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No provision in Constitution or law for suspension of a lawmaker: Raza Rabbani

09 May, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Former chairman of the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani on Tuesday raised a legal question over suspension of former finance minister Senator-elect Ishaq Dar’s membership of the upper house of parliament by the Supreme Court, pointing out that there appeared to be no provision in the Constitution or the law for suspension of a lawmaker.

Speaking in the house hours after Mr Dar’s suspension, Mr Rabbani referred to a provision of the Elections Act, 2017, which confers upon the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) the power to suspend a parliamentarian or a member of a provincial assembly, if he or she fails to submit his annual statement of assets and liabilities — and that too is reversed when the statement is filed.

He hoped that the Supreme Court would give reasoning for suspension of Mr Dar’s membership in its detailed judgement, because otherwise it would open a floodgate and hamper parliamentarians from performing their functions.

Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Mohammad Zafarul Haq endorsed Senator Rabbani’s view and said according to doctors, Mr Dar had a health problem and was unable to travel. He said Mr Dar continued to be summoned by one court after another. He also said that the detailed judgement of the apex court was awaited.

Mr Rabbani also raised the issue of absence of ministers concerned to respond to the questions pertaining to a report about a jailbreak plan to free Dr Shakeel Afridi — the man who had helped the United States track down Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden. He regretted that neither the minister of state for interior was present nor any other minister held any briefing on the matter.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani disclosed that he had already received a report which was sensitive in nature and asked Mr Rabbani to come to his chambers to see it.

Mr Rabbani said the government should have made a request to the chair for in-camera proceedings if any sensitivity was involved.

“For the sake of record, I want to say that the secretaries of foreign affairs and interior will be deemed collaborators and abettors in case something untoward happens or the man leaves the country as these two men have withheld information from the house”.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmad of the Jamaat-i-Isalami said the US had carried out 400 drone attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He also referred to the incidents of “killings of Pakistanis at the hands of US citizens with immunity” and said “the coming generations will not forgive us if parliament keeps silent even today”. “Is Pakistan a hunting ground for the United States?” he asked.

On a point of public importance, Mr Rabbani said according to the Senate’s tentative calendar, the house was supposed to hold its next session from July 10. He pointed out that the National Assembly would be dissolved on May 31 and proposed that the Senate should remain in session during the interim period to keep an eye on the caretakers and to ensure transparency of electoral process. He said it should be ensured that the caretakers avoid taking major policy decisions and confine themselves to day to day functioning and did not transgress their constitutional limits.

Opposition Leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman once again raised the question of the federal cabinet swelling beyond its permissible size and the Senate chairman summoned the minister for parliamentary affairs to respond to the objection.

Former interior minister Rehman Malik said the chief election commissioner (CEC) should brief the Senate on how the ECP would check rigging in the upcoming general elections. “If the chief justice can come to the house, why the CEC cannot do so?” he asked.

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