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Friday April 19, 2024

Ruckus in Senate over SC’s suo motu notice, call for full bench

PTI Senator Faisal Javed said Imran Khan had never opposed the demand for the formation of a full bench

By Mumtaz Alvi
April 04, 2023
The inside view of the Senate of Pakistan. Photo: The News/File
The inside view of the Senate of Pakistan. Photo: The News/File

ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition in the Senate Monday traded barbs on the issues relating to alleged trade with Israel and the Supreme Court’s suo motu notice of a delay in elections and the formation of a full bench.

Pakistan Tehreek Insaf’s Mohsin Aziz raised the issue of the reported shipment by a Pakistani Jewish businessman to Israel, and Leader of the Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem claimed India had written a threatening letter to Pakistan for amendments to the Indus Water Treaty and wanted a bilateral engagement now.

PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz and Dr Shahzad Waseem asked Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to give a policy statement on the issue of trade with Israel in the House, with which Pakistan had no diplomatic or trade relations.

They contended that the state of Pakistan has neither recognised nor established trade or diplomatic relations with Israel, and then how could a Jewish Pakistani businessman send the shipment to Israel?

On a point of public importance, Senator Aziz said that both the prime minister and foreign minister should state if this happened or not. He said if no direct trade happened, even then Pakistani products would reach Israel, and this trade should be stopped. “We have a principled stance on Palestine and will remain the same in the future, and we will tolerate no leniency on this,” he made it clear.

The opposition leader pointed out that there were reports that India has made many violations of the Indus Water Treaty and Pakistan has not responded to them. He quoted some unconfirmed reports and said India has written a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, in which some dangerous conditions have been placed, and a deadline of nine days has also been given to him, but no response has yet been given by Pakistan.

The letter, he continued, was not being made public, but it was being reported that there would be some serious consequences if Pakistan did not meet certain deadlines. He also sought that the government issues a policy statement on this.

Rising in his seat, ex-prime minister and PPP Senator Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said that the Foreign Office in a statement has categorically denied any trade with Israel and ruled out any such happening. There is no room for a further explanation after the clarification of FO, he said.

To this, the opposition leader argued that the Foreign Office has given a traditional statement that Pakistan has no diplomatic or trade relations with Israel.

“The issue is that a Pakistani has sent Pakistani products on his own to Israel. The question is whether a Pakistani is above the state and what the response should be from the state if a citizen acts on his own against the policy of the government.

He recalled that a Pakistani had accompanied a foreign delegation to Israel and wanted to know what action was taken against him. He wondered what measures the state was taking to stop such incidents. He also said that there were serious threats to national security in the wake of violations of the Indus Water Treaty. He said that India wanted to change the treaty, and there were concerns over it from Pakistan as the ruling coalition was perhaps showing its weakness. He demanded that the government give its response.

Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani ruled that the opposition should raise the issue under a parliamentary tool, and then the ministry concerned will give a response to these issues next week.

PTI Senator Aun Abbas came hard on the government for its alleged repressive actions against his party leaders and workers and also feared a repeat of what he called PMLN workers storming the Supreme Court was on the cards.

He said his party stood behind the judiciary while a stage was being set to attack the apex court again. He also referred to the recent incidents in and around Zaman Park and warned that if the gate and walls of Zaman Park could be razed, the walls of Bilawal House and Jati Umra would also not be spared.

Similarly, he raged that if the mothers and sisters of PTI leaders were not safe, those of others could face the same fate. Responding to his hard-hitting speech, PMLN Senator Afnan Ullah, who is the son of the late Mushahid Ullah, criticised the higher judiciary for what he alleged was its ‘judicial activism’. He said that a Chief Justice of Pakistan had even once permitted the martial law dictator to rewrite the Constitution.

He charged that the judiciary had a dark history, and following its tradition, it had ousted then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a frivolous case. “Who gave you the right to remove an elected prime minister?” he asked.

Those talking about law and the Constitution, he continued, had conspired to oust the then government of the PMLN. He slammed the PTI and alleged that the opposition party even had attacked the judicial complex recently and that they were not giving them lessons in judicial independence.

“The country has been facing problems due to the wrong decisions of the judiciary. The apex court even tried to rewrite the Constitution by giving a judgment on the law of floor crossing that helped the PTI regain government in the Punjab Assembly,” he claimed.

He wondered what the reason was that the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial, was not forming the full court on the issue of the holding of elections in Punjab. Another PMLN legislator, Rana Maqbool, referred to the matter of the poll delay and said four judges had already ruled against a suo motu in the case and opined that three judges going against it could not change the situation.

He cautioned that what was happening in the Supreme Court was not good for the prestige of judges and the judiciary. He continued that if a judge wants to become a follower, he should become a follower of Hamidur Rahman, Robert Cornelius, Nasir ul Mulk, Ajmal Mian, or Rana Bhagwan Das and not of Saqib Nisar or Irshad Hasan Khan.

He emphasised that the judiciary has a constructive role to play, and when it turns out to be destructive, it ruins nations. He claimed the formation of a full bench to hear the case was a popular demand.

In response to him, PTI Senator Faisal Javed said Imran Khan had never opposed the demand for the formation of a full bench, as the PTI trusted all judges, unlike the ruling coalition.

He said they (rulers) wanted just decisions of their choice. He regretted that they talk about benches but ignore the benchmarks set by the constitution. He continued to hold elections within 90 days after the dissolution of an assembly, which was a requirement under the constitution.

“If you deviate from the Constitution, it will continue to happen, and Pakistan will become a banana republic,” he warned. He came down hard on the ruling coalition for mounting alleged attacks against the judiciary and said there was a need to stand by the Constitution. The House will now meet again Tuesday morning.