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November 28, 2017
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PM in Jeddah, no one around to answer questions: Rabbani

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November 28, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani on Monday said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has flown to Jeddah, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and there is no one to answer the questions regarding the agreement reached between the government and organisers of the sit-in at Faizabad.

He said the PM should have been in Pakistan in view of the security situation and also deplored the absence of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal from the House.

Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani expressed displeasure at the government for overlooking the Senate with regards to the operation against the sit-in at Faizabad and the unfolding events afterwards.

“In fact, the prime minister himself should have come here to brief the House on this matter. A dangerous trend is being set that such a huge incident has happened and the members of parliament’s residences have been attacked but the minister concerned is not here to take the Senate on board on the events and the agreement signed with them,” he noted.

Rabbani recounted the sit-in related developments before the thinly-attended House and said that it was being expected that the interior minister, who appeared before the court within 15 minutes earlier in the day and revealed as to what exactly happened, would also take this House into confidence thereon.

“But it was disappointing and amazing. It is appalling and that is all I can say. Such a huge incident happened and the government does not want to take the House into confidence. Then what are we doing here.

The entire country was at a standstill and the army chief had to intervene and then an agreement was signed,” he recalled.

He lamented the government was not interested in taking the matters forward, whereas despite the blockade of roads, the Senate staff was brought here under a special arrangement to give the message that parliament was functioning.

He called for building a national narrative to cope with challenges faced by the country, saying the new trend set by the government to deal with a handful of protesters through an agreement is a direct threat to the state.

Rabbani went on to say that the role of the military and above all the government's decision to end the protest through a written agreement was not only a matter of grave concern but also a serious threat to politics, to democracy and to the state.

He asserted, “We never saw such a trend before, and the trend which we are witnessing today is not only dangerous for the political class, for teething democracy but it is also quite dangerous for the state.”

Chairman Senate said that time has come and intellectuals, politicians, and all other stakeholders must sit together for building a national narrative, in which parliament should have a key role.

He continued that the role of the government is pathetic as it is not giving priority to an institution which could be its strength in difficult times but even then, it will be parliament which will ‘protect, preserve and defend’ the Constitution.

“Parliament will carry forward the democratic system no matter what. No other system whether it is technocrat or Gen Musharraf formula, is workable. The 1973 Constitution will always remain on the top,” he maintained.

The writ of the state, which Rabbani acknowledged, has been eroded, can only be restored through parliament in light of the guiding principles put forth in the 1973 Constitution.

He said that parliament must not be taken for granted, adding if a court can issue a contempt notice, the parliament can also slap the minister with a contempt notice for not taking it into confidence in the wake of such important developments.

“Parliament should be informed why the government had to call in the army? What forced it to disperse the mob through an agreement? The PM is out of the country. Is the Jeddah summit more important or this parliament? He is accountable before this House under the Constitution,” he asserted.

State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry said that while the prime minister was abroad, the minister for interior was not around.

The treasury senators, except leader of the house Raja Zafarul Haq, remained tight-lipped, as opposition senators lambasted the government for its failure to handle the sit-in protesters and for paving the way for the military to step in to defuse the tension.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar of PPPP termed as unwise the press release of the telephonic call to the prime minister, advising that the sit-in be handled peacefully.

He said that the term ‘both sides’ equates the dharna people already declared as terrorists by the Islamabad High Court with the legitimate government that is constitutionally bound to protect the life, property and honor of citizens.

Babar said that the institutions must speak to one another through available mechanisms and not through the media. Even if the talk was necessary, there was no need for issuing any press release which could be misinterpreted, he said.

He said that a judicial probe should be held in all dharnas of 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 to expose if there were hidden hands behind them.

While commenting on the agreement between the government and dhrana protesters, Senator Farhatullah Babar said the agreement between the legal and constitutional government on the one hand and the unlawful assembly of protesters on the other hand was an abject surrender of the government. “This had set a dangerous precedent for the state and society” he said.

Under the agreement, he said all cases against protesters will be withdrawn while cases will be registered against the government functionaries who ordered deployment of police and the FC to disperse demonstrators. “The state and society must wake up to this new reality in the political landscape,” he said.

PTI’s Senator Azam Swati said that it speaks volume of the interior minister’s incompetence who is the captain of the team but held his subordinate officers responsible for launching the operation on court orders.

He said that the government left no stone unturned to re-elect a disqualified man as the head of the party, but it acted as a silent spectator to disperse the protesters, adding fresh elections is the only solution to end the chaos in the country.

Raja Zafarul Haq hit hard at the PTI saying the party, which held 126 days’ sit-in, is now declaring it unconstitutional. He pacified the enraged Senate chairman saying the sit-in issue is yet to be completely resolved, and the interior minister could not make it to the house as he was there.

Barrister Muhamamd Ali Saif of MQM-P questioned setting free Khadim Rizvi. Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini of BNP-Mengal said that whether politicians, clerics or anybody else, they all cannot confront those who have always been powerful.

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