-Bilawal demands new accountability institution which can hold govt, Opp, judiciary and military equally accountable
-PML-N’s Asif urges NA not to approve ordinance ‘as it was against national respect and honour’
-PTI’s Shireen Mazari says Pakistan ‘should never have gone to the ICJ in the first place’
By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
Islamabad: The opposition staged a walkout from the National Assembly on Thursday after PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari pointed out quorum to prevent the government from laying down an ordinance pertaining to granting foreign citizens, who have been convicted in Pakistan, the opportunity to file a review appeal.
The laying down of the ordinance, which was promulgated in May, was included in the National Assembly’s agenda today.
But before that, a heated debate was held on the matter as the opposition accused the government of trying to grant an “NRO” to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav through the ordinance, while the treasury berated the PML-N for opting to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) during its tenure. PML-N leader Khawaja
Asif, in his speech, asked why the government was “facilitating a terrorist” who had confessed to his role in promoting unrest and terrorism in Pakistan. “A terrorist who has confessed to [being involved in] terrorism in our country, against whom we have completed legal proceedings what has happened now that we are formally legislating to facilitate him?
“When we [PML-N] were in the government, Kulbhushan was a slur used against us. It was said that Nawaz Sharif and we [PML-N] were appeasing India,” he said. “Who is appeasing India today?” he thundered.
Asif expressed “very, very strong exceptions” to the ordinance, urging members not to pass the law as it was “against national respect and honour”.
“What concession have they [India] given to you? Tell us,” Asif demanded. “We were taunted, now this government and this prime minister must tell us why he is stooping so low in front of India?” Terming the move as “intolerable and unacceptable”, the former defence minister said the government was caving in to international pressure. In response to Asif’s speech, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, amid ruckus by the opposition, said that the country “should never have gone to the ICJ in the first place” and recalled that both PTI and PPP had opposed the PML-N government’s decision to do so.
“From the first day, we had said that it was wrong of the then government [to go to ICJ] and it was not just our party’s stance, it was the PPP’s as well,” she said.
The minister said that during its tenure, the PML-N had written a letter to the ICJ declaring that the country was restricting the international court’s jurisdiction. Despite that letter, she said, the PML-N government decided to contest the case in the ICJ after India took the case there. She pointed out that PPP and PTI both of which were in opposition of the movehad raised objections over the then government’s decision to contest the case as “there was no reason to do so”.
“If one country does not accept the ICJ’s [jurisdiction], the case is not heard,” she told the house. She recalled that PPP Senator Sherry Rehman and Naveed Qamar were also part of a joint parliamentary committee meeting in which the matter was discussed. Mazari also criticised the PML-N’s move to send a Grade 20 Foreign Office official to represent Pakistan in the international judicial body. “Now that you have accepted their jurisdiction and they have passed a verdict, we will have to implement it […] Why did you go to the ICJ then?” The minister lamented that the country was now “stuck with an ICJ decision because of their [PML-N’s] shortcomings”.
“Factually, they have imposed this difficulty on our country […] We should never have gone to the ICJ, they did the wrong thing,” Mazari declared. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, during his speech, criticised the government for passing the ordinance in May “without telling anyone” even though both the houses were in session during June. He pointed out that the rules and laws stated that an ordinance must be presented in Parliament “as soon as possible” if it is promulgated when the house is in session.
The PPP leader lamented that the government had not taken the opposition in confidence and had only presented the ordinance today after the matter was raised in Senate and discussed by himself during a press conference.
Responding to Mazari’s speech, Bilawal said: “If you did not accept the jurisdiction of international courts, it does not mean that you grant and NRO [to Jadhav] through Pakistan’s law.” He recalled that the Indian pilot Abhinandan, who was captured after his plane was shot down by the Pakistan Air Force in Azad Jammu and Kashmir last year, was “offered tea and sent back quickly”.
“And now, Kulbhushan Jadhav who admitted to spying and committing terror offences in Pakistan, is being granted an NRO by Imran Khan.”
The PPP chief said that the government had “already given and NRO” to Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s terrorist Ehsanullah Ehsan, who had admitted his role in the Army Public School massacre that took place in 2014.