ISLAMABAD - The government has successfully created a wedge between the parties opposed to the Protection of Pakistan (ordinance) Bill-2014 to pave the way for its passage from the Upper House of the Parliament.
Earlier, the bill was passed by the National Assembly amid uproar and walkout by almost all the parties sitting on opposition benches. Even Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl, a junior coalition partner of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also came up with strong opposition to it. The bill was then stuck in the opposition dominated Senate.
But things have altogether changed following a meeting of Co-Chairman of Pakistan People's Party Asif Ali Zardari meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at Prime Minister's House a couple of weeks ago, as complained by leaders of various opposition parties in Senate. They pointed out that after that meeting, the PPP stance on the bill has drastically softened.
However, denying any shift on their declared stance on Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014, PPP central leader Senator Farhat Ullah Babar said his party would not accept or approve any law repugnant to the basic human rights enshrined in the constitution. When his attention was drawn toward the views of other parties about PPP, Babar simply said, "it is unfortunate if other political parties are thinking on these lines." The PPP had lodged a very strong protest over the issue in the national assembly and they would resist its passage in its present form from the Upper House too, he said. Babar added it was Zardari who convinced Premier Nawaz Sharif for amending the bill to make it in harmony with the constitution.
The leaders of almost all the opposition parties said that no one from government side had approached them yet for taking their input on the proposed bill, while PPP had also not taken other opposition parties in Senate in confidence on their meeting with PM and the decision made about revision of the draft bill, which currently is with the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice for review.
When contacted, Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao confirmed that so far no one from government side had approached his party to have their input on the draft of the bill. The rest of the political parties opposed to the proposed bill were also not approached by the government, the leaders of these parties confirmed to The Nation.
Responding to a question, Farhat Ullah Babar said that so far they had also not received any revised bill from government. He, however, confirmed that they have prepared the draft of their proposed amendments in the bill to bring it in conformity with the constitution.
PML-Q central leader Kamil Ali Agha, when contacted, said that neither the government nor the PPP had taken them into confidence on the future line of action and the party leadership had made it clear to the PPP that they would oppose the bill if it was introduced in its present form. Aga said that they are in constant touch with other opposition parties, including Awami National Party, Balochistan National Party(Awami) and MQM, and they are jointly preparing the amendments to be proposed by them when the Standing Committee on Law and Justice would take up the matter. To another question he confirmed the contacts with JUI-F leadership as well and hoped that they would also join them in thwarting the attempt of passage of this ‘draconian’ law.
A source in MQM informed that they would not let the bill passed from the Senate in its current shape and if the ruling PML-N managed to get it through with the support of PPP, they would exploit other options to get it revoked. PTI had decided to move the apex court against this soon after its passage from the national assembly, but later the move was deferred after the announcement from the government that they would re-consult the political parties on it.
Now, if PML-N and PPP would join hands they could easily get the proposed bill through from the Upper House of the Parliament as the strength of both these parties is sufficient for its passage. Their combined strength in Senate is 55 while they require 53 votes to attain simple majority in the house of 103. Similarly the composition of Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice is greatly in favour of both these parties if they have to get affirmative nod of the committee on the bill as the two parties have 10 members in the 14-member committee.