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Punjab seems not to be a province, but a family: Aitzaz Ahsan

09 March, 2018

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PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said on Thursday that "those attacking the higher judiciary of the country in speeches and rallies" were creating the space for a dictator to overthrow the democratic setup.

In what he himself had described as a "heartfelt speech", Ahsan said on the floor of the Senate that the judiciary seemed to be dealing with its critics with too soft a hand.

It was veiled criticism of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who have been on a collision course with the judiciary ever since Sharif's disqualification from the top office last year.

Ahsan did not stop there: he threw his weight behind the army, saying he thinks Pakistan is currently embroiled in a major war.

"The army is our army," he insisted, before criticising the PML-N and its allies for insisting that the military was interfering in state business.

"They say that the judiciary's verdicts are penned 'somewhere else'," Ahsan continued. "But where are they [verdicts] written when it is your own government that is in power?"

However, the senator also clarified that he "100 per cent" agrees with PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, who had earlier this week stressed that all institutions should remain within their prescribed boundaries.

He said Babar had rightfully said that it was "frightening" when judges quote poetry in their verdicts, adding that "military personnel [too] had breached their assigned role in the Constitution when they distributed Rs1,000 [cheques to protesters] at the Faizabad sit-in."

"It is true that each institution must operate within its limits," Ahsan said, "but that applies to us (the parliament) as well."

He reminded those present — it was not one of the more well-attended sessions of Senate — that "the parliament, judiciary and executive are three pillars of the state and the army is one of the arms of the executive."

Ahsan also criticised the PML-N for refusing to accept the Panamagate verdict on the basis that it was issued "on an iqama", but then accepting the Supreme Court's judgment in the Hudaibiya Papers Mills appeal "just because it favoured them."

The outspoken senator pointed out that when the judiciary had ruled against former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, the PPP had been told by the PML-N to "obey the Supreme Court's order and vacate his seat".

"However, when the SC rules against the Sharifs, rallies are arranged and people are made to chant slogans against the verdict," he remarked.

He also pointed out that the Supreme Court — despite a perceived risk to the historical Shalimar Gardens — had allowed the Punjab government to continue developing the Orange Line Metro Train, a pet project of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

"Yet the judiciary and the prosecutor were criticised only when Ahad Cheema was arrested." Cheema is believed to have incriminating information about the Punjab government's alleged corruption.

The PPP leader further pointed out that there had been no strike calls after the arrests of Salman Farooqui and other officials of the Sindh government. Using that as an example, he termed the recent strike by Punjab's bureaucrats against Cheema's arrest as tantamount to "treason".

"The decision to call that strike was made in the office of the [Punjab] chief secretary," Ahsan alleged. "This is treason, but it is allowed for Punjab. On the other hand, the people of Balochistan are picked up even if a leaf falls out of place."

"Is Punjab special?" he asked. "Punjab seems not to be a province, but a family."

Returning to the frequent criticism hurled at the judiciary in the PML-N's post Panamagate rallies, Ahsan exhorted that: "no one has ever given politicians the right to challenge judicial decisions."

"Imagine, if they can attack the chief justice so openly, what must [accountability court judge] Justice Bashir go through? How much pressure would the court [where the Sharifs are being tried for corruption] be in?" he asked.

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