PTI kills two birds with one stone

Published: January 10, 2020

ISLAMABAD: With the approval of three bills regarding the tenure of the services chiefs in Parliament, the PTI has checkmated its political rivals as it managed to pass the legislation regarding the reappointment/ extension of army chief General Qamar Bajwa — as mandated by the Supreme Court — as well as created a division within major political parties — PML-N and PPP.

Political analysts consider the passing of amendments to the Army Act 1952 a major victory of the ruling party as well as the security establishment.

According to insiders, the PPP leadership feels it has been betrayed by PML-N as the country’s largest political party, including its president Shehbaz Sharif, did not take them into confidence over their decision to back the amendments.

Last week, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had said that the PML-N had ended its role of opposition by offering “unconditional” support to the government’s proposed bill.

The PPP was not taken into confidence over the matter, he added.

A senior PPP leader told The Express Tribune that the PML-N, besides not taking the party into confidence over the matter, did not even support its proposed amendments in the Army Act. According to sources, this was very disappointing for the PPP.

A joint meeting of government functionaries and opposition leaders was held in Parliament House on Monday, which, the sources said, was attended by Law Minister Farogh Naseem and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak on behalf of the government. The opposition was represented by Khawaja Asif, Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Sanaullah and Mohsin Ranjha from PML-N while former PM Raja Pervez Ashraf, Naveed Qamar and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar participated from the PPP.

The PPP proposed two amendments in the Act: removing the clause that army chief’s extension could not be subject to judicial review, and that prime minister appear before the National Security Committee and justify the extension to an army chief.

Interestingly, the sources added, the suggestions were rejected by both the government and the PML-N.

A senior PPP leader, on the condition of anonymity, admitted that the party was again “ditched by PML-N despite supporting it in difficult times”.

“We did not accept membership of standing committees until Shehbaz Sharif was announced as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman,” he said. “Earlier, PAC chairmanship was offered to Bilawal but he refused to accept it. Later, Shehbaz resigned as the chairman, without taking the PPP leadership onboard.”

The senior PPP leader said they tried their level best to keep the opposition united but to no avail.

“Despite severe opposition within the party, we participated in JUI-F’s Azadi March,” he said, adding that the PPP chairman had strongly condemned the National Accountability Bureau and the government over the arrest of Maryam Nawaz.

He said that the PPP also welcomed the lifting of travel ban on Nawaz Sharif on medical grounds but now they had “lost the trust” in the opposition leader.

The party leader claimed there was no understanding with anyone over PPP’s support to amendments in the Army Act.

Meanwhile, it has been learnt that PML-N workers are also unhappy with its party leadership’s decision to support the government in getting the legislation through.

Political analysts believe that the divide within the opposition will benefit the ruling party.

Earlier, both the parties jointly moved a no-confidence motion against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani; however, had failed to remove him.

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