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January 2, 2021

Senate witnesses heated debate on Kh Asif’s arrest

Top Story

January 2, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Senate opposition on Friday termed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) where no law applied, while the treasury asserted the opposition would not get an NRO for their ill-gotten wealth come what may.

The opposition-requisitioned session’s first sitting was confined to paying tribute to late Senator Kalsoom Parveen. Opposition Leader Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq presented the agenda and also opened the debate.

Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani presided over the eventful session. The House witnessed a heated debate on the arrest of PML-N leader Khawaja Asif. Senators from the treasury benches grilled the leaders of two mainstream opposition parties for joining hands after passing harsh remarks against each other in the past.

They alleged that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz were struggling to save their fathers and thattheir struggle was not for democracy or the country. It was also alleged that the NAB chairman was being blackmailed to target the opposition after the scandal surrounding the leak of his ‘audio and video clips’, and this was how he was forced to obey the orders he received through WhatsApp.

One opposition senator said an accountability institution was vital for a strong democracy but the process had to be transparent. He referred to the wheat flour, sugar and medicines scams, and asked as to why no action had been taken against those responsible.

“Where are the inquiry reports,” he asked. Senator Zafarul Haq said the opposition’s agenda was not against any individual but an institution and if its trend continued this way, then it would create more unrest, divisions and vitiate the environment.

“Unfortunately, it is a trend to hold the media trial of a person without following the due course of law and hence an out-of-court trial is begun. Not only ordinary people, but also the chief justice of Pakistan and other judges have termed the entire process one-sided,” he pointed out.

Referring to Khawaja Asif, Zafarul Haq said he already knew that he could be arrested anytime. He emphasised that it was not right to target specific people and ridicule them by putting them in jail.

He noted that it was also in front of everyone how Khawaja Asif was arrested. “Khawaja Asif was called during the meeting and told that some people were calling him. Khawaja Asif said he knew he could be taken into custody anytime,” he said.

Responding to his speech, Leader of the House Dr Shehzad Waseem said it was repeatedly said that the NAB was used but ‘let me again remind it that chairman NAB was not appointed by us’.

He said while Imran Khan was opposition leader, he faced a case and appeared before the courts for a year and produced related documents and the judge had to call him Sadiq and Ameen. The senator said there were similarities with reference to Khawaja Asif case and Panama revelations.

“Fake companies were created here. Fake accounts were created in the name of employees; the opposition should not attack institutions but serve them by clearing their name,” he continued.

Dr Shehzad Waseem claimed that the people had rejected outright the opposition and the monarchy and hereditary politics. He criticised PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz and said she once said, “I own no property in Pakistan what to talk of having in London” and then she was caught in forgery. “Every day, a new lie and a new scandal comes to light.” he said.

Maryam Nawaz, he noted, went to Benazir Bhutto's shrine. “She was expected to apologise for what her family had done to Benazir. The opposition's drama of resignations has failed. There would be the Senate election and the PTI would come to this House with majority.”

JUI-F Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri asserted that the government could not be run while hiding behind the army. He said it was unfortunate that the army was being defamed by saying that the army and institutions were standing with the government. He claimed Fazlur Rehman’s life was like an open book and that he was being targeted for talking to those straight, who had imposed the selected on the nation.

“The NAB arrests politicians, grills them and then says in the end, nothing could be proved against them. We will not appear before the NAB even if we are torn into pieces. We do not believe in an institution that will throw our turbans and conduct our trial on political basis. You have destroyed economy and you can’t run country by telling lies,” he maintained. He said the NAB was trampling human rights and strongly condemned Khawaja Asif's arrest.

He noted how Geo/Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested. "Whosoever, shows them the mirror, they mind it. For one year, he was in jail and no one listened to him," he added.

Federal Minister Murad Saeed rose to say that in the past, the NAB, FBR, SECP and the parliament were used to cover up their corruption and pile up wealth.

“The Panama case did not start with the NAB's press release. Did Imran Khan make the fake accounts case?” he asked. He asked why a foreign minister and defence minister (Khawaja Asif) had an iqama and asked him to justify why his assets were more than his income.

The minister recalled that in the government of Ms. Benazir Bhutto, someone became a minister and was declared Mr. 10 percent. How the development money of Sindh was seen in a fake account and went out through money laundering, he asked. This led to a noisy scene in the House, as PPP senators agitated on this.

Murad Saeed said in the case of Khawaja Asif, the question was why he did not have iqama if he was minister of defense and foreign minister. Khawaja Asif, he noted, had properties in Islamabad, Gujranwala and Sialkot and elsewhere.

“You built properties all over the world and took kickbacks from here. Would you target institutions instead of responding?” He reminded that the opposition voted against the FATF, as the government did not accept their ‘document of corruption’.

“They took to the streets and set up circuses; they target the army, judiciary and the parliament.” The minister tore apart a document, which he said was a set of amendments proposed by the opposition to undo NAB but this was unacceptable to the government. “You will not get NRO, come what may,” he said.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator Usman Kakar called the government unconstitutional and illegal and all its actions unconstitutional and illegal. He asserted that over a week was required for discussion about the black deeds of NAB. He then demanded investigation into the assets of all generals involved in the Afghan war including Ziaul Haq, Akhtar Abdul Rehman, Hameed Gul and Colonel Imam and others

He said the assets of officers, who had served in the war zones including erstwhile FATA and Balochistan, should also be probed. He demanded that the assets of former army chiefs, including Gen Pervez Musharraf, General Raheel Sharif, former ISI chief Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha and former chief justice Saqib Nisar should also be investigated.

Senator Kakar said the PDM would not only compel the government to resign but would also force the establishment to accept the parliament’s supremacy, so that none in future would be able to come into power using the clutches of intelligence agencies. Like Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, he also wanted a law for an across-the-board accountability of all including politicians, judges, generals and bureaucrats.