ISLAMABAD - The government had to face embarrassment in the Senate yesterday when it introduced a bill in the house proposing amendments in the Protection of Pakistan Act (PoPA), 2014 - a law that has already expired for having sunset clause of two years.

The government tabled the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2016 in the house that proposed amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the Police Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Qanoon-e-Shahadat and the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 with the aim to strengthen the criminal justice system of the country under the National Action Plan (NAP).

Soon after the State Minister for Interior Baleegur Rehman introduced the bill, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar objected that the bill also contained amendments in the PoPA that had already lapsed in July 2016. “How a law can be amended that has already expired,” he questioned. He said that this was embarrassing that amendments were being introduced in the Senate in the lapsed law.

The state minister admitted the error but said that PoPA was intact when the National Assembly had referred the bill to the Senate. The National Assembly has already passed the bill. He added that the bill also contained amendment in other laws including PPC, Police Act etc and thus the house should consider it.

After that, the government withdrew the amendment in the bill regarding PoPA and presiding officer refereed the bill to the standing committee concerned.

The statement of objectives and reasons of the bill say that ‘in the extraordinary circumstances, the leadership of all the parliamentary parties have resolved upon for taking the special measures to root out the evil of terrorism from the country with an exemplary deterrence’. “This noble objective cannot be achieved without strengthening the criminal justice system, the police act and the law of evidence,” it adds.

Separately, the house unanimously adopted a motion authorizing the Chairman Senate to nominate six senators as members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of National Assembly.

The motion moved by Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq says that Chairman Senate is authorized to nominate six members as members of the PAC in consultations with the leader of house and the leader of opposition in the Senate. 

The motion also empowered the Chairman Senate to make any changes in nomination of the members from the Upper House, if needed, in the PAC. Under an already agreed formula, one senator would be taken from each province and one each from the Federal Capital Territory and FATA for representation in PAC and of which three each will be from the treasury and three from opposition benches.

The government has recently agreed to give representation to the Senate in the PAC as earlier the house had no such representation and it was a long-standing demand of the members of the Upper House of the Parliament. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar some weeks back in the Senate had announced the decision of the Prime Minister to include senators in the parliament’s top anti-corruption watchdog of that was hailed across the aisle. After the announcement, the relevant rules of procedure of the Senate and the National were amended to implement the decision.

Taking part in the debate on president’s address, he made on 1st June 2016, to the joint sitting of parliament, the opposition lawmakers in Senate said that the president as head of the state failed to give any clear vision to the nation. The opposition senators said that it had nothing new except praising the policies of the government, which as head of the state, he should have avoided.

PTI Senator Noman Wazir said that the president should have given a vision for Pakistan, as where he sees the country in next fifty years on matters of foreign policy, energy resources, health and education etc.

He regretted that the president had no idea about the issues faced by the provinces in multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor Project (CPEC) and no vision for the country’s economy. He also said that president did not mention the issue of off shore companies faced by Pakistanis in his speech.

Senator Usman Kakar of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) said that the people of Balochsitan, KP and Gligit Baltistan were up in arms against the government for diverting the western route of CPEC, but president did not bother to mention the issue.

“The president didn’t bother to mention the issue of corruption in his speech,” he said and mentioned Panama Leaks.

As usual, the treasury senators including Javed Abbasi, Let Gen (retd) Abdul Qayum, Ghous Bakhsh Niazi, taking part in the debate termed the speech of the President as the best.