–Senator Rabbani says National Security Committee did not discuss law and order in last three meetings
ISLAMABAD: Members of the Senate on Monday lashed out at state authorities over their alleged failure to protect candidates and the public ahead of the July 25 elections, while taking aim at policies they said have “allowed” extremist ideologies to permeate society.
After the discussions concluded, the upper house prorogued its regular proceedings in view of the Mastung terrorist attack, in which over 145 people were killed.
In a scathing speech, ex-chairman Senate and incumbent Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani said the duty to protect citizens was the state’s while pointing out that the caretaker set-up was the existing state.
He also regretted that while the country’s economy and visa policy had been discussed in the last three meetings of the National Security Committee (NSC), the subject of law and order was never made part of the conversation.
“The interim prime minister and military leadership must have been aware of the National Counter Terrorism Authority’s (NACTA) report that stated that leaders of all political parties face security threats,” he noted while wondering why the provinces were merely sent letters regarding the security situation.
He also criticised the absence of the caretaker interior minister from the session and wondered whether the law minister would instead answer the house’s questions regarding the Mastung attack.
“Will the interior minister again say that those who were attacked were not on the list of those facing security threats?” he wondered.
Rabbani also complained that while orders to arrest political workers were “being implemented swiftly”, there was silence on the Mastung incident.
Referring to the participation of alleged members of banned outfits in the forthcoming elections, Rabbani said a new phenomenon was emerging on the model of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).
“The interior minister should reveal how [members of] banned organisations were allowed to contest the elections,” he said.
“How were the names of [members of] banned outfits removed from the Fourth Schedule?”
In a reference to the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Rabbani observed that 150 members of the “party that staged the sit-in at Faizabad” are candidates for National Assembly seats. Members of Allahu Akbar Tehreek are also contesting, he noted.
“What will the atmosphere of the parliament look like if even 25 of such people are elected?” he questioned.
Rabbani also lamented that the state was still continuing on its past course, and warned that “engineered elections are ringing the alarm for the federation”.
He complained that the PPP leadership is being hindered from campaigning.
“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is sleeping,” he said, asking why no action was being taken even though the PPP had named the persons pressurising its candidates to switch allegiances.
‘NEED TO CHANGE PRIORITIES’:
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Pervaiz Rasheed expressed similar concerns, saying candidates could not be expected to run peaceful election campaigns when “people from the Fourth Schedule are being allowed to contest the poll”.
“Be afraid of the day when those people will be present in this house” he warned.
Rasheed claimed that while 10,000 policemen were deployed for the arrest of Nawaz Sharif — “the man who had come to surrender with his daughter voluntarily” — those responsible for the Peshawar and Mastung attacks “are roaming freely”.
He claimed that 16,000 political workers were arrested during the crackdown ahead of Sharif’s arrival, 99 per cent of whom belong to the PML-N.
“What are the state’s priorities?” he asked, adding that the state has decided whom to suppress and whom to support.
“There is a need to change these priorities,” he warned.
“Where do our enemies find the person willing to wear a suicide jacket?” Rasheed asked. “Who has fostered this narrative? Was it Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto who made policies to bring such people into parliament?”
Addressing the state, he said enough blood has been spilled in the country and there was a need to “change your philosophy”.
“No citizen can claim to be safe even in their home. Perhaps the state’s priorities are somewhere and the people’s interests lie elsewhere.”
Senator Dr Ashok Kumar meanwhile criticised the interior minister and his ability to coordinate between the federal government and provinces.
“I have never seen the interior minister going to any of the provinces or meeting any of the provincial chief secretaries,” he claimed, adding that the minister is probably not even aware of who the home ministers of the provinces are.
“How will such an interior minister protect us?” he wondered.
‘WHY ARE THE SUICIDE BOMBERS NOT CAUGHT?’:
Senator Kabeer Shahi in his remarks termed the Mastung attack the worst incident in Pakistan’s history.
Apparently criticising the lack of coverage given to it, he complained that the media in the country had been “sold off” to various parties.
Shahi also divulged that reports had been received of four suicide bombers who had entered Balochistan’s Kalat and Khuzdar areas.
“If there’s knowledge of the suicide bombers entering [the country], why are they not caught?” he asked.