Agreement with TLYR ‘full of flaws’, govt admits in Senate
ISLAMABAD – The government on Wednesday admitted before the Senate that the agreement it made with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah to end Faizabad sit-in was “full of flaws” as it was forced to sign it only to restore peace in the country.
State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry, winding up the debate on the situation arising out of the culmination of Faizabad sit-in, said PML-N government was singled out on the issue as the opposition did not back it, that forced it to sign a controversial agreement.
“All political parties were involved in the draft of the law regarding Khatm-e-Nabuwwat but no one owned it,” the state minister said.
He said that the government, which became weak morally and politically on the issue, had no option but to sign the agreement on which many “objection[s] could be raised.”
The state minister said that the government feared that riots could break out throughout the country because of the sensitivity of the matter and people would come to the streets.
He urged the need to make standard operating procedures (SOPs) to avert such sit-ins in the future, and added the government would implement the guidelines of the parliament in this connection in letter and spirit.
The state minister, who was speaking soon after Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi left the house, also urged the need to establish specialised anti-riot force equipped with modern technology, and added that Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had ordered to form such a force in Islamabad.
Rejecting the criticism of certain quarters as to why the Punjab government did not stop the protesters of the TLYR when they embarked for a sit-in from Lahore, the minister said the Punjab government was deceived by the TLYR leadership.
“The leadership had informed the Punjab government that they will have a short stay in Islamabad,” he said.
The state minister was winding up the debate on the adjournment motion, which asked for a discussion on “the situation arising out of the manner in which the recent sit-in at Faizabad was called off, culminating into abject surrender of the rule of law and constitutionally-established government before a stick and gun wielding mob.”
Recalling recent history of such protests, Chaudhry said that the tradition of sit-ins started with the protest of Dr Tahirul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek in 2012, followed by the 126-day long sit-in of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in 2014, but both culminated because the then government had the backing of the opposition at that time.
He said the PTI sit-in had its own legacy that had left behind many problems and wrong traditions.
“But in the case of the TLYR sit-in, the present government was singled out as opposition parties did not stand behind it,” Chaudhry said, adding that some rare voices from the opposition came in support of the government, and that were of the PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan.
About the botched police operation of November 25 to clear Faizabad Interchange from protesters, he said that the police was unarmed under the directions of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), and it was being understood within government circles that the operation would led to failure because of this reason.
Describing another reason, Chaudhry said that the operation failed because of weak coordination of force of the federal and Punjab governments, and the fears of contempt of court notice looming over the interior minister.
He said that it was because of the bad legacy of 126-day PTI sit-in that police officers were reluctant to take action as previously they had to face terrorism case only because of “lawful” action.
“The force had got demoralised as a result of the PTI sit-in and we are seeing these effects up till now,” Chaudhry said.
He said that total 215 people got injured in the Faizabad operation including 73 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary, three of police and one of the Rangers besides civilians.
“As many as 27 FIRs were registered during the sit-in and 418 protesters were arrested from Islamabad,” Chaudhry said.
The state minister also pointed that such sit-ins were meant to derail democratic governments, adding some forces wanted a hung parliament.
Without naming any one, he said efforts were on to divide the society on sectarian and religious grounds.
“Much before the issue of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, we can see the by-poll of NA-120 where religious parties contested to divide the society on religious grounds,” Chaudhry said.
He said that some forces wanted that the next elections should be held on religious grounds only to damage the PML-N vote bank.
Meanwhile, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani came down hard on the senators for divulging the information of an in-camera session of the Senate Committee of the Whole House to the media and referred the issue to House Business Advisory Committee for further consideration.
The committee will form the code of conduct for in-camera sessions of the house.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa in his first briefing to the Senate on Tuesday had apprised the lawmakers about matters of internal and external security, and the briefing instantly became breaking news on various TV channels.
The chair drew attention of senators towards rules of business of the house, saying these clearly restrict disclosure of a secret briefing.
He recalled that he had told all the senators before the start of the briefing, but all went in vain as all senators shared this with the media.
In an obvious reference to PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi, Rabbani said that majority of the senators disclosed the information and a senator went to the extent that he told the media about the exact topics that came under discussion, which was a breach of privilege of the house.
However, the chair clarified that he was not against the freedom of the press, adding it was the job of the media to gather information about any event, but the way senators divulged the information of a secret briefing was not appropriate at all.
If the situation persisted, no institution will trust the Senate for such secret briefings in future, he added.
The Senate chairman also showed his displeasure over the PTI Senator Noman Wazir’s remarks when the latter demanded removal from service of all employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills after the closure of the biggest industrial unit of the country.
The chair said how this could be possible.