- Raza Hiraj, Nisar Jutt say they opposed party’s policy on ‘person-specific’ bill
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) suffered a major blow two days back when around 33 of its lawmakers in the National Assembly remained absent from the important bill tabled by the opposition seeking repeal of a constitutional clause which had enabled its disqualified leader Nawaz Sharif to clinch the party’s top slot.
The ruling party defeated the bill with 163 votes while opposition could gather only 98 votes in favour of the draft legislation seeking to restrict Nawaz from heading PML-N. Though the ruling party managed to defeat the opposition’s bill, its weakness was exposed as it failed to maintain a two-thirds majority in the house – thereby hinting that the party can no more get a constitutional bill passed from the National Assembly without support from the opposition.
This fact perhaps compelled Mian Nawaz Sharif to seek a meeting with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ai Zardari again. The request was, however, shunned again by Zardari for a consecutive fourth time in a year.
Meanwhile, PML-N lawmaker Raza Hayat Hiraj has openly opposed the party’s decision to get Article 203 repealed to get Nawaz Sharif reelected. In a private television talk show, Heraj said that in his opinion, the party had suffered more due to the controversial ‘person-specific’ bill.
Nisar Jutt, another ruling party MNA, agreed with Hiraj and said that the passage of such bills can have negative effects on parliamentary democracy. “We should desist from confrontation with the military and other state institutions and rather take the democratic process forward,” he added.
The MNA further stated said that the opposition’s bill should not have been rejected, adding that he asked party leadership whether the bill had restored the eligibility question of Nawaz Sharif.
“Nawaz Sharif has not benefitted from the bill as he still cannot take part in the election. The feedback from the public is also against the bill,” he asserted.
A source in the party said that the PML-N had decided to issue notices to 23 lawmakers as 10 MNAs of the party had pre-informed about their inability to attend the session. “Five lawmakers were out of the country while five others were busy or had health issues. Hence the party is mulling action against the rest of the 23 lawmakers,” the source asserted.
He also said that former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar had hosted a dinner last week where around 40 lawmakers were invited.
“The lawmakers at Nisar’s dinner had discussed the bill and most of them openly argued not to oppose the bill,” the source informed and added, “Raza Hayat Hiraj openly expressed his reservations over the party’s decision to repeal Article 203 of the Constitution for its disqualified leader, and he also convinced others to oppose the party’s decision.”
Those who remained absent from the voting on the bill included Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Agriculture Minister Sikandar Bosan and Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar among others.
PML-N MNAs Sar Zamin Khan, Raza Hayat Hiraj, Nazir Khan, Raja Matloob Mehdi, Nisar Jutt, Najaf Abbas Sial, Bilal Virk, Rana Qasim Noon, Chaudhry Tahir Iqbal, Sardar Jaffar Leghari, Malik Sultan Hanjra, Makhdoomzada Basit Bokhari, Alamdad Laleka, Chaudhry Tahir Bashir Cheema, Khalid Khan Magsi, Arifa Khalid and Asma Mamdot were also found absent.
In an unprecedented defiance, ruling party leader and former prime minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali openly voted against the party policy and supported the opposition’s bill. Prominent coalition partners like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Mahmood Achakzai and Sadaruddin Shah Rashidi also did not turn up. All FATA lawmakers were also missing.
Many political pundits termed the move warning shots for the ruling party saying that a rebellion was brewing among their ranks.
In an apparent bid to put a lid on the rebellion, Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique on Wednesday called upon the party leadership to ‘take action’ against those party lawmakers who had remained absent from the important session.
MNA Khalid Magsi, when asked whether the party had enquired reasons for his absence from the session, said that he had not received any phone call or message from the party leadership yet. He also preferred not to give any comments to the media about his absence and said, “I would speak my mind if and when the party contacts me.”