Barbs fly in Senate over Imran’s remarks

ISLAMABAD: Lawma­kers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) traded barbs in the Senate as members of various political parties continued to speak up against what they described as the denial of a level playing field for all candidates and the absence of adequate security for political leaders and candidates who faced threats to their lives.

Senator Saadia Abbasi, sister of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, took strong exception to PTI chief ,Imran Khan’s remarks,: “those greeting Nawaz Sharif are donkeys”.

She said that she would be shortly leaving for Lahore to greet PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, and added that 36 senators of the PML-N had already left for Lahore. “Are there 37 donkeys sitting in this House?” she asked, adding: “Is this the language of politicians?”

PTI’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Nauman Wazir retorted saying, what else should those greeting a convicted criminal be called. “Only corrupt people will support corrupt leaders,” he remarked.

He said it was inappropriate to glorify criminal behaviour in Pakistan. “This is what you are teaching to the young generations of Pakistan,” he remarked.

Mr Wazir also criticised Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPP) chief Asif Ali Zardari for stating in a TV show that the National Accountability Bureau could not dare hold an inquiry against him. Insisting that NAB had evidence of money laundering against Mr Zardari, he asked the Supreme Court registrar to explain why the investigation process against him had been stopped.

He deplored the surge in terrorism ahead of general elections and said it would continue to happen unless a plan was chalked out and implemented. “For now apparently there is no plan,” he remarked.

He said members of proscribed organisations were contesting elections and noted that those who had cleared them should be taken to task.

Leader of the opposition in the Senate Sherry Rehman criticised both the PTI and PML-N, saying that one party abused parliament while the other belittled it. She, however, spoke up against the arrests of PML-N activists ahead of Mr Sharif’s return to Pakistan.

She said Najaf Mirza who had tortured Asif Ali Zardari in jail was heading a joint investigation team against him. She sought an apology from caretaker Information Minister Barrister Ali Zafar for his remarks that the Senate had no mandate to oversee the Election Commission. She insisted that the Senate had the powers to oversee elections, election processes and the ECP, and asked the minister to take back his words.

Chief of the National Party Mir Hasil Bizenjo in his speech alleged that the caretakers had come with an agenda to rig the elections. “They are part and parcel of the crime being committed,” he said.

He added that those who had refused to accept dictates had to face NAB, while a certain political party had been given a complete walkover. He said there was a plan to sideline the entire political leadership to pave the way for the creation of a government of their choice.

Barrister Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, while referring to a series of terrorist attacks, said that such incidents took place prior to elections held in the country every time, and added that no lessons had been learnt from this history. He regretted that an institutional mechanism for agencies could not be developed.

Former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani regretted that 500 activists of a party had been arrested overnight and 150 containers had been placed at various points, but nothing effective could be done to improve the security environment.

He said some 200 people belonging to banned outfits were contesting elections. He said these outlawed organisations had not changed their stance with regard to violence and preservation of democracy.

He also referred to reports of a meeting between intelligence chiefs of Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran reportedly held in Islamabad and said the foreign office had expressed its ignorance over the meeting. “Where is the civilian government,” he asked.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2018

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