Members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and opposition engaged in a war of words during a session of the National Assembly on Thursday over the arrest of Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, who was taken into custody by the National Accountability Bureau a day ago for allegedly owning assets beyond means.
Condemning the arrest, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) veteran leader Khursheed Shah lashed out at the accountability watchdog for “dragging away an elected member of assembly” while the probe was still under way.
“No matter who occupies the seat of an assembly, a speaker deserves respect. How can they drag away someone without proper investigation? Where are they taking this country? What do they want to prove by arresting someone like that?” Shah questioned.
Pointing out that a speaker has a constitutional role, the PPP leader stressed the superiority of the Parliament. “The Parliament is superior to all other institutions, and all institutions should be independent and worthy of respect.”
“No matter what Durrani may have been [involved in], the manner of his arrest was not correct. His family has a political history. Arresting someone without [completing] investigation is wrong,” Shah continued.
The leader announced to protest the arrest at all levels and warned that “our protest should not be taken as a mere war of words.”
“We will protest at all levels. This is the first time in the country’s 70 year history that an elected speaker has been arrested.”
Hitting back in response to Khursheed Shah’s tirade, Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood asked why the PPP and PML-N did not amend NAB’s laws during their respective tenures.
“Why didn’t the PPP amend NAB laws when it came up with the 18th amendment? Neither the PPP nor PML-N changed the bureau’s laws when they were in power,” Mahmood remarked.
“Every nation has an accountability process and no one has any objection to accountability,” the PTI leader said, pointing out that their senior minister Aleem Khan was also arrested by the NAB in an ongoing probe.
“If there has been an arrest then why is the Parliament being involved? NAB doesn’t take instructions from the prime minister,” Mahmood added.
Former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, registering his protest, declared Durrani’s arrest to be an insult to the Parliament and questioned why the speaker was dragged away like he was and his house searched for hours by the NAB officials.
“What joke is this, treating assembly members like some cattle,” he fired back.
Former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq distributed black armbands among the opposition members.