ISLAMABAD: In an effort to pacify the agitating members of the ruling party, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday categorically stated on the floor of the National Assembly that the list containing the names of the parliamentarians said to have links with banned outfits allegedly prepared by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was “fake and a forged document”.

Mr Abbasi declared that neither the Prime Minister Office had written any letter to the IB to investigate the parliamentarians nor had the bureau prepared any such report as claimed by a TV channel last month.

He said the TV channel had claimed that the Prime Minister Office had sent a letter to the IB asking it to investigate some 37 parliamentarians, mostly belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), for allegedly having links with proscribed organisations.

The prime minister said the IB had already declared the list as “a forged document” and that the bureau had also initiated an inquiry to find out those responsible for this fiasco.PM says Pemra has been directed to take action against TV channel that ‘showed this fake letter’

During the question hour and before arrival of the prime minister at the house, former interior minister and estranged PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was seen holding discussion with Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordina­tion Riaz Pirzada and some other members from south Punjab, whose names were there on the controversial list.

Mr Abbasi said that he had directed the IB to proceed with a legal case against whosoever had authored the fake letter. Besides this, he said the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had also been directed to take action in line with its laws against the TV channel which “showed this fake letter on screen”.

He said an FIR (first information report) had already been registered and investigations were under way in this regard.

Privilege motion

The prime minister asked Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, who was presiding over the session at that time, to refer the privilege motion moved by the affected lawmakers to the house committee on rules and privileges for further action.

He said he had come to the house to state some facts regarding the allegations against 37 lawmakers as the issue was being discussed in TV programmes for the past many days. He denied the opposition’s allegations that the government was using the issue to gag the press.

Mr Abbasi said that some of the ministers had raised this issue in a meeting of the federal cabinet last month and they had been informed at that time too that no such list existed and that it was a fake document. He said the members had been asked to lodge their complaints with Pemra as the report had defamed them.

Sources in the PML-N told Dawn that the issue was discussed in detail during a meeting of the party’s parliamentary group presided over by the prime minister before the start of the National Assembly session. They said that it was on the insistence of the agitating PML-N members that Mr Abbasi had to make the statement on the floor of the house.

The sources said that the prime minister agreed to issue the statement and asked the affected lawmakers not to discuss the issue on any other forum as it could cause embarrassment and difficulties for the government. Last month, ARY News in its programme ‘Power Play’ had claimed that the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, had directed the IB on July 10 — three weeks before his disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case — to probe the 37 lawmakers for allegedly having links with the banned and sectarian outfits.

The list contained the names of 37 lawmakers, including a number of key ministers such as Riaz Pirzada, Zahid Hamid, Baleeghur Rehman, Sikandar Bosan, Awais Leghari and Hafiz Abdul Kareem as well as Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi.

The government faced an embarrassing situation in the National Assembly last week when the PML-N members led by Mr Pirzada staged a walkout from the house to register their protest over the issue.

Before leaving the house, Mr Pirzada came down hard on the government for what he termed “insulting” him and other members of parliament.

Meanwhile, the prime minister also responded to a calling attention notice of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement regarding the recent increase in the oil prices.

Mr Abbasi claimed that the oil prices in Pakistan were lowest in the region and among all the oil-importing countries and challenged the members to verify it through internet.

Later, son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and MNA retired Capt Mohammad Safdar, who had earlier in the day appeared before a NAB court, took the floor and started a sermon-like speech on the issue of Khatm-i-Nabuwwat in the context of the recent controversy over the change in the declaration for the electoral candidates.

He was still speaking when Hamidul Haq of the PTI pointed out lack of quorum, forcing the deputy speaker to adjourn the sitting till Tuesday morning.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2017

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