Amid growing concerns, National Assembly speeds up lawmaking

House passes Pemra Amend Bill ignoring routine procedure

ISLAMABAD  -  The coalition government for the second consecutive day on Wednesday made a new record of passing plethora bills in two days ignoring the tradition and set procedure of doing the legislative business, which has raised many question over this unprecedented practice.

As the tenure of the present National Assembly is going to lapse next week, the ruling alliance has accelerated the law making in both the houses of the parliament ignoring routine procedures including holding debate over the bills.

The treasury benches yesterday passed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Press Council of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2023. These bills were passed without sending the same to the concerned standing committees for debate.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting, about amendments in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023, said the Authority shall ensure fair, transparent and independent rating to the broadcasters for their TV channels. The Minister said the Authority would ensure timely payment of salary to the electronic media who are its licensee, not later than two months. According to the bill, “A licensee of the Authority shall comply with all decisions and orders of the Authority and the Council of Complaints for payment of outstanding salaries to its employees.”

According to an amendment, the Authority by registering rating companies shall ensure that fair, transparent, and independent forums shall issue rating to the licensees. The bill says that disinformation means verifiably false, misleading, manipulated, created or fabricated information which is disseminated or shared with the intent to cause harm to the reputation of or to harass.

The other government bills which were passed included the Apostille Bill 2023, The Gas Theft Control and Recovery Amendment Bill 2023 and the Zakat and Ushr Amendment Bill 2023.

The House also passed private member bills as supplementary agenda. These Quaid-e-Azam Institute of Management Sciences Sargodha Bill 2023, The Akhuwat Institute Kasur Bill 2023, Islamabad University of Health Sciences and Emerging Technologies Bill 2023, The Falcon University of Sciences and Technology Bill, 2023, The Kings Institute of Higher Education Bill 2023 and The North Institute Bill 2023 and Public Institute of Science, Art and Technology Bill, 2023.

The ongoing speedy and unusual law making by the ruling government has raised many questions; even the lawmakers from the ruling allies have serious concerns over this practice.

The MNAs from JUI-F, BAP and the Balochistan National Party strongly criticized the government for passing the legislation in such an unusual way. They were annoyed for not taking them into confidence over this legislation. MNA Shahida Akhtar Ali said the coalition partners should be apprised of the supplementary agenda so that they also take part in the legislative business.

BNP’s Agha Hassan Baloch said that his party supported the coalition government but they were never taken into confidence on the bills. BAP party MNA Ehsanullah Reki also strongly criticized the government on it.

Earlier, Minister of State for Law Shahadat Awan shared the measures to control human smuggling with the house. He said the law enforcement agency [FIA] has been taking strict action against those involved in human smuggling. “Four hundred and seventy human smugglers were arrested over the last four years,” he said, responding a question, during the question-hour.

Awan further said legislation has been done to punish human traffickers as well as safeguard the rights of victims. He said action has also been taken against those travelling on fake documents.

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