Are parliamentarians orphans?

PML-N MNA Syed Hasnain shocked lawmakers when he called parliamentarians 'orphans'

Rizwan Shahzad February 03, 2021


PML-N MNA from Sargodha Syed Javed Hasnain shocked the lawmakers in the National Assembly when he called the supreme legislative body of the country – parliament – and the lawmakers of both the houses “orphans” – “Yateem idara, yateem arakeen” [orphan institution, orphan members] to be precise.

Perhaps, tired of the frequent arrests of the leaders of the opposition – Shehbaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif – detained on alleged corruption and money laundering charges, respectively, the MNA proposed through a constitutional bill that a parliamentary scrutiny committee should first examine if allegations levelled against a lawmaker really constitute an offence or if he/she is about to be politically victimised.

Explaining the rationale behind his bill, the lawmaker said that judges and army are not only protected by their respective institutions but tried by themselves. However, he said, the orphan members of this orphanage – parliament – are arrested and imprisoned by any institution; thus the parliamentary privilege.

Hasnain suggested amendment in Article 66 of the Constitution – privileges of members, etc – the same article under which PTI lawyer Naeem Bokhari had contended before the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case back in February 2017 that even the prime minister has no immunity.

Bokhari, while presenting arguments on behalf of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, had argued that former PM Nawaz Sharif could not claim immunity under Article 66 in respect of his speech on the floor of the National Assembly on May 16, 2015.

Who knows if there was a long shot behind presenting the bill seeking amendments in Article 66 but for the time being, the treasury benches gave Hasnain an equal shock by opposing the bill. Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice Maleeka Bokhari said that lawmakers were not above the law and something that was not available to people couldn’t be given to parliamentarians. “A supra body should not be created,” Bokhari said.

“When will this institution become supreme,” Husnain said, adding that lawmakers were put in jail for years and then it turns out that they were innocent.

“Can’t we make a Jirga of 12 members out of the 342,” he said, regretting the government’s outright opposition to the bill.

PPP’s Naveed Qamar came to the rescue, saying that ethics committees do exist in different parliaments around the world and that members, however, are simply picked up and put in jail in Pakistan.

“I was a victim, Khursheed Shah is a victim, leader of the opposition is in jail,” Qamar said while explaining that there was no harm in examining a matter to see if, prima facie, a case is made out or if it was simply a matter of political victimisation.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri put the bill before the house and it got rejected.

Overall, bills and committee reports flooded the proceedings but the calling attention notice pointing out failure to meet the international obligations leading to seizing of Roosevelt Hotel in New York as well as Scribe Hotel in Paris and not allowing PIA to fly in Malaysia triggered the debate focusing on only one point: whether the incumbent government or the previous ones should be ashamed of immense international humiliation of the country.

Neither the treasury nor the opposition admitted any fault. Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan blamed the previous governments while PPP’s Hina Rabbani Khar reminded the treasury benches that many of them were once part of the previous governments.

PPP’s Nafeesa Shah said Sarwar’s statement about PIA’s fake pilots caused huge embarrassment and loss to the national exchequer. She said Sarwar should resign instead of giving answers with a straight face.

PPP’s Shagufta Jumani said, “It seems he [Sarwar] was given the target to remove PIA from the global scene,” she said. “It was not his fault but of those who brought him to power.”

Standing by his previous statements about fake pilots, Sarwar said, “My conscience is clear; I would have resigned if I had done anything wrong.”

In fact, he took credit for highlighting the issue, saying India took up cases of 400 fake pilots after the issue surfaced.

The NA session will resume at 2pm today.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ