Govt, opposition trade charges for making army controversial

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ISLAMABAD: Prevailing political heat in the country entered the Senate on Monday when lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, during an intense debate on the current situation after the opposition’s launching of the anti-government campaign, held an indirect debate on the alleged political role of the army and blamed each other for making the institution controversial in the country.

The upper house of parliament which met after a two-day recess could not take up even a single item on the 48-point agenda due to furious speeches made by opposition and treasury members one after the other for more than two hours after opposition leader Raja Zafarul Haq raised the issue of the arrest of retired Captain Muhammad Safdar, the spouse of PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, from a Karachi hotel late in the night and vehemently condemned it.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani was seen struggling in running the house smoothly and the proceedings were disrupted on several occasions when members interrupted each other and indulged in heated exchange of arguments without having the floor.

Alleging that the FIR against Captain Safdar had been registered by the police at the behest of the federal government and without the knowledge of the Sindh government after the kidnapping of the provincial police chief, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman called for referring the matter to a house committee for investigation.

Furious speeches in Senate made over Safdar’s arrest

The JUI-F senator alleged that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was itself dragging the army into politics by claiming that it had the complete backing of the institution.

Referring to the last week’s speech of Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Tiger Force Convention, the JUI-F senator said Mr Khan had levelled allegations against the army chief by stating that PML-N’s Kha­waja Asif had won his National Assembly seat from Sialkot after making a telephone call to Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Maulana Attaur Rehman, who is the brother of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said that all civil institutions were currently being headed by people from the armed forces.

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq said he found no difference in the speeches made by PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif at the Gujranwala public meeting and by Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Tiger Force Convention.

He expressed his surprise over complete silence by Khawaja Asif as well as the army chief after the prime minister’s statement that the former had won the election with the latter’s support.

Hitting back at the opposition a day after its first power show in Gujranwala, Prime Minister Khan had declared that he would get “tougher” with them and vowed to bring Nawaz Sharif back to the country and send him behind bars.

He had also announced that production orders would no more be issued for detained leaders to allow them to attend the sessions of parliament.

The prime minister had revealed that PML-N’s Khawaja Asif made a telephone call to the army chief on the night of the election and sought his help in winning the election.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator Usman Kakar said that the Constitution barred government employees, whether army generals or civil bureaucrats, from taking part in politics.

Earlier, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the Senate Sherry Rehman condemned the arrest of PML-N leader retired Captain Safdar in Karachi, saying that slogans of democracy should not frighten anyone.

After the first opposition’s public meeting, she said, the nation saw “the Tiger Farce (Force) circus and the second jalsa was such a blow to the government that it started giving threats and making arrests”.

PPP’s Raza Rabbani said that previously Balochs, Pashtoons and Sindhis were used to be declared traitors, but now the elite of Punjab was being dubbed traitors which was a dangerous sign.

PML-N parliamentary leader Mushahidullah Khan said that Nawaz Sharif had not talked against the army. Instead, he said, it was the PTI which was hiding behind the army due to its failures. He said there were at least 21 speeches of Prime Minister Khan in which he had talked against the army.

Mr Khan also asked the chair to give a ruling over the prime minister’s remarks that no production orders would be issued in future, saying that he had interfered in the powers of the chairman and the speaker and action should be taken against him.

PTI’s Faisal Javed said that those parties were now talking about democracy which themselves had come into power with the help of army generals.

Treasury Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar of the Balochistan Awami Party said that the opposition was not threatening institutions, but in fact “it is sending them a message”.

In his winding up speech, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan admitted that “civil-military imbalance” had been an issue in the country. The minister said that discussion could be held on the political role of the army, but regretted that Nawaz Sharif in his speech had raised questions over “professional capabilities of the armed forces” and held them responsible for the East Pakistan tragedy.

NA session: Earlier, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser adjourned the sitting of the lower house within minutes without taking up any agenda item when PPP’s Ghulam Mustafa pointed out lack of quorum.