ISLAMABAD: Terming parliament the most powerful institution of the country and the supreme organ of state, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Tuesday emphatically called for the protection of its supremacy.
Coincidently, the minister’s emphatic appeal came a day after Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif’s categorical statement that the army would resolutely preserve its institutional pride and dignity. Khawaja Asif took exception to the remarks of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Asad Umar that “some black sheep” are sitting in parliament. “If you yourself vilify parliament then one should not expect people to give respect to this institution,” said Asif, whose earlier comments about Pervez Musharraf have already stirred a debate.
After a day of rowdy scenes during the passage of Protection of Pakistan legislations, the government adopted a reconciliatory approach by wholeheartedly accepting the motion of PTI’s Chairman Imran Khan. The motion sought constitution of a special committee comprising not more than ten members to investigate into the allegations of non-payment of taxes by parliamentarians. It called for submission of its report within 90 days.
Two ministers, Khawaja Asif and Pervez Rasheed, objected to the words of the motion. Asif strongly refuted the notion that PTI’s Asad shared in his talk that people do not trust parliament. “People respect parliament, and their participation in the general election is a testimony to the fact,” he asserted while advising that one should not cross the limits while speaking about any institution. The minister appealed to the parliamentarians to safeguard the honour of parliament like others who not only protect their institutions but also the people associated with them.
The defence minister noted that anyone can make a mistake but accountability should be done within the specified framework. He recalled that unfortunately some people from the ranks of the parliamentarians supported the usurpers in the past. Information Minister Pervez Rasheed also rejected the claim that parliament has lost the confidence of the people, and stated that this message would only strengthen the anti-democratic forces, who want to impose their will on the people. “There is no gulf between people and democratic institutions. Pakistani people always trust their parliament, and all talk of loss of confidence is false,” the information minister stated emphatically.
He deplored that Asad Umar had made the remarks despite the government’s acceptance of his motion, and agreed to constitute the committee to investigate the matter. Earlier, PTI chief Imran Khan asked Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to take up the motion, which has been presented six times in the past but never discussed. The motion was at 34 number in the list of 36 items on the order of the day for the private members’ day. Speaker Sadiq, however, took up it in the beginning of the session on the demand of Imran Khan, who labelled it as one the most critical issue of the country, and said that until the parliamentarians become role models the talks of increasing the tax revenue are just farce.
He pointed out that Pakistan has the lowest tax-to-GDP ratio, which would prevent sufficient allocation of funds for health, education. He also noted that a weak country cannot uphold its sovereignty. Imran said that he had declared all his assets, and announced that the government can confiscate his assets abroad, if it finds any. Meanwhile, opposition leader Khursheed Shah also supported the motion of Asad Umar and stated that he and his family owns no asset abroad. “If the government finds any such asset, it can confiscate it,” he offered.
The opposition parties’ members fully supported the motion of Asad Umar, and the government agreed to look into the issue, with the exception of few opposing voices of Sheikh Rohail Asghar and Mian Abdul Manan, who deplored that the parliamentarians are defaming their institutions themselves. Manan asked rhetorically whether the parliamentarians have signed a contract to malign the assembly and make its members look like criminals. Later, the House approved 10 private members’ bills by referring them to the relevant standing committees for further discussion.
The bills were Representation of the People, the National Air Transportation Safety Board Bill 2014, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2014, the National Database and Registration Authority (Amendment) Bill 2014, the Islamabad Rent Restriction (Amendment) Bill 2014, the Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2014, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2014, the Constitutional (22nd Amendment) Bill 2014 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2014 as well as disposing off the calling attention notice.
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