ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday strongly criticised the superior judiciary for labeling elected representatives as “thieves and looters” and also asked for a debate in the House on whether the government has the right to take legislative decisions.
He suggested that the courts threaten to scrap legislation passed by the House.
The uncharacteristically fiery speech came shortly after the PML-N’s Parliamentary Party, presided over by Abbasi and including national and provincial assembly members and senators of the PML-N met to discuss whether or not to discuss the judges’ conduct on the assembly floor.
“Does this House have no power to legislate? Should approval be sought before legislating,” he asked.
He also said that whenever there was confrontation amongst the institutions, it was the country which suffered.
“It would be better if the House debated this issue. As far as the executive is concerned, the government’s officials are summoned to the courts and they are humiliated,” he further stated.
He also noted with “grave concern that political parties which have no elected representatives have also nominated persons for the Senate elections “.
Abbasi said the role and limits of every institution are defined in the constitution and they will have to remain within them.
Responding to the PM statement, Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah said the judiciary may interpret legislation, but it got no authority to reject it.
He said every institution should work within its respective orbit. He said parliamentarian themselves violated the sanctity of Parliament.
However, in the same vein, he also stated that the consequences of personalised legislation are always horrible.
Institutions must work within their constitutional limits: PM Abbasi
PTI’s Shafqat Mahmood said no legislation which is against the spirit of the constitution should be made. He said the ruling party has served on the level of the federation and at province for decades but it did not bother to bring reforms in the judicial system. He said current hue and cry by the ruling party is due to the fact that the judiciary is about to decide whether or not a disqualified person may be head of a political party.
“In the past, the judiciary was physically attacked. Respect for all the institutions is needed. Getting elected does not mean you have authority to break the law. We will not accept disgrace against the judiciary,” he stated.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal stressed for working of all the institutions with harmony and to review the attitudes which are becoming a cause of confrontation.
Earlier, responding to a question raised by Dr Shireen Mazari about the isolation of Pakistan in the international community with regard to the meeting of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the interior minister said that the resolution against Pakistan is not due to failure of the foreign policy as it has nothing to do with it.
He said the resolution against Pakistan was a move to build pressure on Pakistan and as result of the tweets of US president Donald Trump. He said the whole nation should give a message by one voice that it would not accept the pressure. He said the government adopted the National Action Plan (NAP) so that the country could be made safe.
However, he also said that there were some friendly countries of Pakistan which may speak against the resolution. He said Pakistan does not allow its territory to be used for terrorism against any country.
He said putting economic restrictions on Pakistan would ultimately affect security operations. He said the countries which want to see peace in Pakistan must avoid such measures.
PM Abbasi rejects speculation over groupings within PML-N
Mehmood Khan Achakzai stated on a point of order that Senate elections have become a laughing stock and billionaires are being awarded tickets. Moreover, he also alleged that the military and intelligence agencies had a direct role in the collapse of the Balochistan Government.
“Stop interfering in politics, otherwise you would be held responsible for the loss,” he stated.
Parliamentarians belonging to the FATA also held token walkout from the House to protest against the Karachi killing of a student hailing from the tribal belt.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly was assured that the issues of non-payment of salaries to lady health workers in FATA for nine months and non-regularisation of their services will be resolved in two weeks.
The assurance was given by Parliamentary Secretary for States and Frontier Regions Shaheen Shafiq while responding to a calling attention notice.
Earlier, the newly-elected member from NA-154 Lodhran Muhammad Iqbal Shah today took oath as a member of the House. Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq administered the oath.
To discuss or not
Earlier in the day, the PML-N Parliamentary Party deliberated whether they should bring the conduct of the superior judiciary in Parliament up for debate, as it is likely to escalate confrontation between the federal government and the judiciary ahead of the upcoming announcements of crucial verdicts pending against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.
The development comes at a crucial time as the Supreme Court has reserved its judgment to determine the length of disqualification in the light of Article 62 (1) (f). In addition, Sharif is also likely to be convicted by an accountability court in the references initiated against him on the orders of Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.
Sources privy to the party huddle told The Express Tribune that the option of countering the “judiciary’s aggressive posturing” were discussed in the meeting. They added that it was also decided to openly debate the role of the judiciary in Parliament.
Some party insiders believe that the accountability court’s move to turn down Sharif’s request to grant him exemption from physical appearance and allow him to travel to London meet his ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz, has not gone down well with the PML-N’s rank and file.
In this backdrop, the party, which has long been mulling to bring the functioning of superior judiciary under Parliament’s review, has decided to proceed with the move.
A senior PML-N leader, however, attempted to downplay the significance of the reported decision taken in the meeting.
The leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the PM’s view on parliamentary oversight of judges function are publically known and he has expressed this viewpoint a number of times.
“If he [Abbasi] says that the role of superior judges needs to come under the review of Parliament, it’s not something that exclusively transpired in the parliamentary party meeting, nor is it the first time he has made such suggestion,” the insider said.
Some PML-N circles also claim that PML-N wants legislation over ensuring parliamentary oversight over judiciary’s functioning. However, the source, who is seen as a close aide of PML-N chief, termed this unlikely.
“Any such legislation requires two-third majority. Given that serious controversies are attached to proposals regarding parliamentary oversight on judiciary, whether the government manages to garner the required support comes with serious question marks. I really doubt that we would actually be able to carry out the desired legislation.”
The source said that the reports of parliamentary oversight on the judiciary through legislation were in reality just tactics aimed at “keeping the other side under pressure.”
The party bigwig, who is also a senator, said, “We hardly have grounds to take any concrete measures in the existing situation. It’s a battle of nerves—where all we can do is to exert pressure and aggressive statements would certainly help.”
The source said that Sharif was also not happy that some PML-N leaders were facing contempt proceedings in the Supreme Court when some, including a firebrand cleric who openly hurled insults and abuses at the top court judges, were not taken to task.