–PPP’s Khursheed Shah calls Sindh PA speaker’s arrest ‘a step backward for democracy’
–Criticises PM for not inviting Opp leaders to Saudi crown prince’s engagements
–PTI’s Shafqat Mehmood criticises PPP’s performance in Sindh
–Questions why PPP, PML-N did not amend NAB laws during respective tenures
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly session was adjourned on Thursday after a war of words erupted between the opposition and the government members over the arrest of Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Khursheed Shah termed Durrani’s arrest “a step backward for democracy” in Pakistan and said that his party would protest the “humiliation” of the speaker.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested Durrani from an Islamabad hotel on Wednesday on charges of making illegal appointments and accumulating assets beyond known sources of income.
Shah lambasted the incumbent government and said jails of the country “are made to punish politicians”. He lamented that Durrani was “dragged into a vehicle by force” which was a “shameful act that insults the Parliament”.
Expressing his displeasure over recent developments which have increased pressure on the party, Shah maintained that the parliament is supreme and above all institutions of the country and plays a constitutionally mandated role in the country.
Although there are many leaders facing charges, he asserted, only the Sindh Assembly speaker was arrested in such a humiliating way. He inquired how were the members of the House expected to feel secure when such a treatment had been meted out to their custodian.
Shah warned that “we will protest” over the move. “We will come out onto the streets to run a movement to strengthen institutions and for the respect of politicians,” he thundered.
Condemning the arrest of the senior party leader, the former NA speaker said the party’s protest should not be mistaken for a mere “war of words”. “We will come out onto the streets to run a movement to strengthen institutions and for the respect of politicians,” he said.
He also called upon NA Speaker Asad Qaiser to protest the treatment by NAB officials as it could happen to him too one day.
At that, the speaker pointed out that he was not facing any charges or probes and is running the House in an impartial manner. Shah warned him that cases could be fabricated against him anytime.
Moreover, he criticised the speaker for not issuing the production orders for PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique for he was “acting under someone’s influence”.
Moreover, he lashed at Prime Minister Imran Khan for not inviting any members of the opposition to official engagements during the Saudi crown prince’s visit.
Recalling the ‘sacrifices’ of the party, Shah said former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had laid down her life for the nation while her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, laid down the foundations for a nuclear Pakistan.
‘WHY PPP, PML-N DID NOT AMEND NAB LAWS?’
As the opposition began chanting slogans, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Shafqat Mehmood retorted and criticised the PPP for lackluster performance in Sindh over the last decade and said: “no elected speaker or leader is above the law”.
Mehmood further retorted that “the PPP should approach the courts if they have misgivings and not cause hue and cry in the Parliament”.
Moreover, he inquired why PPP and PML-N did not seek to amend the NAB laws when they were in power for 10 years if they really had so many objections.
“The criticism is levelled against an institution that is not a part of this Parliament and it shouldn’t be. It was made by Gen Musharraf. After that, in 2008, the PPP was in government and 2013 onwards, the PML-N was in power and they didn’t change even a full stop in NAB’s law during the 10 years they were in power,” he said.
“When the NAB chairman was appointed, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif contacted then leader of the opposition, Khursheed Shah. They appointed the incumbent chairman,” Mahmood explained.
“NAB doesn’t take directions from the prime minister or the government, yet they direct their criticism towards us,” he stated. “I am not here to criticise NAB and it is not my mandate. Our senior minister was also arrested and we are upset about it too, just like you are. But what can we do? It is not our jurisdiction,” Mahmood told his colleagues.
“Khursheed Shah is using Parliament as a shield. I am glad you’re calling this a black law, but why didn’t you remember it when you were in government? You can pass the 18th Amendment, but you can’t amend this law?” he asked.
“No one should use democracy and parliament as a shield to protect corruption,” he stated, adding that the opposition should focus on the Pulwama attack and Pakistan instead of trying to protect those who were corrupt and at all.
As Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Fehmida Mirza, formerly a PPP member and now part of the Grand Democratic Alliance, took the floor, the opposition leaders did not let her speak and gathered next to the speaker’s rostrum.
As the PPP lawmakers continued their protest, Speaker Asad Qaiser adjourned the session till 11am on Friday.
Earlier, the House had, through a motion, allowed the speaker to constitute the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir.