ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday arranged a meeting between several members of parliament allegedly being investigated by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) for having links to terror outfits and Aftab Sultan, the director general of the civilian spy outfit, during which the parliamentarians were assured that the agency was not responsible for the list.
The lawmakers named in the list informed Prime Minister Abbasi that it could create a lot of issues for them since their opponents could use it to form cases and claim they were not fit to hold public office under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. They demanded that the government inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that the list is fake so they are protected from any action based on it.
The sources said Law Minister Zahid Hamid suggested that the affected lawmakers move a privilege motion in the National Assembly to this end, but the lawmakers said that they do not want to take the matter so far and simply wanted that their names to be cleared officially.
The prime minister and NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq agreed with the suggestions presented by the affected lawmakers.
The list contained the names of 37 lawmakers who were alleged to have links with banned outfits. It first came to light when a private television channel aired a report claiming that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had directed the IB to keep a watch on the listed legislators, who mostly belong to the PML-N.
The IB and the Prime Minister House have on multiple occasions denied the existence of any such list, and the information ministry has termed it a forgery.
On Thursday, the government faced an embarrassment in the National Assembly when, one after the other, members from the treasury benches lashed out at their political leadership.
Soon after the lower house of parliament approved two amendments to the recently-passed Elections Act, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada came down hard on the government for what he termed “insulting me and other members of parliament”.
He took issue with the purported list of 37 parliamentarians, which included his name, who were accused of having links with terrorist and sectarian organisations, which had gone viral on social media.
He said the list was prepared by the IB on an initiative taken by Prime Minister House.
“Why did the PM House not hold an inquiry? If I am guilty, why was I appointed a federal minister?”
Speaker Ayaz Sadiq tried to calm the enraged member, saying that he (Pirzada) was in Iraq when IB moved the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) against the ‘fake document’, adding that the matter was sub-judice.
He also invited the minister to his chambers on Friday, saying that he would also invite the IB director general to clear the air. This offer did not seem to satisfy Pirzada, however, and the irate minister continued his protest.
“My children are receiving messages saying that your elders are terrorists,” he remarked.
He regretted that IB Director General Aftab Sultan, who had defamed lawmakers, was also being considered for appointment as chairman of the National Accountability Bureau before walking out of the House. He was accompanied by more than a dozen government-allied lawmakers and cabinet members, including Sheikh Rohale Asghar, Awais Leghari and Khusro Bakhtiyar.
Later, Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb told the House that both the list and the PM House letter that Mr Pirzada had alluded to were forged documents.