Monday May 27, 2024

Senate divided over praying for Musharraf

Treasury strongly opposed it while PTI insisted on it and later praised Musharraf

By Mumtaz Alvi
February 07, 2023
PTI members seen protesting against incarceration of Senator Azam Sawti while the Upper House approves Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Bill, 2022. — Screengrab/YouTube/PTV Parliament/file
PTI members seen protesting against incarceration of Senator Azam Sawti while the Upper House approves Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Bill, 2022. — Screengrab/YouTube/PTV Parliament/file

ISLAMABAD: The Senate was sharply divided Monday over the idea of offering prayers for the departed soul of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, as the treasury side strongly opposed it while PTI insisted on it and later praised him, while PPP lawmakers condemned the late president for undermining the Constitution.

As the House resumed, Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani asked JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad to offer prayers for victims of earthquake in Turkiye, Syria and Lebanon, and Musharraf, who had passed away in Dubai on Sunday.

The House echoed with slogans of ‘no, no’ raised by the members from the treasury benches while Mushtaq Ahmad, who sits on the opposition side, also straight away said there will be no prayers for Musharraf and Sanjrani sensed the majority was opposed to it and accordingly urged him to skip him in prayers.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Shahzad Wasim, who was a member of then Musharraf’s cabinet, as state minister for interior and PMLQ senator from 2003-06, wondered what was the harm in offering prayers for him, prompting JI legislator to retort, “he was a certified traitor who broke the Constitution twice and was responsible for conflagration in Balocistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

However, this could not quiet the leader of opposition and he continued with defending the former military ruler while members from the government rose in their seats and gathered around the chairman’s podium.

The leader of the opposition came hard on those who called Musharraf a dictator and noted that dictatorship was in fact a behavioural trait and remarked, “We have also seen civilian dictators.”

He recounted, what he called, the achievements made during Musharraf’s era and explained allocation of reserved seats for women in the Parliament and the provincial assemblies, introduction of a robust local government system, reorganisation of Pakistan Steel Mills, and giving freedom to media, particularly the electronic media.

However, following the narrative of his party leader Imran Khan, he acknowledged the fact that giving NRO to two political parties was a mistake committed by Musharraf that continues to haunt the country. “He was good when he gave NRO and when ministers from the PMLN took oath from Musharraf wearing black armbands. They label hereditary politics as democracy. The rulers and the elite are on one side and the people on the other,” he contended.

He emphasised that the Constitution talks about representative democracy which comes through a popular mandate given through votes but deplorably the government was opposed to elections for fear of rejection and insisted that free and fair elections were the way forward.

PPP Senator Moula Bux Chandio rose to insist that the one who breaks the law is a traitor and argued those defending Musharraf were also traitors. “You are sitting in the Parliament and have taken oath under the Constitution. You should adopt the path which leads to democracy,” he contended.

He recalled how Musharraf’s indictment in treason case had to be put off for the third time in January 2014, when he went to a military hospital instead of appearing before the court to face the charge.

PPP’s newly-elected Senator Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, who was administered oath earlier in the day, in his hard-hitting speech against late Musharraf, regretted the way the leader of the opposition spoke for the person who held the Constitution in abeyance and liked to be called chief executive, selecting this term for himself after he had occupied power.

He reminded the House about the high treason case, Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti’s assassinations, Nishtar Park massacre and May 12 killings were linked to Musharraf. “While we were being killed in Karachi on that day, he was showing his fists here and saying, see the demonstration of my strength in Karachi,” Khuhro said.

The leader of the opposition, he pointed out, spoke for the person who considered the Constitution nothing, and once the courts conceded condoning four military rulers in the country. Imran Khan admitted his mistake, as his was the only party, which had supported Musharraf’s referendum, Khuhro said.

PTI’s Senator Faisal Javed stood up with a copy of the Constitution in his hand and wondered if the golden jubilee of the 1073 Constitution was being marked. He said that the Constitution was being flouted by not holding the elections in 90 days.

“They talk about the Constitution but how much it is implemented. If elections are not held in ninety days, then it is a deviation from it. Courts are being approached for its implementation. Only lectures are given about the Constitution and the poor is reeling owing to a plethora of problems, including inflation,” he noted.

Several senators spoke on a motion, moved by JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed on the recent protests led by ‘Haq Do Tehreek’ (give our rights) in Gwadar on issue of ‘nonavailability of clean drinking water for the residents of the port city, illegal trawling in the sea, and high number of security checkpoints operating in and around the city.

The lawmakers said that ‘Haq Do Tehreek’ led by Maulana Hidayatur Rehman is a democratic movement which made genuine demands for the residents and the agreement signed with the Balochistan chief minister should be implemented, based on their charter of demands, being well within the Constitution.

They sought release of the supporters and leader of the movement who have been booked in different cases. Minister of State for Law Shahadat Awan winding up the motion said that the law and order was the primary responsibility of the provinces. He added that the Balochistan government had requested the Ministry of Interior to control the law and order situation in Gwadar on December 26, 2022.

He agreed that the protest of small fishermen about large trawlers was genuine and the government is aware that people of Gwadar should not face losses (in their incomes).

The minister said that the federal government had formed a committee under the minister for maritime affairs to work in liaison with the provincial governments of Sindh and Balochisan to resolve the problems of the port city. He said that the House should seek report of the committee.

“We want that the grievances of people should be resolved. However, commercial activities of Port Qasim should not be hampered. The government is making efforts for the livelihood of the people of Gwadar,” he said.