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Aitzaz accuses govt of ceding civilian space to military

Aitzaz accuses govt of ceding civilian space to military

ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and PPP stalwart Aitzaz Ahsan on Thursday accused the government of ceding “civilian and democratic space” to the military.

“It seems this (civilian) space is being slowly snatched from us or we are surrendering it,” Mr Ahsan said in his opening remarks during his speech on the federal budget while referring to Tuesday’s meeting between federal ministers and the military leadership at the army’s GHQ and siege of the house of MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar by the Rangers in Karachi.

Mr Ahsan’s statement came a day after Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani in his apparent reference to the two incidents had warned the government against its growing tendency of “bypassing” the parliament on key matters. Mr Rabbani had said “these two incidents are sufficient to send a message to the government and clearly show the direction of the wind”.

While Mr Rabbani avoided specifying the two incidents, Mr Ahsan categorically stated that “summoning of the defence minister to the GHQ” was “regrettable”. He said the newspapers carried reports and pictures of the four ministers attending a meeting at the GHQ along with another report about besieging of the MQM leader’s house. These reports, he said, proved that “the government is intentionally surrendering its authority and powers”. Political analysts were of the view that the ruling party was doing so because it feared an “intervention”, the PPP leader said.

“(Military) interventions cannot be stopped in this way,” he said, adding that protection of democratic and civilian space was a collective responsibility.

Mr Ahsan criticised Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for not mentioning the Panama Papers issue in his budget speech. He was of the view that Panamagate was the “biggest financial scam” in the country’s history.

The PPP leader, who is part of the parliamentary committee currently preparing the terms of reference (ToR) for the proposed judicial commission on Panama leaks, alleged that the government was bringing an amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance through the finance bill for providing legal cover to undeclared wealth held through foreign trusts by Pakistani individuals.

He said that on one hand the government was holding talks with the opposition on ToR, on the other it was changing the law to nullify all the work done so far by the ToR committee. It seemed the government had some bad intentions in this regard.

Responding to Mr Ahsan’s remarks, Mr Dar claimed that the proposed amendment had nothing to do with the Panama Papers issue.

Mr Dar, who is leading the government side in the ToR committee, regretted that the opposition members were “giving a wrong impression” about the proposed amendment and said the government was ready to withdraw it, if the opposition so desired.

The minister explained that the amendment was being introduced as one of the conditions set by an international forum of 99 countries which was ready to include Pakistan as a member.

After becoming a member of the forum, he said, Pakistan would be able to obtain information about the accounts of Pakistanis in foreign banks. He said the government was also in contact with the Swiss authorities on the matter.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2016

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