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Opposition in Upper House passes resolution against reference: Government loses in Senate

Top Story

June 1, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Senate and the National Assembly on Friday witnessed pandemonium on the issue of filing of references against the superior judiciary judges as an important government bill faced defeat and the opposition passed its own resolution.

Amid loud shouts of disapproval by the treasury legislators, the Senate adopted by majority a resolution moved by the opposition, strongly condemning the government’s filing of references against the superior judiciary judges and termed the move as mala fide and politically-motivated.

“The Senate of Pakistan strongly condemns the references filed by the government against the upright and independent judges of the superior judiciary before the Supreme Judicial Council,” the resolution said.

Through the resolution, carrying signatures of opposition parties in the House, the joint opposition said, “While supporting across the board accountability, the Senate feels that these targeted references are mala fide and politically-motivated. They are a direct attack on the independence of judiciary and aimed at stifling the voices of reason, truth and justice in the highest judiciary.”

The resolution reads, “The Senate expresses full solidarity with the judiciary, lawyers’ elected representatives and bar councils of the country and we are with them in this struggle.”

Towards the end of the eventful one-day session, Leader of Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq of the PML-N rose to move a motion for tabling of the resolution. Despite reservations expressed by Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz, who insisted that they would have been at least consulted or shown the draft resolution, the Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani allowed him to read out the resolution.

Shibli Faraz said the traditions of the House should be followed and at least the leader of the House be taken into confidence and this was what the courtesy demanded. “Unfortunately, today, the House has been made a Raajawara (cattle-shed),” asserted the leader of the House. “You can bring a resolution of disapproval,” suggested the chair to the protesting lawmakers, belonging to the treasury side.

The senators on both sides of the aisle, traded allegations and counter-allegations, when the government wanted to get the Islamabad High Court Amendment Bill passed, which envisages increase in the number of judges.

Shibli Faraz, Faisal Javed, Nauman Wazir Khattak and Mohsin Aziz came hard on the government for resisting passage of a bill, which had passed through the due process and would address the issue of pending cases, as each judge of the IHC had 850 pending cases and there were some 1.8 million pending cases overall in the Supreme Court and lower courts. They alleged that the prime objective of the opposition senators was to protect their leadership from accountability and cover up their corruption, having nothing to do with the issues, related to the common man in the courts or elsewhere.

Azam Swati rose to point out that the bill would lapse, if not passed by June 04 while there would be Eid holidays, barring the government from getting it passed during stipulated 90 days. He noted that already, Leader of the House agreed to keep the bill on Housing Authority pending on the request of the opposition, as there was time factor or urgency involved but the IHC amendment bill would be killed, if not adopted by June 04.

He alleged the opposition was only doing point-scoring on pieces of legislation and there was nothing like going by merit, as the relevant standing committees had held thorough deliberations and all of its members, had signed the reports on these bills. Shibli Faraz, Azam Swati and Faisal Javed questioned the justification of the standing committees, if these were to be rendered irrelevant by the opposition. They sought the chair’s ruling on making the House committees non-functional.

The PPP Senators Farooq H Naek, Sherry Rehman and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar rejected the treasury benches’ allegations that the opposition was against the legislation and contended that the standing committees had their due value and importance, but these could not take the right of voting and consideration of the House away. They wondered why the government did not fill the three vacant seats of the judges of the Islamabad High Court so far. Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said the law minister had made a commitment before the standing committee that an amendment for filling the judges’ posts locally was also to be brought, which was not part of the committee report presented in the House. He said there were certain steps taken by the government which gave way to apprehensions, and claimed that the law minister with his signature had moved a summary to the president for removal SC judges, for the government did not like their judgments or had differences with them, as some opposition members chanted shame, shame.

“At a time when the government is trying to attack the judiciary, how can it expect from the opposition to cooperate with it. The opposition will not allow the government to stifle the judiciary and bring in judges of their liking while already they had attacked Justice Qazi Faez Isa and KK Agha,” he said.

Shibli Faraz said the impression he got from the arguments given by Sherry Rehman and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar was that there was a difference of opinion between the two, as one talked of taking judges from all across Pakistan, while the other insisted for appointment of judges locally. He charged that the opposition was trapped in with regard to accountability, whereas they had played with the judiciary and the judges. “They have always changed their stances in the committees and then in the House, keeping in view their leadership and not the masses,” he alleged.

Shibli Faraz asked the chair to go for voting to get the opposition exposed before the masses.

“Let them use their tyranny of majority on legislation, which concerns masses,” he said.

The chair then put the IHC amendment bill for voice vote and it was rejected, as the opposition senators outnumbered the treasury benches. This led to pandemonium in the House with senators on both sides of the divide rising in their seats to criticise one another.

Earlier, on the persistent insistence by the opposition senators, who sought time to go through the report on the government bill on the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority, the government agreed to keep the bill pending till next session. However, some treasury senators regretted the opposition’s alleged bid to delay the passage of the legislation, which they claimed was purely in the public interest.

The National Assembly also presented the scene of a fish market due to confrontation between members from the two sides of the House on issues of references against judges and demand of production orders of Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar.

A scuffle-like situation erupted when members from the opposition and treasury benches reached in front of dais of the speaker. The proceedings of the House on Friday lasted from 30 minutes and Acting Speaker Qasim Suri read presidential orders to prorogue the session.

The uproar in the National Assembly began when Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan while responding to a question during the question hour pointed his guns towards leaders of the PTM calling them ‘touts’ of Afghanistan.

The opposition members including Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and all those sitting in front rows stood in their seats as a protest against Ali Muhammad’s remarks. Bilawal started speaking without mic due to which his voice which was not audible. He condemned the minister for what he said misusing the opportunity of getting floor during the question hour.

In order to tackle protest from the opposition benches, the members of the MQM and PTI hailing from Karachi while carrying placards reached in front of speaker’s dais. The placards were inscribed with slogans of ‘Give water to Karachi’ and other slogans against the Sindh government.

The PPP parliamentarians led by Agha Rafiullah, who was elected from Karachi, reached the dais and tore placards while trying to snatch them from the PTI and MQM members while they also attempted to push out protesting members from the House. The physical contact did not worsen, but no government member could get the opportunity to speak in the House.

Speaking on floor of the House, Ali Muhammad Khan said that Pakistan hosted Afghan refugees for 40 years and faced many problems. He questioned whether Afghanistan could give any sacrifice for the neighbouring country. He said that body of police officer Tahir Dawar was found in Afghanistan. He questioned whether the body of Tahir Dawar should be handed over to the Pakistani authorities or ‘tout’ of Afghanistan.

Ali Muhammad said those who disgraced Pakistan’s national flag and do not believe in two-nation theory had no right to live in Pakistan. He also demanded expulsion of Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir as Members of the National Assembly as he said trouble-makers have no right to come to the Parliament. He said attack on the security forces will never be tolerated.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri told the House that the speaker’s office had been apprised of arrest of Ali Wazir. He said Ali Wazir was taken into custody by concerned authorities on charges of murder attempt, terrorism and 16 MPO.

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