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Omar Ayub calls for return of security agencies to constitutional bounds

8 min read

ISLAMABAD: In a fiery address on Monday, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly (NA) Omar Ayub quoted articles of the Constitution and called for security agencies to return to the bounds mandated to them.

Criticising last week’s press conference by the director general (DG) of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Ayub said: “Security agencies cannot indulge in politics as per the Constitution,” adding that they were “tools of the state, not the state itself”.

Quoting Article 7 of the Constitution, he said its definition did not include security institutions within its ambit in explaining the state.

“The state is the federal government, the national and provincial assemblies […] and bodies who can collect taxes,” Ayub clarified. “These agencies serve the state, they cannot be the state.”

Citing Article 203 — the oath of an officer— he called the DG ISPR’s press conference “interference in the political realm”, which he said was only for elected officials and political parties.

“Security institutions cannot indulge in politics as per this Constitution. This press conference should not have happened.”

He then quoted Article 5, which is loyalty to the state. “This is the basic duty of every citizen of Pakistan,” Ayub said, adding that all Pakistanis, including military officers, were bound to follow Article 5.

“This is the one red line that Pakistanis cannot cross.”

The opposition leader then read aloud Article 6 — high treason — which is violated if any citizen, “abrogates, subverts or suspends […] the Constitution by force”.

“Constitutionally, every institution has its limits,” he reiterated. “If institutions do not operate within them, then the country cannot progress.”

Reading aloud Article 19, which is about free speech, he decried the ban on X and media censorship, saying, “This speech may not even be broadcast.”

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq reassured the opposition leader that it was.

The opposition leader demanded an independent judicial commission on the events of May 9, 2023, with the presentation of CCTV footage of the riots as a key condition.

“The truth must prevail,” he said. “We are talking about the law and the Constitution.”

Quoting the ISPR’s press conference, where the DG said that prior inquiry reports should be made public, Ayub demanded that the reports for the Ojhri Camp Disaster, the Hamoodur Rehman Commission, the Army Public School Inquiry and the Abbottabad Commission should also be released to the public.

Ayub then brought up the letter sent to the Supreme Judicial Council by six Islamabad High Court Judges, which alleged that security agencies were meddling in judicial affairs.

Using the letter as an example of ignoring limits, Ayub said, “They (the judges) highlighted interference by the security agencies in both theirs and their lower benches. Firecrackers were thrown into their houses, while intelligence personnel broke into judges’ homes and harassed people.”

Ayub said that the cases allegedly meddled with by the intelligence agencies all related to the PTI, including charges against party founder Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi, as well as senior party figures and party members and supporters.

The opposition leader again demanded an independent judicial commission on May 9, maintaining that “May 9 was an excuse and Imran Khan was the target”. He denounced the government’s stance on May 9 as “victim-blaming”.

Defence minister’s remarks cause commotion

Responding to the NA opposition leader’s points, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said in startling comments: “The body of the false Field Marshall Ayub Khan, who instituted the first martial law in the country, should also be dug out and hanged as per Article 6. Begin from there and the height should be the night when the Constitution was violated and the assembly was dissolved so the no-confidence motion could not pass.”

Asif said he supported the opposition leader’s demands but they should apply “to everyone one by one”.

The minister reiterated that Article 6 proceedings should begin, adding that the Parliament’s members agreed to this as well but it should start with the former military dictator.

The minister’s remarks prompted commotion and uproar from the opposition benches even as the NA speaker called for calm and for lawmakers to let Asif resume his speech.

Resuming his address, the minister said Ayub Khan was “the first to violate his oath” and turned the direction of the country. “The country has still not been able to stablise,” he added.

“Dig out the body of the one who is the root of all these problems, constitutional violations and lawlessness and hang him,” Asif said, prompting a renewed ruckus from the treasury benches.