ISLAMABAD: Incensed by the interior minister’s absence to brief the upper house on the government’s agreement with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik protesters, the Senate chairman launched a tirade against the government saying that the precedent will not only be devastating for democracy but for the state as well.
To check such wrong precedents, all political parties and intellectuals would have to sit together to come up with a new narrative in which parliament would have a pivotal role, he stated.
“Parliament would have to re-establish the writ of the state damaged today,” Rabbani remarked, after members of different parties castigated the government for what they called mishandling of the situation.
The Senate chairman lambasted the government’s “surrender to a handful of protesters”, and said that the role of the military in ending the protest through a written agreement was a direct threat to democracy. He termed the government’s role in the whole saga as “pathetic”.
Supreme Court takes notice of Faizabad sit-in
Rabbani also deplored that the interior minister reached the court on a short notice of 15 minutes but did not bother to appear before parliament to take it into confidence.
“Parliament will carry forward the democratic system no matter what. No other system, whether it is technocratic or General (retd) Musharraf formula, the 1973 constitution will always remain on top,” he maintained.
Earlier, at the onset of proceedings which started almost an hour behind the scheduled time, he asked State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry the whereabouts of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.
To this, Chaudhry replied that Iqbal was on a flight and requested the chairman to give the government a day to brief the House.
Rabbani reprimanded Talal, saying, “What has happened is not a small thing. Residences of lawmakers were attacked, some ministers had to submit resignations and the army chief had to intervene, and there is no one here to take this house into confidence.”
Inconclusive debate will be futile: Rabbani
The Senate chairman added that the prime minister should have come to brief the upper house rather than going to Saudi Arabia. “Was the Jeddah summit more important than the internal situation of the country,” he asked.
Rabbani said that the government should explain why it was forced to disperse the mob through such an agreement when it had already called the army for assistance.
Apart from Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq, no treasury member came to the defence of the government when the opposition members started grilling it.
PTI’s Shibli Fraz said, “This agreement has given an impression that the civilian government is incapable of handling anything and it is only the armed forces that can deal with the situation.”
MQM’s Senator Tahir Mashahadi remarked that the court had asked the government to end the sit-in, and not to sign an agreement.
PTI’s Azam Swati said, “It speaks volumes of the interior minister’s incompetence, who is the captain of the team, but is holding his subordinate officers responsible for launching the operation on court orders.”
Faizabad sit-in: IHC issues contempt notice to Ahsan Iqbal
He said the government left no stone unturned to reelect a disqualified man as head of the party, but acted as a silent spectator to disperse the protesters. He added that a fresh election was the only solution to end chaos in the country.
To this, Raja Zafar hit hard on the PTI saying, “The party which held a 126-day sit-in is now declaring the agreement as unconstitutional.”
Meanwhile, PPP’s Senator Farhatullah Babar termed it unwise of the military to issue a press release of the telephonic call of army chief to the prime minister. In the call, Gen Qamar had advised the two sides to handle the situation peacefully and avoid violence.
“There is no doubt that the interior minister mishandled the situation but his error of judgment is no reason to equate the two sides,” he said, adding that the civil-military leaders must speak to one another through available mechanisms and not through the media.
At the end the Senate was prorogued sine die.
Fatigue creeps into Faizabad sit-in
Monday’s proceedings of the house revolved around the agreement reached between the government and the protestors. As a result, the Senate was once again not able to take up the 24th amendment bill, under which seats for the National Assembly had to be allocated in accordance with the provisional results of the census 2017.
A parliamentary leaders meeting was also held before the start of the session but a consensus over the agreement could not be developed.