ISLAMABAD      -         Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday came under severe criticism in the Senate for seeking treason proceedings against Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for his alleged attempts to oust the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

The opposition not only came down hard on the PM for his remarks against opposition JUI-F chief but also criticised his government for introducing new rules to regulate social media in the country what they said that “the government wanted to control the social media.”

Some of lawmakers also censured the Federal Minister for Science & Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain for his similar statement given in the past that treason trial should be initiated against Maulana Fazl.

Earlier on Friday, PM Imran Khan while talking to journalists said that Maulana should be tried under Article 6 of the Constitution for his remarks regarding dislodging his government.

JUI-F Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri was the first one who took exception to both the statements of PM and his cabinet member and dared the government to “take the step” of filing a treason case against his party leader. “If PM and his government are saying this, then what is the obstacle to move forward,” he said, adding that a case should be registered against JUI-F chief and he should be arrested. “They have lost their senses.”

Haideri said that previous regimes had framed such treason cases against them in the past as well. “Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had booked me in such seven treason cases,” he said and questioned where he is today?

JUI-F Senator claimed that the prime minister was unqualified for elections as he did not fulfil the conditions as described in Article 62 of the Constitution and had come to power through “fake elections”. “The whole system is fake,” he said, adding that he would resign if PM qualified for the conditions of Article 62 pertaining to righteousness and truthfulness.

While PTI lawmakers protested over the remarks of Haideri, Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz said that the JUI-F chief made a “disservice to the democracy” by saying that they had called off the protest sit-in in Islamabad in November last year after getting assurance that PTI government would be sent packing and a new set-up would be installed.  He said that Maulana should have explained for his remarks as he had tried to sabotage an elected government and the democratic process as well by doing so.

Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) Senator Usman Kakar said that the Maulana was spearheading the opposition parties and the remarks of PM and the minister were proof the fact that there was a law of jungle in the country. “We oppose this,” he said, adding that treason proceedings should be initiated against those who attacked the parliament, the PM House, and the Pakistan Television (PTV) Headquarters— a reference to the 2014 sit in of PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in the capital. He also opposed the decision of the cabinet to approve new rules what he said they are meant to “control the media.”

PTI Senator Noman Wazir said that JUI-F should make it public that who had provoked them to stage a sit-in and then call it off at once.

Leader of Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq also slammed the government for introducing new social media rules and said that the government was stifling the freedom of expression. He said that it was for the betterment of the government to avoid crushing the digital media and the opposition.

Raja Zafar demanded from the chair that a thorough debate should be held in the house from Monday over the rising inflation what he said sky rocketing prices have become unbearable for the masses. He also sought from Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to give direction to the government to present the details of the inquiry report conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) about the shortage of wheat and sugar in the country before the house. The chair directed the government to do so.

Parliamentary Leader of PML-N in the House Mushahid Ullah Khan said that PM Imran Khan while in opposition in the past had been talking about ousting the then government and criticised his remarks about the JUI-F chief. He also condemned the remarks of Advisor to PM on Finance & Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh that those criticising the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were even unable to enter its corridors. “You might feel happy to go there but we don’t want to go there,” he said adding that they would not allow anyone to close down China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Project on the dictation of international lender.

PPP Senator Rubina Khalid pointed out that the government was going to impose restrictions on the digital rights. She objected that the government avoided sharing the newly-introduced rules to regulate the digital media with the parliament. The Senate committee concerned has taken notice of the matter as to what “secret science” was involved that these were not shared with the house committee before going into the cabinet despite a commitment made in this regard, she said.

National Party Senator Mir Kabir Mohammad Shahi criticized the statement of the PM about Reko Diq gold mines and said that his statement had no legal basis as these mines were the property of the Balochistan and not the centre.

On Wednesday, PM had said that country’s foreign debts would be paid through the gold reserves of Reko Diq. In a rare show of unanimity, the house also passed as many half a dozen government sponsored bills, including a bill seeking protection of women’s rights.