Legislators from the opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stepped up criticism of the military’s perceived interference in politics at the cost of national security in the National Assembly on Monday.
PML-N MNA Khawaja Saad Rafiq launched a direct attack on Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and one of his cabinet members for ‘letting down the parliament and defending unbridled defence institutions’. “When we raised the issue of the coldblooded, brutal murder of an unarmed youth by rangers last week, the prime minister accused us of defaming the military,” Rafiq said.
Gilani had advised against criticising ‘state institutions’ for ‘acts of individuals’. The word of caution came from the premier when MPs from the PML-N rallied against the rangers for killing a young man Sarfaraz Shah, who was reportedly robbing a family in a park in Karachi.
“A corrupt democracy cannot bring any institution under the ambit of the law and the constitution,” Rafiq said, amid sloganeering by party colleagues shortly before they staged a token walkout.
Another PML-N stalwart also came down hard on the government for refusing to remove Sindh police chief and DG Sindh rangers despite a Supreme Court order. “Democracy does not confer a licence to kill or plunder,” said Ahsan Iqbal, PML-N’s information secretary.
Meanwhile, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, chief of Pakistan Peoples Party-Sherpao (PPP-S), warned of the rise of ‘separatist’ sentiments in tribal areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa if the government fails to take pragmatic steps to halt a covert US drone war targeting al Qaeda.
“No such slogan has ever been raised until now but if blood continues to be spilled and nobody makes an effort to change the status quo, we will live to regret it,” cautioned the former interior minister in a speech to the National Assembly on Monday.
Sherpao warned that mounting anger over the killing of innocent people in strikes by unmanned predator planes might spiral out of control. “Drones are pounding tribal areas and their impact can be felt everywhere in the Pakhtun belt,” he said.
His demands were seconded by Nasir Ali Shah, an MNA of the ruling PPP from Balochistan, who announced that he would boycott the remaining session in protest against the government’s failure to stop drone strikes and control a nationalist insurgency in his home province. Shah demanded an end to military and semi-military operations in Balochistan. He also asked for an investigation into the failures of the armed forces and penalties for those responsible.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2011.
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