ISLAMABAD: In an apparent contest of one-upmanship, the National Assembly passed a resolution on Tuesday, in the face of strong opposition and differences within the ruling coalition, calling for a nationwide ‘deweaponisation’, which critics said was hardly doable in the present-day Pakistan.
The resolution, moved by the government-allied Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), seemed a tit-for-tat a day after the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by another government ally, the Awami National Party (ANP) but opposed by the MQM, demanding deweaponisation of only violence-plagued Karachi.
The Pakistan People’s Party supported both the resolutions so as not to risk annoying any of the two rival coalition partners when four months are left for government’s five-year term to run out.
But Tuesday’s vote manifested sharp differences on the move within the coalition with the ANP opposing the MQM resolution along with Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) that had supported ANP’s resolution in the upper house, while one PPP lawmaker even questioned the validity of the voice vote after a party member chairing the sitting, Yasmeen Rehman, rejected calls for a head count.
The controversy continued even after the house passed two other identical resolutions moved by the PML-N and MQM members, condemning deadly Israeli strikes on Gaza for the past seven days and supporting the Palestinian people’s struggle for a separate homeland, before being prorogued after a nine-day session.
A similar resolution, moved by opposition leader Ishaq Dar of the PML-N, was also passed by the Senate which met later in the day.
The MQM resolution, moved by Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Farooq Sattar, noted what it called a “constant threat” to security of the people and peace from “widespread use of firearms in the country” and said it was now imperative to immediately take measures to recover illegal arms without discrimination and “ban the use of any weapons or arms by the people”. It asked the government to “take effective measures to deweaponise the country throughout in the larger interest of the people”.
A party Senator, Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, distributed later in the day copies of a resolution that he said he had submitted to the upper house’s secretariat, recommending that “the government may take effective steps to deweaponise the whole of Pakistan in view of the prevailing law and order situation in the country”.
Mr Sattar said merely deweaponising Karachi would not achieve the desired objective unless factories making arms in other provinces were also shut down and provinces on the long transit route were also made part of the process.
The argument was supported by PPP chief whip and Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Ahmed Shah when he announced his party’s backing for the resolution, but was opposed after the voice vote by another PPP lawmaker from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Noor Alam Khan, who accused Ms Rehman of bulldozing the move by refusing to order a head count by asking supporters and opponents of the resolution to stand up to be counted after some “no, no” shouts greeted her ruling that the resolution stood passed.
The most critical speech against the resolution came from JUI leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman who doubted a nationwide deweaponisation could be achieved, fearing the new move could start “a new war”. He supported his doubts about MQM’s intentions by making some biting, oblique references to allegations of the party’s role in Karachi violence. “First we must clean our own hands,” he said.
Some eyebrows were raised by Mr Sattar’s remarks that seemed crediting a 2002-07 period of peace in Karachi to then president Pervez Musharraf’s regime.