PPP missed parliamentary cover for NRO in 2007

ISLAMABAD: A hasty decision taken in 2007 about the National Reconciliation Ordinance is now causing serious political damage and posing threats of litigations to the top leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party.

Sources privy to secret meetings held between senior leaders of the PPP and the then ruling PML-Q told Dawn that the People’s Party itself had opposed the idea of moving a national reconciliation ‘bill’ in parliament.

At a meeting organised by the ISI on September 25, 2007, the two sides worked out a basic framework for further discussions.

Minutes of a number of NRO-related meetings reveal that senior PPP leaders Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Raja Pervez Ashraf rejected the idea of taking the matter to parliament.

According to the minutes, prepared by the organisers, the PPP leadership wanted a quick action on the matter to get quick results.

They argued that promulgation of an ordinance would speed up the process of national reconciliation and help to reach a deal between President General Pervez Musharraf and PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto.

The PPP leadership had apprehensions that if the matter was referred to parliament it would not only cause unacceptable delays but incur unnecessary criticism from opposition groups like the PML-N.

Interestingly, the fears turned into reality when the government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani planned to get the NRO approved by the National Assembly last month.

The reaction from opposition groups, especially the PML-N, was so strong that it forced the PPP to drop its plan.

The minutes of the meetings also reveal that in the course of discussion, the PPP leadership insisted on lifting the ban on a person becoming prime minister for a third term. But later it gave up the demand.

PPP’s Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab did not contradict reports about her party’s 2007 position on the NRO.

But she observed that the PPP would still be under the pressure even if there had been a legislation on national reconciliation.

PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who represented his party in those meetings, claims that most of his suggestions were not included in the final draft of the NRO.

He told Dawn that he had proposed some punitive action against candidates trying to exploit religion for political gains or fan sectarian or ethnic feelings.

The PML-Q, he said, had also demanded tough action against candidates maligning the armed forces, judiciary and the Election Commission.

‘None of these positive suggestions was included in the final draft of the NRO. President Musharraf ignored me, while he accepted most of the demands of the People’s Party,’ Chaudhry Shujaat asserted.

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