ISLAMABAD - Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani on Monday criticised the way through which the Faizabad sit-in was ended and said that a new trend set by the government and the role of the military to deal with a handful protesters through an agreement was a direct threat to democracy and the state.

The remarks of the chairman Senate came on the private members’ day soon after he lashed out at Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal for “their absence” in the House and for not taking the House into confidence what he said on a matter that has become “direct threat to the state.”

He said that the role of the military and the government decision to end the protest through a written agreement was not only a matter of grave concern but a serious threat to politics, democracy and the state. He said that unfortunately the civilian government was on the back foot.

“We never saw such a trend before, and the trend which we are witnessing toady is not only dangerous for the political class but also for the democracy and is also quite dangerous for the state,” he said.

The Senate chairman also called for building a national narrative to cope with challenges faced by the country. He said that the time has come that intellectuals, politicians and all other stakeholders must sit together for building a national narrative in which the Parliament should have a key role.

Rabbani went on to say that the role of the government was dismal as it was not giving priority to the parliament which will ‘protect, preserve and defend’ the Constitution.

“Does the government take the House into confidence on the issue of the sit-in and the way it was ended through an agreement,” he said when State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry on his query said that the interior minister was out of the city. “This is appalling as the House cannot be held hostage to the interior minister,” he maintained. He said that the interior minister reached the court on a 15-minute short notice, but it was appalling he had no time for the parliament.

Rabbani said that the prime minister himself and at least the interior minister should have been present in the House. “The PM is out of the country. Is Jeddah summit more important than the country?” he questioned.  “Whatever happened is not a small thing the army chief had to intervene; MNAs’ residences were attacked by mobs and some had to submit their resignations to sector commanders of the religious outfit and there was complete media blackout,” he deplored adding that no one from the government came to take the House into confidence.

He said that the situation was not normal as the whole country remained hostage for more than 22 days, the country was on the brink of civil war for the last two days and the law minister had to resign. 

“If a court can issue a contempt notice, the parliament can also issue the same to the minister,” he said.  “The parliament should be informed why the government had to call in the army and what forced it to disperse the mob through an agreement?” he asked.

Rabbani said that the parliament would carry forward the democratic system no matter what ever the situation should be. “No other system whether it is technocrat or General Musharraf formula, the 1973 Constitution will always remain on the top,” he said. 

The writ of the state, which Rabbani acknowledged has been eroded, can only be restored through the Parliament in light of the guiding principles put forth in the 1973 constitution.

The opposition lawmakers also lambasted the government for its failure to handle the sit-in and paving the way for the military to step in to defuse the tension. 

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar asked for holding a judicial inquiry to probe all sit-ins of the past including that of 2014’s sit-in of the PTI. He said that it was the first time that a minister had to resign as a result of the sit-in. He called it a worrying fact that the agreement between the government and the leadership of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) was written by the army.

He also termed as unwise the press release of the telephonic call of the army chief to the prime minister advising that the sit-in be handled peacefully, avoiding violence on both sides.

He said that the term ‘both sides’ equates the dharna people already declared as terrorists by the Islamabad High Court making demands at gun point with a legitimate government that is constitutionally bound to protect the life, property and honour of the citizens.

He said that the army and civil must speak to each other through available mechanisms and not through media even if the talk was necessary there was no need for issuing any press release which could be misinterpreted.

He said that the violence can only be used by the state and the army who have been successfully carried out operation Raddalul Fasad, played the role of a mediator. He said that a judicial probe was held in all the dharnas of 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 to expose if there were hidden hands behind them. He also said that sit-ins had become damaging for the Federation. 

PTI Senator Azam Swati said that it spoke volume of the interior minister’s incompetence who was captain of the team but held his subordinate officers responsible for launching the operation against Faizabad protesters on court orders. He said that the government utilised all its resources to re-elect a disqualified man as the head of the PML-N, but acted as a silent spectator to disperse the protesters. 

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq hit back at the PTI lawmaker saying the party which held 126 days sit-in was now criticising the government for the fiasco. He pacified the enraged Senate chairman by saying that the sit-in issue was yet to be completely resolved and after that the interior minister will take the House into confidence completely. The protesters had refused to vacate the venue unless their supporters were released and the government was making efforts, he added. 

PML-Q Senator Kamal Ali Agha asked for making public the report of Raja Zafarul Haq to expose those who were responsible for making controversial changes in the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (PBUH) clause to settle the issue once for all.

The House was prorogued without passing the delimitation of constituencies amendment bill for which the Senate was especially summoned.

The Senate chairman on Monday made a last effort by summoning the meeting of the heads of parliamentary parties but he failed to bring consensus on the proposed constitutional amendment bill because of the reservations of the PPP.