ISLAMABAD -  The government Friday made it clear that it had no intention to bring the judiciary and army under the umbrella of accountability through a newly proposed accountability law that will replace the previous NAB law.

The government also once again clarified that the Election Act 2017 that had changed the provision of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat — the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) – declaration for election of candidates was cleared by a sub-committee and the parliamentary committee having representation of all the parliamentary parties. 

Law Minister Zahid Hamid along with Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Law Barrister Zafarullah Khan, while addressing a press conference at the Press Information Department (PID) made it clear twice that the government was not going to introduce any accountability law to bring the judiciary and the army under the ambit of civilian accountability process.

Clarifying the government’s position, he said, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar had proposed to the Parliamentary Committee on National Accountability Law to introduce a broad-based accountability law. “This is mere a proposal and there was no consensus on it,” he said.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that Election Act 2017 that changed the provision of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat declaration was cleared by the sub-committee and then Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms having representation of all parliamentary parties.

He said that the impression being given in the social media and other platforms was wrong that perhaps government silently made changes in it. He said that report of the Election Bill 2017 was placed on the table of the National Assembly weeks before its passage from the lower house and then Senate and it was also shared with all the parliamentary parties. “Only text was altered just to simplify the declaration form of election candidates,” he said.

The interior minister said that the report of the electoral reforms remained in the public domain for many months but no one objected to the declaration form until JUI-F Senator Hafiz Hamdullah pointed out that nomination form should be restored to its original form. “However, the amendment could not be passed by the Senate,” he said. He said that the whole process of the parliamentary committee was transparent and recorded.

Ahsan stressed the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat was part of the faith of every Muslim and no one could even think about compromising on it. “So very soon all the political parties decided to restore the declaration to its original form to remove any ambiguity in the declaration form regarding the finality of prohethood of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH),” he said.

The minister warned those elements for trying under the Cyber Crime Law who were exploiting this issue on the social media and spreading hatred and issuing decrees of infidels for others. “Some have started a campaign against the cabinet members and even the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on the social media in this regard,” he said. He said that some lawyers had said that the change had no legal implications but even then the government had restored the original declaration form.

The interior minister said that no one had the right to declare anyone infidel. Pakistan is an Islamic democratic country and the state has only monopoly to declare who is Muslim and who in non-Muslin. “Secondly, it is the exclusive domain of the state to punish anyone,” he said. He said that thirdly, the state had to decide about the initiation of Jehad, when and against whom. “The state had exclusive domain on these three things,” he said and added:  “If the permit of Jehad would be given in street, then we will become our own enemies.” He said that hate mongers were the actual enemies of Pakistan but unfortunately some people had become “blind in politics”.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid also said that there was no bad intention of the government when the Election Act 2017 was in the draft stage and the whole process was transparent. There were 13 members of sub-committee and the main committee had 34 members. He said that all the members had consensus when the declaration form was simplified. “I cannot even dare to think to abolish the declaration regarding provision of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat,” he said while clarifying his own position. The minister added that he was the firm believer of the finality of prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH).

Barrister Zafarull Khan said that PML-N was basically a religious party and its major vote bank comprised those people who were associated with Islam.

Regarding the clause 203 of Election Act that allowed the disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif to again become the party head, Zahid Hamid said the parliamentary committee with consensus had omitted this clause in November 2014 when there was no noise of Panama scandal. “This is on the record,” he said.

Ahsan Iqbal responding to a question avoided to speak on action of the Rangers regarding taking over the security of accountability court this week. He said that he would be in a position to speak when the inquiry on the matter would be completed. The inquiry would be completed after the reply of DG Rangers. He however said that a disinformation campaign against the PML-N government was underway and some elements wanted to have confrontation between the army and the civilian government and are talking about introduction of technocratic set-up.

Talking about the Awami Muslim League Chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, he said that sometime Rasheed used to become the spokesperson of army and sometime of the judiciary. He said that continuity of the democratic process and the constitutional governance was the only way forward for Pakistan.

Responding to another question, the interior minister said the children of ousted prime minister would only appear before the accountability court when Begum Kalsoom Nawaz would recover from her illness. He indicated that children of Sharif would not appear in the next hearing of the accountability references against them.