NA speaker defends conduct in Javed Hashmi case
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Chaudhry Amir Hussain, Speaker of the National Assembly, told a gathering of Pakistanis in New York Friday that it was not the right of a parliamentarian accused of a crime as grave as treason to be summoned to parliament.
In answer to a question about the Speaker’s role in the non-appearance of PML leader Javed Hashmi in the National Assembly when it was in session, Chaudhry Amir Hussain, who is on a brief visit to the United States, said that it was not the parliamentarian’s right but the Speaker’s discretion to decide this question. He explained that had Mr Hashmi been accused of a less heinous crime, such as murder, he might have summoned him. However, he was charged with treason, so “how could I bring him to the session?” He said the government was so jumpy about this case that his trial was held not in open court but in Adiala Jail, so “how could I take the risk of summoning him to parliament?” He added, “What is this! First they commit a crime and then they want to assert their rights!” He said there was no “gunjaish” or place for such people in parliament.
The meeting took place in a restaurant in Jackson Heights, a New York suburb with a concentration of Pakistanis, his hosting organisation being the Pakistani American Community of Greater New York.
Asked why during his speech he had not even once mentioned the name of the Prime Minister and if Pakistan was or wasn’t a parliamentary democracy, he replied that the gentleman asking the question should have first read up at home what parliamentary democracy means. He said the Parliament consisted of the President, the National Assembly and the Senate. The President, as such, was a part of parliament and in mentioning him, he had thus fully acknowledged the functioning of parliamentary democracy in Pakistan.
He also said that a politician who spends Rs 10 crore on his election to the Assembly, is keen to make Rs 20 crore once he gets into government. Asked about the National Security Council and the leader of the opposition being a member of that body, he said in order to be elected leader of opposition, the member should command, under the constitution, the support of 87 members, the same number that constituted the Assembly quorum. Since the opposition did not have the support of so many members, there was no leader of the opposition and since there was no such person, the National Security Council would have to do without him.
The Speaker was critical of the national press for having splashed headlines across their pages that the Supreme Court had allowed Shahbaz Sharif to return to Pakistan, when the Court had dismissed the petition, merely noting that it was the right of every Pakistani citizen to come to Pakistan. He said he could not understand why some people had celebrated this rejection of the Sharif petition by distributing sweets.
The Speaker said it was his personal opinion that the LFO was a part of the constitution. He said while earlier rulers of Pakistan like Ayub, Yahya and Zia had abrogated the constitution, Gen. Musharraf had only suspended it. There were those who had promised national elections in 90 days but done no such thing and ruled for 11 years, whereas Gen. Musharraf had fulfilled his promise and held elections on time. He said political leaders had not always been sincere. He reminded his audience that the Jamaat-i-Islami acted as Zia’s polling agent during his referendum and no one opposed Zia for not getting a vote of confidence from parliament, so it was strange that President Musharraf should have been opposed when he sought a vote. He said, “Those who eat ‘gur’ (desi brown sugar) should not stop others from doing the same.” He said the opposition had not allowed the National Assembly to function for a whole year, but things were now moving with 25 Standing Committees in place.