The arrival of a UN delegation on Monday on a 10-day mission to investigate the issue of enforced disappearances in the country has set off alarm bells in the National Assembly.
Expressing surprise at the visit of the delegation, which is here on the government’s invitation, the fact-finding exercise was termed a ‘threat to the country’s sovereignty.’ Interestingly, the National Assembly, according to the schedule, was to resume a discussion on the prevailing law and order situation in the country, including in Balochistan. However, none of the MNAs from the government or the opposition expressed any desire to participate in the debate.
Speaking on the delegation’s visit, PML-Q MNA Raza Hayat Hiraj said: “It would be the first step leading towards the disintegration of the country,” while asking the house to take the issue seriously. Speaking on a point of order, Hiraj expressed his fears, saying the two-member ‘UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances’ would definitely visit Balochistan, where a handful of people would talk about independence from Pakistan. He warned that, ultimately, the UN would hold Pakistan responsible for human rights violations and give the Baloch an opportunity to talk about their right to self-determination.
“What are the ulterior motives of this commission, what is its mandate, where will it visit, who will be quizzed, what would be the commission’s motive, who had issued the visas?” questioned Hiraj, who called the visit “a failure on the part of the Foreign Office.”
He went as far as to state that, “it is an issue more grave and serious than the floods, the performance of public institutions and corruption.” Hiraj also warned the government that the commission’s report could endanger democracy and the upcoming general elections in the country.
“Why did the commission come when the Supreme Court has already constituted one, when the chief justice is hearing the enforced disappearances cases and parliament has constituted a special committee over the subject?” Hiraj further questioned, pondering “is this a banana republic?”
Responding to his concerns, Minster for Kashmir Affairs Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo supported the argument and asked Hiraj to submit an adjournment motion for holding a debate in the house on the matter.
There were also discussions on the widespread mismanagement of public institutions in general and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in Islamabad in particular. “There are mafias in the CDA and the government should take action,” urged Nadeem Afzal Gondal.
During the session, Khawaja Saad Rafiq of the PML-N took exception to General Headquarters’ refusal to allow the trial of three retired military generals who were found guilty in the National Logistics Cell (NLC) scam.
“I condemn this act of the military establishment,” Rafiq stated. “Are they [the army] above the law that they cannot be held accountable by a civilian institution?” He also urged the military and political leadership to take serious notice of the issue.
“It is quite strange that an elected prime minister is disqualified by the Supreme Court but no one can touch a general. They perhaps still think that they are above the law and democracy has not matured yet, he claimed.
ANP boycotts proceedings
The Awami National Party (ANP), which had boycotted the NA proceedings on Friday to protest against the promulgation of the Sindh Peoples Government Ordinance 2012, did not attend Monday’s session.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.