ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan has said that Ayaz Sadiq can no longer be considered speaker National Assembly after acting ‘partially’ on the disqualification references against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Speaking in the lower house of parliament on Thursday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman announced he would not refer to Sadiq as the NA speaker anymore on his alleged discriminatory behaviour to save the premier and his family from corruption inquiry.
The speaker’s office had received four disqualification references filed by opposition parties against the PM for allegedly concealing assets, evading taxes and laundering money in the wake of Panama leaks.
In a counter move, two similar references were filed by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz against Imran and PTI Secretary General Jahangir Tareen.
On September 5, however, the NA speaker only referred the applications against PTI leaders to the election commission while dismissing those against the premier, declaring that the documentary evidence ‘did not add up’.
The decision angered the opposition, particularly the PTI and the Pakistan Peoples Party, which strongly protested against the speaker’s behaviour in an effort to ramp up pressure on the government over the Panama Papers scandal.
“Passing a reference against me and denying one against the prime minister has damaged the credibility of parliament as the speaker could have sent all the references but he did not,” Imran said.
He added that he no longer considered Sadiq as the NA speaker. “From today onwards, I will refer to him as Ayaz Sadiq instead of speaker,” he said, asking if the PM was clean why he was running away from accountability.
“By closing the doors of justice to the people, state institutions open doors of disarray in the country. People are losing trust in the country’s democracy,” he said, lamenting the absence of the NA speaker.
Presiding officer Pervaiz Malik had replaced Sadiq during the question hour as the latter had sensed a speech from the PTI chairman coming up in the house.
“Only strong institutions entailed democracy and development in countries,” said Imran, who himself came to parliament after April since his walkout when the PM announced he was available for an independent accountability.
Taking a jibe at Premier Nawaz, the PTI chief said the prime minister was busy inaugurating development projects instead of answering people on the Panama Papers, which named three Sharif scions for keeping assets in international tax havens.
Imran added it was the opposition’s right to raise its voice against violation of laws. “We are derided for doing our job,” he said while referring to the issue of Terms of Reference for the inquiry to investigate the Panama leaks.
“We have knocked at every door for an inquiry but all the watchdogs are overlooking what they are supposed to do,” Imran said. “We are left with no choice but to take to the streets.”
Sharing the details of his own offshore company, the PTI chief said he provided his assets’ information in 2011 and 2012 before the media. “I bought a flat [in UK through an offshore account] in 1983 when I was not holding any ministry or public office,” he said.
In contrast, he added, the PM and his children had been giving contradictory statements to the media about their offshore companies and flats in London.
After Imran’s speech, PTI Vice-President Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced a walkout against the speaker’s ‘biased’ ruling. Opposition lawmakers, except from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Fata, joined the token walkout.
The government, however, remained unmoved. Railways Minister Saad Rafique refuted all claims of the PTI chief, terming them a “pack of lies”. “We endorse the speaker’s decision and have faith in him,” he said.
Saad also suggested the opposition parties should sit together with the government to discuss the ToRs of Panama inquiry from both sides to reach an amicable solution. “The hostility would never bring any solution to the prevailing standoff,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2016.
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