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No political prisoners in country, minister tells Senate

ISLAMABAD: The government claimed in the Senate on Friday that there were no political prisoners in the country, but the assertion was rejected by the opposition.

Members belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement cited examples of Dr Asim Hussain, Wasim Akhtar, Rehman Samejo and Ali Nawaz Rind, while Jehanzeb Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal talked about mysterious disappearances, incarcerations and killings of political activists in Balochistan.

Members from both sides of the aisle, however, had a convergent opinion that there should be a clear distinction between criminals and political prisoners.

Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rahman, while winding up discussion on a motion moved by some three dozen senators belonging to various political parties to discuss the issue of political prisoners, said that there were no political prisoners in the country. He said Pakistan Rangers had been deployed in Sindh on the requisition of the provincial government and there was no intervention from the federation in the matter.

The government and opposition members levelled allegations against each other and Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan criticised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for what he called telling lies about his agreement with the Musharraf government to go in exile and not doing politics for 10 years. He said initially it was claimed that there was no agreement and later on people were informed that the agreement was for five years.

“Political prisoners are not the ones who flee the country under agreements,” he remarked and referred to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who refused to move a mercy petition and beg before military dictator General Ziaul Haq, saying that he did not want to be killed in history.

About Dr Asim Hussain, the opposition leader said he was kept under custody for 90 days by Rangers and then the National Accountability Bureau put him in solitary confinement. “Such inappropriate and discriminatory attitude turns a detainee into a political prisoner,” he remarked.

Mr Ahsan termed the report of the inquiry commission on Quetta incident a charge-sheet against Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, saying that the report cited the minister’s meetings with leaders of banned outfits and accused him of organising their rallies.

He once again challenged the prime minister to mention the name of arrested Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav in his speech and said the spy would be declared a political prisoner and allowed to fly back to his country.

When Mushahidullah Khan, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the Senate, tried to respond to Mr Ahsan’s remarks, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani did not allow him to speak. But he continued speaking with his mike turned off.

At this point Aijaz Dhamra of the PPP also tried to speak but the chairman did not allow him as well.

Former interior minister Rehman Malik said those who were accused of committing crimes should be arrested and tried, but there should be a clear distinction between accountability and political victimisation. He claimed that there were no political prisoners during the PPP’s tenure.

Chaudhry Tanvir of the PML-N observed that protecting criminals in the name of politics was a conspiracy against democracy and justice.

Mr Jamaldini said it was not enough to label someone as a terrorist, adding that the accused must be tried in a court of law. He said the situation was different in Balochistan where people had been put in jails for demanding provincial autonomy in past. The situation is still critical. He said there should be an end to enforced disappearances in Balochistan.

Mushahidullah Khan recalled that Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi and Maulana Maudoodi were on the brink of being sent to the gallows for launching the Khatme Nabuwat movement in 1953. He narrated the stories of Shahi Qila during the days of the Ayub Khan government, cancellation of newspapers’ declarations and award of 10-year imprisonment to revolutionary poet Habib Jalib for writing a poem titled ‘mein nahin manta’. He said senior journalists Mujibur Rahman Shami and Altaf Hussain Qureshi had been convicted.

He said Raja Mohammad Zafarul Haq had been detained in 2009 when he was to take the oath as senator and pointed out that Rehman Malik was interior minister at that time. The house was prorogued sine die.

courtesy : dawn news

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