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Opposition in Senate walked out on Dr Shakeel Afridi case

08 May, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate staged a walkout on Monday to protest against the government’s failure to brief the upper house of parliament about the alleged jailbreak plan made to free Dr Shakeel Afridi — the man who helped America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) track down Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had requested the interior and foreign ministers to present their reports on the matter in the Senate on Monday. The Senate had sought clarification regarding reports which suggested that Mr Afridi had been moved from a prison in Peshawar to the Adiala jail in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, following an abortive attempt by the CIA to retrieve Mr Afridi.

Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani informed Mr Sanjrani on Monday that he had asked the two ministers to appear before the house. However, Mr Sanjrani said it would take a few days for them to submit their responses, and pointed out that the interior minister had been attacked the other day. Mr Rabbani responded saying he had also summoned the foreign minister, and added that any minister could have provided an explanation.

Regretting that no minister was ready to take responsibility to speak on the issue of Mr Afridi, the former Senate chairman announced a walkout, which members of other opposition parties also joined.

Opposition Leader Sherry Rehman noted that anyone from the prime minister’s massive cabinet could have spoken on behalf of the injured minister.

She pointed out that there were 60 ministers in the cabinet even though the law allowed 11 per cent of the total strength of parliament to be appointed as ministers. “My mathematics may be weak, but according to my calculations, the permissible strength comes to 49,” she remarked.

Terming the constitution of the cabinet illegal, Ms Rehman observed that anyone could take the matter to court, and urged the government to trim the cabinet to a lawful size. “Those who talk about sanctity of ballot should also respect the law,” she said.

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