Supreme Court’s reply to the question whether some judges had dual nationality.

The Supreme Court had replied to the twice asked question. According to the SC, neither the Constitution nor the code of conduct of judges bars a person having dual nationality from becoming a judge. However, it did not clarify whether some judges held dual nationality or not.

Mr Babar called for an amendment to Article 184 of the Constitution to provide for appeals in suo motu cases and legislation under Article 191 to regulate the practice and procedure of the court.

“I urge the SC to demonstrate the same level of transparency and accountability it has been seeking to impose on other state institutions,” he said.

The prestige of courts, he said, must not rest merely on exercising powers under the contempt law, but on the belief of the people that the judges were impartial and spoke through their judgments.

Mr Babar said the refusal to answer a simple question about dual nationality had created doubts in the minds of the people and the parliamentarians.

He said over 100 judges had been appointed over the past five years by the judiciary alone without any contribution from parliament or the president.

He said judges were impeached by parliament in the US and India but here the parliament could not even ask a simple question.

Referring to the axiom that no one was above law, he concluded that “neither the judges are above the law nor the members of parliament are below it”.