ISLAMABAD                 -             Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, on Friday, summoned session of the upper house, on the requisition of opposition parties, on May 12 to discuss the effects of COVID-19 outbreak on country’s economy, national security and foreign policy. The Senate session has been summoned on next Tuesday in the parliament house, says a notification issued by the Senate Secretariat. The session would continue for a week.

On Wednesday, as many 34 senators of the opposition parties had submitted a requisition to summon the Senate session to discuss COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on different sectors and policy matters. The requisition was submitted with the Senate Secretariat under Articles 54 (3) and 61 of the Constitution.

Chairman Senate also approved standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be complied by the senators, who were to attend the session to prevent the spread of deadly virus. Under the SOPs, all senators would have to get their coronavirus tests performed before coming to the session, while testing facility has been made available at the dispensary in parliament lodges.

Earlier on Friday, Chairman Senate chaired an important meeting of the House Business Advisory Committee to discuss modalities for the upcoming session in the wake of coronavirus outbreak. Sadiq Sanjrani told the meeting that sitting arrangements in the Senate hall had been made keeping in view the SOPs of social distancing, said a statement issued by the Senate Secretariat, adding that the galleries of the Senate chamber would be used for this purpose.

“Extraordinary steps have been taken for the session because it has been summoned at a time when the world is fighting with the pandemic.” the statement said.

It was decided in the meeting that session should be limited to two hours daily under the prevailing extraordinary situation. Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq remarked that it was not necessary that all lawmakers would participate in the session all together and all the parliamentary leaders should devise a strategy to ensure participation of lawmakers of their parties in phases.

The meeting decided that minimum Senate staff would resume their offices during the session besides media representatives would also ensure their minimum presence in the press gallery for coverage purposes.

Leader of the House and Information Minister Syed Shibli Faraz, Minister for Narcotics Control Senator Azam Khan Swati, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan, Parliamentary Leader of PML-N in the Senate Mushahid Ullah Khan and some senators and parliamentary party leaders in the house attended the meeting. Leader of the Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq, Deputy Chairman Senate Salim Mandviwalla, and Parliamentary Leader of PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman attended the meeting through video link besides some other parliamentary party leaders.

The 8-point SOPs issued by the Senate Secretariat said  that no individual would be allowed to accompany the senators into the parliament house, whereas only one person would be allowed to accompany the ministers and state ministers and only one officer, not below basic pay scale 20, from ministries and divisions would be required to ensure presence into the galleries  All senators and every individual entering the parliament house would have to go through thermal-gun scanning, according to the SOPs.

“Keeping in view limitation of space in the house, seats have been allocated only to the leader of the house, leader of the opposition, ministers and parliamentary party leaders and other senators may assume available seats as and when they come, without a pre-allocated seating plan,” said the SOPs.