ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly speaker dismissed on Monday all references seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while sending similar references against two leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to the top poll supervisory body for action.
“After looking into the eight references I had received, I referred two to the Election Commission of Pakistan,” said Ayaz Sadiq, who belongs to the ruling PML-N, on Monday as he sent the references against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his senior aide Jahangir Tareen to the ECP for further ‘action as per the law’.
“It is the ECP which has to take a decision on my recommendations within 90 days,” he added.
Sadiq said the speaker office was neither a court nor an investigation agency. “The speaker takes a decision based on documentary evidence attached with a reference while keeping in view the rules to determine whether a question [as asked] arises or not,” he said.
“Available documentary evidence [in references against the PTI leaders] is enough and raises a question of disqualification,” Sadiq added. However, he clarified that while he had rejected the references against Nawaz, he had informed the ECP about them.
The speaker’s office had received eight references – half of them seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif allegedly for concealing assets, evading taxes, and laundering money. Two of these references had been filed by the PTI in the wake of Panama leaks, while one each was filed by Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid and a former MP, Umar Farooq
In a counter move, PML-N lawmakers had filed two references against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PTI Secretary General Jehangir Tareen. A citizen had filed a disqualification reference against PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai after he strongly criticized the country’s intelligence agencies on the floor of the National Assembly. The disqualification was sought both the opposition and government MPs under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
The speaker’s office had forwarded all eight references to the ECP with his comments, an ECP official told The Express Tribune. “The four references against Premier Nawaz have been rejected because the speaker declared ‘no question of disqualification arises in the face of available evidence submitted by the movers of the references’,” he said.
The speaker also rejected one reference each against Imran and Achakzai. The speaker’s move of rejecting the references can be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Earlier, during the National Assembly proceedings the speaker did not allow PTI lawmakers to speak on a point of order despite intervention of leader of opposition Khursheed Shah. “I will give them time when I feel it is appropriate,” said Sadiq prompting a walkout by PPP, PTI and Jamat-e-Islami MPs.
When the opposition MPS returned to the house after the lunch break, PTI’s Shafqat Mehmood, who had to plead his party’s case in the absence of other senior leaders, said he had high hopes that the speaker would act as the custodian of the house while putting aside his party affiliations.
“But I regret to note that you [speaker] are still standing at a position where you were before elections [ie, as member of the ruling party],” he said addressing the speaker. “You accommodate the treasury benches but quote rules when it comes to opposition,” which means “you are a judge in your own case”.
Mehmood briefly mentioned the Panamagate scandal, saying the prime minister had not declared properties of his dependents [Maryam Nawaz Sharif] in a statement of assets and that the PTI has filed an application on that basis. “We have serious reservations on your conduct and will consult others to come up with a plan of action,” he added.
Sheikh Rashid, whose reference against the prime minister was also rejected, said, “You [Ayaz Sadiq] have ruined the prestige of the speaker office.” However, Sadiq dismissed Rashid’s remarks saying: “Nothing happens on your saying.”
Responding to the opposition’s comments, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the PTI could not demand equity. “Those who demand equity must have clean hands. They [PTI] cannot demand equity,” he said.
The PTI had already walked out of the house for the second time, saying that the speaker’s decision was a departure from the parliamentary norms and traditions when Khawaja Asif mentioned the way PTI members had returned to parliament despite having resigned in August 2014.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2016.