ISLAMABAD - The 95th session of Senate was abruptly adjourned on Monday by the acting chairman Sabir Ali Baloch after members of main opposition party PPPP and ANP alleged there was a nexus between the ruling PML-N, the Supreme Court and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Despite the agreed agenda of the Senate Business Advisory Committee that the House would be adjourned by 6 PM, several opposition members sought to discuss this alleged nexus that in their view was forged to target the PPPP.
The PPPP and her allies have predominance in the Senate, so their pressure put the ruling party on the back foot on the issue of how the process of rescheduling the presidential election was manipulated. The PPPP and ANP members, who were wearing black ribbons on their arms, launched the offensive through PPPP presidential nominee Senator Mian Raza Rabbani.
Rising on the point of order, Raza Rabbani ignited the issue of the manner in which the ruling PML-N got the election rescheduled through the Supreme Court. He alleged the ruling party rescheduled presidential election through its nexus with the apex court and the ECP. The leader of the PPPP, which is ruling Sindh, said this policy of PML-N would create mistrust between the federating units.
On this point, Leader of House Senator Raja Zafarul Haq stood up and sought intervention of the chair to keep the proceedings as per the agenda, but to no avail. In the meantime Raza Rabbani concluded his speech and the chair gave the floor to the ANP leader Senator Zahid Khan.
Zahid endorsed Raza’s stance that such moves on the part of federation would further aggravate its relations with the provinces. It would not serve the interest of the central government the way it made the presidential election controversial, he added. “This is not in the interest of democracy”, he retorted. He warned the government of an ugly situation at the time when the new president would be addressing the joint sitting of the parliament.
Senator Zahid demanded resignation from Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, saying he has become controversial. They had supported the movement for the independence of judiciary, not to make someone a dictator, he added. He also demanded resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakharuddin G Ebrahim. Zahid also criticised the ruling party for withdrawing security of the ANP leaders who he pointed out were still being attacked by terrorists.
PPPP’s Senator Farhatullah Babar cautioned the parliament of ‘re-writhing of constitution’ by the Supreme Court in the name of interpreting it. He said apex court seemed to have embarked on a dangerous course as he called upon the parliamentarians across the political divide to realise the gravity of this phenomenon and join hands to check it. He said that merely because a certain political party was unable to bring its voters for polling, the court assumed the constitutional role of the election commission and dictated a new schedule for election, which was going too far from its constitutional role.
Reading out from the petition of Raja Zafarul Haq, which pleaded that election on August 6 violated the fundamental rights of the parliamentarians as they would not be able to perform Umrah and Aitkaf, Farhatullah said that the court accepted the plea without hearing other stakeholders and without explaining as to which fundamental right was violated and how the violation would be undone by preponing the election.
Farhatullah Babar said that another petition, seeking the postponement of presidential election until after August 22 bye-elections to the 42 vacant seats in different assemblies, was pending before the SC and it should have been clubbed with the PML-N petition but it was not done. He said the court did not even ask how many parliamentarians were going for Umrah and whether they had valid visas. Moreover, no aggrieved member had actually approached the court for a change in the date.
He said that the Supreme Court has in effect held that even for the performance of non-obligatory religious rites it was necessary to change the election date. By not giving cogent reasons of the constitutionality its intervention, the court has strengthened the impression that the constitution was being re-written in the name of interpreting it, he said. He warned that if this trend was not checked then many voices would rise from within the parliament supporting Senator Zahid’s demand of the resignation of the chief justice which he said would be unfortunate.
Haji Adeel From ANP, Shahi Syed From ANP and Said Ghani from PPPP also took part in the discussion and raised similar concerns on the issue. Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsen was also of the view that SC had acted beyond its constitutional mandate. He also pointed out that there was no mention of human rights aspect in the court ruling.
Aitzaz also responded to the points raised by the leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq that members of the parliament should not violate Article 68 of the constitution that relates to conduct of the judges. He said none of the members had violated that article but they were discussing the petition filed by him wherein he had claimed without any legal reason that human rights of the members were being infringed so the election be rescheduled.
Syed Zafar Ali Shah of PML-N warned of a ‘conspiracy against democracy’ and questioned as to why the PPPP had not supported Raza Rabbani for the slot of chairmanship of the Senate and why Aitzaz had not moved the Supreme Court to challenge its ruling. If Aitzaz can move the Supreme Court for judicial review in the case of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after forty years, why he could not do so in the case of presidential election, he asked.
Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq on a point of order sought timeframe for the discussion amid hue and cry by the members of the opposition, and acting chairman adjourned the House. Earlier, at the outset, he administered oath to two newly-elected senators from Balochistan – Sardar Yaqoob Nasir and Abdul Rauf.