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Pakistan’s top court to decide future of dissenting parliamentarians

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government on Monday filed the reference for the interpretation of Article 63A in the Supreme Court. 

The reference was filed by the Attorney-General of Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan on behalf of President Arif Alvi.

While, Supreme Court Bar Association (SBCA) President Ahsan Bhoon, while talking to the media upon arrival at the apex court, said that the reference is non-maintainable.

“The petition filed on Article 63A is not maintainable,” Bhoon said.

He said that the Constitution gives the right to appeal, but first, an order has to be issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan and then an appeal can be filed.

“Can a crime be punished before it is committed?” he asked.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Sunday had said in a tweet that the reference was “ready” to be filed in the apex court.

“Hopefully the case will put the bizarre trade of buying loyalties and becoming a turncoat in politics to an end forever and the influence of money in politics would be reduced,” Umar wrote.

Meanwhile, former law minister and eminent constitutional expert Aitzaz Ahsan said that Article 63A is applicable to a member who votes against his party policy and that without casting a vote, a member of the assembly could not be disqualified.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has alleged the use of massive money for the purchase of conscience and loyalties of members of his party by the opposition for support to its no-confidence motion. However, the opposition has challenged the government to come up with any such evidence.

The prime minister, during his speech at the Rawalpindi Ring Road ground-breaking ceremony, called on the estranged members of the National Assembly, belonging to the ruling PTI, to return.

“I will give them the benefit of the doubt,” he remarked.

PTI’s Secretary General Asad Umar issued show-cause notices to as many as 13 MNAs of PTI (who had publicly announced plans to vote according to the call of their conscience and denied outright the money factor in this connection).

Earlier, the government had decided to approach the SC for interpretation of Article 63(A) as several PTI lawmakers announced to vote on the no-trust motion, in a violation of the party policy.

The decision was taken during a consultative meeting of the PTI’s political committee held with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair on Friday.

The meeting discussed the legal options available to act against the disgruntled lawmakers and counter the Opposition’s move to dislodge the government of Imran Khan.

A couple of days ago, 24 PTI MNAs had moved to the Sindh House out of fear that the government will take action against them similar to the March 10 raid by the police on the Parliament Lodges.

MNA Raja Riaz, who is a member of the Jahangir Tareen group, had told journalist Hamid Mir that the disgruntled members would vote for the no-confidence motion against PM Imran Khan in “accordance with their conscience.”

Meanwhile, a number of politicians have demanded Prime Minister Imran Khan and the judiciary take action against the anti-army remarks made by a PTI leader. 

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the PM’s social media team and MNAs’ propaganda campaigns should be taken notice of as they are criticising the army’s neutrality.

“It should be taken notice of, be it through the ISPR or our judiciary. We will not let such propaganda succeed,” he said, adding that it was a struggle for every institution of the country to work within its domain.

The PPP chairman said: “The time has come when the media is talking about a neutral environment, and Imran and his social media team are trying to spread propaganda that institutions are not neutral, be it through provocation or creating a constitutional crisis.”

PPP’s Secretary Information Faisal Karim Kundi also asked for notice to be taken of remarks made by PTI’s Kanwal Shauzab against the army and ISI. “She should avoid acting like [the] Murad Saeed of women,” he said.

PML-N leader Malik Ahmad Khan also strongly criticised PTI’s social media team. Malik said they cannot be allowed to tarnish the image of the army as any threat to the army would pose an existential crisis to the country. 

He asked if a country can survive if the army is not respected, adding that only a strong army is the guarantee for a strong country. He also asked how a country can survive without strongly adhering to the Constitution. The PML-N leader said every Pakistani is ready to sacrifice himself for the development and security of the country.

PML-Q’s Salik Hussain also came down hard against the PTI leader for using strong language against the Pakistan Army and the ISI. In his reaction, Hussain said: “Levelling baseless allegations against the Pakistan Army command and that of the ISI is intolerable. The prime minister must take action to reign in such elements or we know how to handle them.”

Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting of Pakistan Fawad Chaudhry has criticised the social media accounts critical of the Pakistan Army and said they were promoting the “cause of the PML-N.” 

He said this is a ploy to create a rift between the prime minister and the army, which can never happen. He said we firmly believe the army is the guarantor of Pakistan’s territorial integrity.

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