The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday categorically rejected an ethics committee approved by National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to look into allegations of harassment against lawmakers, fearing that it could be used to victimise political opponents in the future.
A letter addressed to the speaker by Shireen Mazari, PTI's chief whip in the National Assembly, said that the party rejected the formation of a committee that would comprise parliamentarians — a majority of whom belong to the government benches — as a body involving its political opponents has "no credibility".
"Political opponents cannot be accusers, judge and jury," reads the letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn.
Saying that PTI stands by its commitment to a neutral inquiry into allegations of harassment levelled against its chief Imran Khan by MNA Ayesha Gulalai, the party instead proposed that the parliament appoint an independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards office, as done by the "mother of all parliaments", the British Parliament.
According to Mazari's letter, the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards deals with the application of the code of conduct and related rules that apply to the members of parliament.
Sources privy to developments had told Dawn on Sunday that the committee to be formed in a couple of days would consist of 20 members — 13 from the treasury and seven from the opposition benches. However, the strength and composition of the committee will be open to changes.
According to sources, the committee would be a permanent feature of the National Assembly and apart from Gulalai’s case, it would also take up other matters of a similarly sensitive nature.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Monday had also opposed the formation of the proposed ethics committee. Calling it an “illogical move”, Khan had said that an independent panel should be formed to first ascertain whether such cases were genuine or not.
“You should follow the UK parliament, where a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is appointed as an independent person to judge cases like Gulalai’s to see whether they are genuine or not,” he said.
Khan had earlier welcomed the formation of the committee, before details of its composition emerged.
The PTI chairman claimed that the issue had been raised at the behest of the government and it would be unfair if the committee was formed by the government, as they would be sitting in judgement themselves.
When asked if he was willing to offer his Blackberry phone for examination, he declined, saying: “Evidence is provided by the person who levels allegations; it is her responsibility.”