ISLAMABAD/Karachi - The National Assembly, on the second private members day of its 4th session, witnessed a spat between two opposition parties, PPP and MQM, over the latter’s demand to hand over Karachi to the army, while Leader of Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah termed the demand a slap in the face of democracy.
The house that was to continue debate on President Asif Ali Zardari’s address without taking a single agenda item kept on discussing the issue of handing over Karachi to the army on Tuesday.
Inviting heated debate on the matter, MQM’s Parliamentary Leader Dr Farooq Sattar, on a point of order, demanded handing over of Karachi to the army. By invoking Article-245 of the Constitution, the MQM leader said, there is a need to hand over the city to the army to restore peace in the economic hub. He said that law and order situation in the biggest city of the country was fast turning from bad to worst these days.
Declaring it a lawful demand, Sattar was of the view that law and order situation in Karachi was worsening so much that every day innocent people and political workers were being killed. He came down hard on the city police for not taking appropriate measures to arrest the criminals.
He argued that act of handing over Karachi to the army might look undemocratic, but nothing is precious than the stability and peace of the country. After his detailed speech, the MQM legislators along with other opposition parties, including the PTI and the Awami Muslim League (AML), walked out of the House.
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, the MQM and the Awami Muslim League made it clear that they observed token walkout on deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi and lodging of FIR against a private TV channel under anti-terrorism act.
The MQM’s demand was immediately turned down by not only the treasury benches but also the main opposition party PPP, terming it undemocratic.
Taking the floor, Syed Khursheed Shah strongly opposed the idea floated by the MQM. “This action would be a slap in the face of democracy. This demand was not made when the MQM was part of the Sindh and federal governments,” said PPP’s legislator. He also termed it as a conspiracy to defame PPP’s provincial government in Sindh. He further said that if it is based on security situation, then why the same should not be done in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the law and order situation is also very bad.
He said that there was a need to strengthen democracy and avoid such undemocratic demands which could cause harm to whole the system.
About registration of FIR against a private TV channel in Quetta, Shah took it as a violation of article-19 which guaranteed freedom of expression.
Deputy Parliamentary Leader of the PTI, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said that the law and order situation in Karachi was alarming. He said that the incumbent government should take the house into confidence about the deteriorating situation of the city.
About MQM’s demand, the PTI leader said that there was a need to realize why a democratic party made to the government a seemingly undemocratic demand.
The government should immediately seek a solution to the problem, Qureshi added. He was of the view that the MQM Governor in Sindh province should resign before invoking Article 245.
About the registration of FIR against a private TV channel, the PTI lawmaker said that freedom of Press should be ensured as envisaged in article 19 of the constitution.
Taking the floor, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid said that registering FIR against private channel was unfortunate. “Media is the fourth pillar of the state and this action is equal to curbing the media freedom,” he added.
Responding to the MQM’s demand, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab ruled out the possibility of handing over Karachi to the army. Political factions from Sindh should give recommendations about solution to the Karachi issue rather than blame each other. The incumbent government, he said, is determined not to interfere in the provincial matters.
Federal Minister Lt General (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch said that the army can be deployed under Article-245 only in specific areas. He further said that it was prerogative of the Parliament to decide this matter.
The house also saw disorder just before the end of the session as the MQM and the PPP didn’t allow the members to speak on the floor while Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi seemed helpless to control the situation.
ALTAF INITIATED THE CALL
Earlier, MQM chief Altaf Hussain on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to hand over administrative affairs of Karachi to the army in order to curb violence.
In a statement issued from London, Altaf said the situation in Karachi was worsening day by day and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should hand over responsibilities of the city to the army.
Altaf Hussain said that military should act indiscriminately against all groups involved in terror activities for restoring peace in the city.
Altaf said that the metropolitan has become a safe haven for terrorists while law and order situation is going from bad to worse with the passage of time, leaving the business community at the mercy of these scoundrels who have nothing to do with the security and survival of the country.
The MQM chief also condemned the shameful incidents of firing in Lyari.
On the other hand, the MQM demand to hand over Karachi to the army drew mixed reaction from political parties.
It is a routine in Karachi where 10 to 15 people lose their lives on a daily basis, and it is the major cause of capital flight and shifting of industrial units.
The JI blamed the MQM for creating the problem. Extortion and kidnappings were started by the MQM in the city and now many people have followed their suit, said Nasrullah Shaji of the Jamat-e-Islami.
Commented on the Peoples Party’s government, he said they have been in charge not only of the city but also the country but they did not do anything good. He rejected the army rule in Karachi and said this is not the way to overcome the problem.
Central Leader of Muhajir Qaumi Movement (Haqiqi) Shamshad Ghori said target killings, extortion and kidnappings make a decade-old story in Karachi.
Awami National Party Sindh General Secretary Bashir Jan said: “For the last three years, we have only one demand of the betterment of Karachi and it is the de-weaponization, which is not possible with available resources; with police or Rangers.”