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EC, judiciary under fire in Senate

09 October, 2012

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ISLAMABAD: Senators from the treasury benches on Monday claimed that a calculated conspiracy was being hatched to show disrespect to parliament and politicians and criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan for seeking a fresh oath from parliamentarians for not having dual nationality.

Even PPP Senator Saeed Ghani accused Chief Justice Ifthikar Muhammad Chaudhry of violating the judges' code of conduct in Dr Arsalan Ifthikar case.

The outburst of the senators came when Leader of the House in the Senate Jehangir Badr raised the police raid issue at his Punjab House room in Islamabad in search of former Ogra chairman Tauqeer Sadiq. But it turned into another issue i.e. the Election Commission of Pakistan letter to the Senate Secretariat to take fresh oath from parliamentarians for not holding dual nationality.

The issue cropped up when Presidential Spokesman and PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, on a point of order, linked the raid issue at the room of Jehangir Badr by the police as a calculated move to disrespect parliamentarians and politicians.

Senate Chairman Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari gave the ruling on the issue of the letter of Election Commission of Pakistan on the fresh oath of senators on not keeping dual nationality, saying that it was not a job of the Senate Secretariat to take the declaration from senators but of the Election Commission. "Seeking a fresh declaration is a job of the Election Commission but not of the Senate Secretariat. The Senate function starts when someone took oath as a member and election process is a job of the Election Commission," he added. The Election Commission has recently asked the Senate and NA Secretariat to take fresh oaths from the MPs on the issue of dual nationality following an SC order

Speaking on a point of order, Senator Farhatullah Babar took an exception to the instructions to the MPS to sign fresh declarations about their nationality even after they had already signed such declarations at the time of filing nomination papers.

He said that there was no quarrel with the constitutional position on nationality and election to parliament. "There is also no quarrel with requiring MPs to submit declarations they had actually signed declarations at the time of elections," he added.

The issue, he said, was under what law the MPs were being directed to file fresh declarations. "If the declaration already signed is proven wrong, the MP concerned must be punished in accordance with the law," he said.

He said that those who gave wrong affidavits were now being prosecuted. "This is fair enough and any other MP who is thus found to have submitted a wrong affidavit should also be punished, but it is not lawful to ask them to submit fresh declarations and that also in a humiliating manner."

He then read out from the letter of the ECP to the Senate Secretariat that asked the Senate secretary to summon individual members to his office and get him or her sign the affidavit. "The affidavit thus signed by the senator is then required to be verified by the Senate secretary," he said. "Not only that but the Senate has further been asked to get the signatures of the senator and verification of the secretary further re-verified by a notary public," he said.

This is not permitted, under any law, to ask for this additional requirement after a candidate has already submitted his affidavit, he said. "Signing declarations is not the issue, but the issue is why fresh declarations and thereby paint MPs as liars," he added

He said what happened to Jehangir Badr last night and the fresh declarations were symptoms of a systematic plan to erode parliament's authority and show it disrespect. "There seems to be a systematic plan to ridicule the parliamentarians," he added.

Some other institutions seem to be systematically encroaching upon the domain of parliament, he said. He said that the Speaker's ruling was overturned. "Not only the ruling was overturned, directions were issued to the ECP to de-notify the former PM overriding the constitutional powers of the ECP," he added.

Similarly, the contempt law passed by the elected parliament was annulled by the SC which itself enacted the law by resurrecting the contempt law given by a military dictator.He said that the contempt law may have some lacunae in which case the SC should have sent it back to parliament and asked that it be reviewed.

Babar said parliament would have certainly reviewed it in deference to the judiciary as it did in the case of the constitutional procedure for the appointment of judges laid down initially in the 18th Amendment." But unfortunately parliament's right to legislate was not shown the respect it deserved."

He said that the entire parliament should not be punished or held in contempt for the wrong affidavits given by some. He said parliament never criticised the judiciary as an institution just because some of them had taken oath under the PCO. "Similarly, parliament should not be ridiculed for the wrong done by some of its members," he added.

Babar said the erosion of parliament was a disturbing thought, and parliament must stand up to its rights and privileges. "It is the question of parliament. It (parliament) must wake up. We must stand up and say 'Enough is enough'."

However, PML-N Senator Syed Zafar Ali Shah defended the Supreme Court's decision on the dual nationality and said that this issue came up when the sitting Interior Minister Rehman Malik submitted a false affidavit that he did not hold dual nationality. "Don't ridicule the institutions to hide your own mistakes," he warned.

On the issue of rejection of National Assembly speaker's ruling on the former prime minister and declaring contempt of court bill as null and void by the Supreme Court, he said the Supreme Court had taken both the decisions rightly. "We, on the opposition benches, continued to oppose the bill, but the government did not listen to us, and it was rightly declared null and void by the Supreme Court," he added.

PPP Senator Saeed Ghani came hard on the judiciary, saying that parliament had passed the 18th Amendment under which the commission was formed for the appointment of judges, but the Supreme Court sent it back to parliament, which brought the 19th Amendment.

He said when the parliamentary committee objected to appointment of judges, then the desired petition was filed in the Sindh High Court, which gave the decision against the parliamentary committee and then an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court, which upheld the decision of the SHC while directing the notification of judges be issued within a week or face contempt. "The parliamentary committee has been made redundant and it is better to pack up as the judiciary itself has to take the decision on appointment of judges," he added.

He said every judge took an oath that he will follow the code of conduct, but the chief justice himself violated the code of conduct in the Arsalan Ifthikar case.

PML-Q Senator Kamil Ali Agha came hard on the Election Commission of Pakistan on writing the letter to the Senate Secretariat for a fresh oath, saying that why the Election Commission had failed to implement the law when the nominations were filed. "If the amounts from the disqualified parliamentarians were being recovered, then why the amounts were not recovered from the officials of the ECP who had failed to implement this law," he added.


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