The Assembly of Pakistan’s Punjab province has passed a resolution seeking trail of the country’s prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, on charges of treason for “consulting” his “fugitive” elder brother and former PM, Nawaz Sharif, in London on appointment of the new army chief and other “sensitive issues”.
What is the issue?
Pakistan’s incumbent Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa is due to retire in late November. While he was given an extension in 2019 last, he is still eligible for another one. But the Pakistan government has so far kept its cards close to its chest. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said Sunday that the defence ministry and the General Headquarters (GHQ), headquarters of the Pakistan army, would consult on the matter by October-end and a decision will be made after that. Earlier too, Pakistan’s coalition government led by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) had said it would consult its allied parties and the army top brass to decide on the appointment.
With all the spotlight being on the high-profile appointment, Pakistan PM Shebaz Sharif met his elder brother Nawaz Sharif in London recently while visiting the British capital to attend the state funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II. The PM was reported to have discussed the appointment of the next Army chief with Nawaz. This riled the opposition which has termed this an act of “treason” on part of the PM Shehbaz.
What is the resolution passed against the Pakistan PM?
The resolution passed by the Punjab Assembly seeks action against the PM for treason. Pakistan Punjab is ruled by ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and its ally PMLQ.
According to Dawn newspaper, the resolution, introduced by Punjab Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Basharat Raja and passed by majority vote, says: “Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif himself is an accused in many cases. By taking this step (meeting Nawaz Sharif), the prime minister….was found guilty of violating the constitutional provisions. Therefore, action should be taken against the prime minister under Articles 5 and 6.
Dealing with ‘High Treason’, Article 6 of the Pakistan Constitution states that “any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason”.
Article 5 – ‘Loyalty to the State and Obedience to the Constitution’, has two clauses.
Clause (1) states that “Loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen”; Clause 2 states that “obedience to the Constitution and law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and every other person for the time being within Pakistan”.
The resolution further states that the Shehbaz-Nawaz meeting was an insult to the army, and also violated the PM’s oath of office that prevents him from sharing sensitive matters with an unrelated person.
Why is Nawaz Sharif in London?
Nawaz has been living in London since November 2019 after Lahore High Court granted him bail for eight weeks on medical grounds.
In December 2018, he was jailed in a corruption case related to his family’s ownership of steel mills in Saudi Arabia in what has been known as the Al-Azizia corruption case.
Before leaving for London, he was lodged at the Lot Lakhpat Jail here.
A foreign citizen cannot stay in the UK for more than six months at a time, pending visa extension. Sharif had applied and received these extensions till last year when the UK Home Department refused to extend his stay on medical grounds any further.
In August last year, Sharif filed an appeal with the British Immigration Tribunal over being denied visa extension.
According to news agency PTI, Sharif can legally remain in the UK till the tribunal issues its decision on his plea.