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Govt, opposition sling mud at each other in Senate over Safdar’s arrest

By Mumtaz Alvi
October 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Insinuations and insults echoed in the Senate on Monday between the two sides of the aisle, as the joint opposition claimed that the two public meetings of the Pakistan Democratic Movement had ‘shaken legs of the rulers’, prompting them to act nervously and play with provincial autonomy to arrest PML-N’s captain (R) Muhammad Safdar.

PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said the prime minister’s statement that ‘I am democracy’ was the extreme of fascism and then making mention of the Tiger Force, which Mussolini and Hitler had also raised and afterwards what happened to them was recorded in history.

The charged parliamentary leaders of the opposition parties slammed the government for the arrest of captain (R) Safdar from a hotel room in Karachi in wee hours, billing it as an act of fascism. The Centre was accused of doing such act in the name of Sindh government.

Federal Minister for Narcotics Control Muhammad Azam Swati asserted that facts could not be covered up by speaking loudly and that the thieves would face humiliation wherever they would be.

He said Sindh government should have been praised for acting in accordance with the law. “We are standing with the security institutions and will defend them,” he said.

The two sides engaged in blame-game over the last day’s PDM leaders’ visit of the Mazar of the Quaid-e-Azam and alleged hullabaloo there while the opposition reminded the ruling PTI of how their chairman had conducted himself and his party workers at the Mazar before he became premier.

The prime minister was criticized for his remark of ‘I am democracy’ and that he would not allow production order to opposition members, asking for a statement from the Senate chairman and NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, as it was their prerogative.

It was a private members day with 49 items listed on the orders of the day. However, none could be taken up as legislators from the opposition and the government engaged themselves in a war of allegations and counter-allegations in the process. Some terms used by both sides had to be expunged by Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani.

PPP Parliamentary Leader Senator Sherry Rehman strongly condemned Safdar’s arrest and said, “The federal government saying that 'we are not the followers of Quaid-e-Azam' is ironic, as they are the ones who are openly disrespecting the law and the constitution. What they are doing is against the Quaid’s message and actions. Slogans of democracy should not frighten anyone. PPP, Sindh government, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and all our party workers strongly condemn such arrests”.

She questioned, “What kind of an arrest was this where door locks were broken to enter in a private space. What was the urgency? All lines are being crossed. What kind of democracy is this? Sindh government is holding an inquiry into the matter. We will not allow the federal government to do such acts in our name”.

“What is this government shivering in its shoes for? First jalsa saw their tiger farce circus where they broke doors and smashed equipment. Second jalsa was such a blow to the government that they started threats and arrests. This is how neo-fascism runs riot, with armed vigilante groups running riot in the name of regulating people,” she contended.

She noted that the party which had held the federal capital hostage for 126 days was now threatened by just two peaceful and democratic rallies. They had started arrests and are threatening us with tiger farce. How can a democracy be run by threats?

About the Karachi jalsa, she pointed out that the number of people were increasing with each jalsa. Why are they so nervous?! We have many more public meetings planned. “The party has just begun. We are neither protesting on roads nor are we blocking traffic. It is the federal government, which has paralysed the economy,” she said.

Senator Sherry regretted that media voices were being curbed and regulated, while public money was being wasted on endless advertisements to block media space. “How many channels will you block or buy? What all will be blocked? The truth will come out,” she said while highlighting the media censorship.

The government, she continued, was unable to run its offices let alone the country. “We are a part of this country. Your threats and arrests will not scare our workers. The world is laughing at this incompetent government and is questioning why a peaceful movement like ours is being stopped,” she noted and asked had the PTI-led government forgotten how it ransacked PTV and attacked offices. They have torn and thrown bills, urged people to start civil disobedience. Have they forgotten it all? They need to grow up and digest democratic protest. This PTI Taqseem Sarkar is dividing our country,” she added.

Senator Sherry remarked, “How can the PM say that he stands for democracy when this is what he is doing. "Has he not heard of what happened to Louis XVI, who used to say 'I am the state’." You have to answer the country at one point, do not forget this. You have made two Pakistans, one for yourself and one for us, the majority. That is the truth, your majority is not real. You have to answer the country at one point, do not forget this”.

PML-N parliamentary leader Senator Mushahidullah Khan said what happened in Karachi was not unexpected, as after the Gujranwala meeting, the worries of prime minister and his ministers had increased manifold.

“Then, perhaps it happened for the first time that a prime minister said he will not spare while a party is in PTI government’s alliance, whose workers had burnt Pak flag,” he noted. He decried the arrest of Safdar and condemned it, recalling that slogans of go Nawaz go" were chanted in Masjid-e-Nabwi (SAW) and Khana Kaaba and added the anger among people for what this government had done to them was now pouring out in PDM meetings.

He said the prime minister’s statement on issuance of production order was a great injustice to the offices of Senate chairman and NA speaker. It was like bulldozing their officers. He urged Sanjrani that a reference should be sent on this against premier.

At one time, exchange of hot words and even insults marred the House proceedings and Senator Mushahidullah claimed that Minister Azam Swati could not enter the US for he had been declared a proclaimed offender there. Noise from both sides of the aisle was deafening at one time.

He said that Nawaz Sharif had not spoken against the army but Imran’s clips were still available, who had spoken against the army and ISI in India and US as well. “You are trying to pull in the army because you are so weak now and can’t stand on your legs. The army does not belong to PTI or any political party, it belongs to the state the country,” he asserted.

Raza Rabbani condemned the arrest of Safdar and said the way it was done had reminded them of the era of Zia. He pointed out that the act regarding the Quaid’s Mausoleum had been invoked for the first time and an FIR was registered.

He noted that clips were available when Imran Khan had visited the mazar and there was slogan-chanting there, calling for equal application of the act.

He pointed out there was a reference to the Quaid’s heritage and Indian narrative and that of traitors and that this trend was on since the time of British imperialism, who would declare all those struggling for freedom and liberty as traitors.

“And, when Pakistan came into being, the elite class gave this title to those, who launched struggle for their rights and control over their resources in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh, where people were called security risk as well,” he said.

PTI Senator Faisal Javed termed the opposition leadership jobless ones and added they were desperate after finding it impossible to indulge in money-laundering and corruption.

He said the acts of PML-N leaders at the Quaid’s Mausoleum were shameful and must be condemned. He called the PDM Karachi public meeting as jalsi (small rally) and recalled what he called the biggest ever public meeting in Karachi held by Imran Khan in 2011. He alleged the leaders of PPP and PML-N were nurtured by the military dictators, whereas Imran Khan became PM after his 22-year genuine struggle.

JUI-Fazl Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman, who is younger brother of JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman, called for probing the alleged kidnapping of IG Sindh and involvement of additional IG with regard to arrest of Safdar.

He alleged that there was hardly any institution, which was not headed by a retired officer of an institution.

“If they are to run the country, then the Parliament should be shut,” he said. PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz asserted that none would ever resort to hullabaloo at the grave of his parents and the Quaid was the Father of the Nation and his mausoleum should have been respected but it was not. He asked the PPP leadership, had they ever asked PML-N about the buses they had been hurling at Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and dollars 120 million kickbacks by Sharifs from Abraaj Group.