Lal Masjid: Nisar criticised for not arresting cleric

by Zulfiqar Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan came under criticism in Senate on Friday for his earlier statement made in the House that hard-liner cleric of Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz could not be arrested as there was no criminal case or evidence against him.

An outspoken Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar sought a privilege motion against Nisar, saying he incorrectly stated in the House that the government could not move against the hard-liner, as there was no case against him.

The demand by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar came before Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – an independent opposition political party in Senate – staged a walkout in protest against the government for not rounding up hard-liner preacher who what they said has made the ‘state hostage’ through his radical ideology. Civil society, human rights activists and a number of parliamentarians have been demanding the arrest of Lal Mosque cleric for “publicly declaring allegiance and seeking support of self-styled militant organisation Daesh”.

In a policy statement given in the House on December 30 on the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), the interior minister had said that the cleric could not be arrested, as there was no case or evidence against him. He had said if anyone would come up with documentary evidence against the cleric, the government would take immediate action regardless of political considerations.

Babar also placed on the record of the Senate four ‘documents’ to prove his point that the extremist preacher was an absconder and said the government was deliberately not apprehending him either because of fear or complicity. The documents, he produced included a copy of an FIR dated December 19, 2014 registered against the cleric, the warrants of arrest issued, court direction to declare him absconder and the advertisement declaring Maulana Aziz absconder.

He also produced a copy of the official communication to mobile telephone companies to suspend mobile phone services in selected areas in the vicinity of Lal Masjid to prevent the dissemination of Aziz’s Friday sermons. In addition, the Lal Masjid cleric had publicly declared allegiance to ISIS and sought its support, Babar said. “These documents which are also available with the Interior Ministry prove that the Interior Minister’s statement in Senate was devoid of truth and facts,” he lamented.

He asked Chairman Senate to either send the matter to the privilege committee as the privilege of the house had been breached or alternatively direct the government to give a formal explanation on the contradiction between the statement of minister and the facts highlighted by documents. Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said the case was not a breach of privilege but the lawmaker should submit all these documents to Senate Secretariat. He also directed the State Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab to give a comprehensive reply on the issue raised by the Senator.

About the issue of use of official bullet-proof vehicle by former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry at the public expense, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab told the House that retired chief justice was getting this facility under January 15, 2014 directions of the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The law ministry is bearing expenses of fuel and maintenance of the vehicle under the court orders, he said, adding we have filed an intra-court appeal against the IHC decision, which is yet to be fixed.

After Senator Babar took up the matter on Wednesday, the Senate Chairman had sought justification from the government why the former chief justice has been allowed to use a bullet-proof car at public expense by the federal government. When PPP parliamentary leader Saeed Ghani said the government should file an appeal in Supreme Court because intra-court appeal had not been fixed within two years, the chair remarked that this was a court matter and the government could not be held responsible for the delay.

The house also made a significant amendment in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012 that eliminated the role of the federal ministers in summoning the meetings of the house standing committees. Now the chairman of committee will have the final say to call a meeting. Earlier, the rules provided that a committee meeting would be fixed “in consultations with the minister concerned”. Now these words have been omitted through an amendment. The session was prorogued sine die.

Source: Business Recorder