The Senate witnessed a tumultuous session on Thursday, with lawmakers from both opposition and treasury benches giving fiery speeches on the arrest of PML-N leader Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar, islands ordinance and other issues.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, who was chairing the session, referred a resolution moved by Opposition Leader Raja Zafarul Haq, for the inquiry into the arrest of Safdar and the alleged kidnapping of Sindh IG to the relevant house committee.
The chair also referred the matter of allegations of taking bribe levelled by Senator Bahramand Tangi against Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan to the house committee concerned, while the PPP Senator Sassui Palijo demanded withdrawal of the Pakistan Islands Development Authority (Pida) Ordinance.
PML-N’ Haq presented the resolution regarding the arrest of Safdar in Karachi earlier this week and the alleged kidnapping of IG Sindh. Leader of the House Dr Shehzad Waseem told the house that the provincial government and the army were already investigating the incident.
Dr Waseem was referring to the inquiry ordered by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, following his telephone talk with PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the formation of a ministerial committee by the Sindh government to probe into the matter.
The Sindh government committee is headed by Education Minister Saeed Ghani and comprises provincial ministers Nasir Hussain Shah, Syed Sardar Ali Shah and Awais Qadir Shah, as well as Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab as its members. It will submit its report in 30 days.
Safdar was arrested from his hotel room on Monday morning after a case was registered against him for raising slogans at the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah the previous day. Later in the day, he was released on bail.
Afterword, allegations emerged that the IG Sindh was pressured to issue the arrest warrants of Safdar, after which several police officers applied for leave, saying that the incident had demoralised the force. The leave applications were deferred on assurances from the army chief of inquiry.
Speaking in the Senate session, PPP’s Sherry Rehman welcomed the inquiry ordered by the army chief but insisted that the Senate should also investigate the matter. She said that it was a “sensitive issue” and it should be investigated.
Fellow PPP Senator Raza Rabbani described the incident as interference in the affairs of the provincial government. “If parliament did not come up with a solution, the situation could worsen,” Rabbani, the former chairman of the upper house, warned.
Dr Waseem said that Safdar was alright when he left his hotel room. Law Minister Forogh Naseem said that it was wrong if anyone had exerted any pressure on the police. However, he asked: “What happened at the Mazar-e-Quaid, was that right?”
Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that Safdar violated the sanctity of the Mazar-e-Quaid, and he should be punished in accordance with the law. He accused the opposition of diverting the attention away from the actual incident.
Senator Musadiq Malik said peaceful gatherings could be held anywhere. He mentioned Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying that he had been addressing Tiger Force convention but some people were not being allowed to hold gathering.
Senator Waleed Iqbal said that the matter should be taken up before the entire house to see what had happened at the Quaid’s mausoleum. He said that the Sindh chief minister had admitted that the FIR against Safdar was registered in accordance with the law.
JUI-F’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi said that for the first time in the history of Pakistan an IG was abducted. He referred to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari statement, saying that the PPP chairman had repeatedly said that he was embarrassed because the PML-N leaders were his guests.
PML-N’s Mushahidullah Khan said that the slogans raised at the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam were ‘Give respect to the vote’ and ‘Long live the motherland’. He then asked had Imran Khan not taken his supporters inside the Mazar-e-Quaid.
He asked the PTI leaders: “Didn’t you attack this parliament? Didn’t you attack the PTV [during the PTI sit-in in Islamabad in 2014]? Did we put you in jail?” He said that an IG was a Grade-22 officer and “kidnapping of an IG by a junior officer is a coup”.
After the fiery speeches, the Senate chairman referred Haq’s resolution for formation of special committee to the standing committee on law and justice. Sanjarani also referred the allegation against Omar Ayub to the privileges committee.
Ayub was accused by Senator Behramand Tangi of taking money for the appointment of the Pesco CEO. The energy minister retorted, saying that Tangi was “a liar” and demanded that the matter should be referred to the privileges committee and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Khan told the house said that Tangi had accused an honourable minister of taking money. “Imran Khan’s cabinet does not work in that way,” he said. He supported the demand of Ayub for referring the matter to the privileges committee.
PPP Senator Sassui Palijo raised the issue of Pida ordinance. She said that this government had become an “ordinance factory”, adding: “This is about more than 300 islands of Sindh and Balochistan. It is better to withdraw the ordinance.”
During the meeting, Senator Fida Mohammad pointed out the quorum. When the counting was done, only 22 members were present. Later, the bells were rung for two minutes but the quorum could not be compelted, therefore, the session was adjourned till Friday morning.