ISLAMABAD - Interior Minister Chaudhry Ali Khan yesterday came under criticism in the Senate for his earlier statement made in the House that Lal Mosque cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz could not be arrested because there was no criminal case or evidence against him.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar sought a privilege motion against Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan stating the minister incorrectly stated in the House that the government could not move against Lal Mosque cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, as there was no case against him.

The demand of PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar came before MQM, an independent Opposition party in the House, staged a protest walkout against the government for not arresting Maulana Abdul Aziz.

Civil society, human rights activists and a number of parliamentarians have been demanding the arrest of Lal Mosque cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz for “publicly declaring allegiance and seeking support of self-styled militant organisation Daesh”.

In a policy statement given in the House on December 30 on the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), the interior minister had said that Maulana Abdul Aziz could not be arrested, as there was no case or evidence against him. He had said that if anyone would come up with documentary evidence against the cleric, the government would take immediate action regardless of political considerations.

Babar also placed on the record of the Senate four documents to prove his point that the Maulana was an absconder and said that the government was deliberately not apprehending him either because of fear or complicity.

The documents he produced included copy of the FIR dated December 19, 2014 registered against the Maulana, the warrants of arrest issued, court direction to declare him absconder and the advertisement declaring Maulana Aziz absconder. He also produced a copy of the official communication to mobile telephone companies to suspend mobile phone services in selected areas in the vicinity of Lal Masjid to prevent the dissemination of Aziz’s Friday sermons. In addition, the Lal Masjid clerics had publicly declared allegiance to and sought the support of Daesh, which too was public knowledge, he said.

“These documents which are also available with the Interior Ministry proved that the interior minister’s statement in the Senate was devoid of truth and facts,” he said.

He asked the chairman to either send the matter to the privilege committee as the privilege of the House had been breached or alternatively direct the government to give a formal explanation of the contradiction between the statement of minister and the facts highlighted by these documents.

Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said that the case was not a breach of privilege but the lawmaker should submit all these documents to his secretariat. He also directed the state minister of parliamentary affairs to give a comprehensive reply to the issue raised.

About an issue of use of official bulletproof vehicle by former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry at public expense, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab told the House that the retired CJ was getting this facility under the January 15, 2014 direction of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The Law Ministry is bearing expenses of fuel and maintenance of the vehicle under this direction, he said. “We have filed an appeal (intra-court) and that has not been fixed,” he said.

The chairman on Wednesday had sought justification from the government allowing the former Chief Justice to use a bulletproof car at public expense after Farhatullah Babar raised the issue.

When PPP Parliamentary leader Saeed Ghani said that the government should file appeal in the Supreme Court because intra-court appeal had not been fixed within two years, the chair remarked that this was a court matter and government could not be held responsible for the delay.

The House also made a significant amendment in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012 that eliminated the role of the Federal Ministers in summoning the meetings of the House Standing Committees.

Now the Chairman Committee will have the final say to call a meeting.

Earlier, the rules provided that a Committee meeting would be fixed “in consultations with the Minister concerned”. Now these words have been omitted through amendment.