PML-N, PPP senators bicker over Musharraf exit

Source: Published in Politics on Wednesday, April 20, 2016

ISLAMABAD: On Tuesday the Senate saw the country’s two main political parties – the PML-N and the PPP – engage in a blame game over their failure to hold former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf accountable for subverting the Constitution.

Opposition senators mostly from the PPP accused the PML-N government of succumbing to pressure and allowing Mr Musharraf to leave the country under a deal.

The treasury senators, in turn, alleged that the PPP during its tenure presented a guard of honour to the military dictator in exchange for the National Reconciliation Ordinance, which was promulgated by Mr Musharraf after an agreement with the PPP.

Senate to hold in-camera debate on arrest of self-confessed Indian spy today

Opening the discussion on his motion on the implications of Mr Musharraf’s exit from the country, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar suggested the formation of a parliamentary committee to hold a frank, and in-camera , dialogue between the political leadership and the security establishment on the growing disconnect between the two.

He regretted that both the government and the Supreme Court were passing the buck to each other on allowing Mr Musharraf to travel abroad. Mr Babar said Mr Musharraf’s exit underscored a new political statement: that a military dictator in the future could subvert the Constitution and escape a treason trial even if the parliament and the courts had demanded it.

“This new disturbing political statement that no dictator in future can be tried under Article 6 must not be allowed to gain roots,” he said.

He also questioned the timing of the sit-in staged by the PTI against alleged rigging soon after Mr Musharraf’s motorcade was mysteriously diverted toward a government hospital in Rawalpindi instead of heading to court.

“Whether it was planned and orchestrated or not, the net effect was that the sit-in had undermined the civil forces and strengthened undemocratic forces. It made the civilian set-up vulnerable and too weak to pursue the treason trial,” he added.

Usman Kakar, from the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, said Mr Musharraf’s departure had proved that the law of ‘might is right’ prevailed in the country. He held the higher judiciary responsible for his exit.

Mr Kakar alleged that Mr Musharraf was a “murderer” of democracy, the Constitution, Akbar Bugti and those killed in Karachi on May 12, 2007.

He also criticised the government for surrendering parliament’s right to formulate interior and foreign policy, and making compromises after PTI’s sit-in which, according to him, was successful because undemocratic forces achieved their goal.

Responding to the attack on his party, PTI’s Mohsin Aziz offered a full fledged debate in the house, on the protest sit-in the party had organised against alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections.

Mr Aziz asked the government to tell the nation why it succumbed to pressure regarding Mr Musharraf’s trial. “Do not blame others for your own weakness,” he said.

Nehal Hashmi from the PML-N opined that it was the power of Article 6 that forced Mr Musharraf to flee the country. He said the judiciary was so powerful it could send an elected prime minister packing.

Karim Khawaja, PPP, suggested that the government approach the International Court of Justice against Mr Musharraf.

Babar Awan of the PPP said Mr Musharraf, soon after reaching Dubai, thanked the government – and not the courts – for removing his name from the exit control list.

Winding up the debate, State Minister for Interior Balighur Rehman said the government allowed Mr Musharraf to leave in light of the Supreme Court order.

He said the Sindh High Court had allowed the former president to travel abroad, and the federal government had appealed the decision in the Supreme Court. He argued that the PML-N government fought the case under Article 6 for two years.

Mr Rehman said the PPP government had given a guard of honour to the former dictator, while the present government had begun his trial. He also stated that the government would not compromise on the matter of Mr Musharraf’s trial.

‘RAW agent’

The Senate will hold an in-camera discussion on Wednesday on a number of adjournment motions regarding last month’s arrest of a self-confessed Indian spy, Kulbhushan Jadev, in Balochistan.

Opposing debate on the motions, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said earlier that he had already briefed the Senate defence committee on the issue, which was “sensitive in nature”.

He told the house that the spy’s arrest had led to other leads and networks of foreign agents, which are being dismantled.

In his ruling, the Senate chairperson said that if a standing committee could be briefed, then why not the upper house.

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