Govt moves to empower caretaker setup for major decisions

Bill to be tabled in joint session today n PPP, JUI-F MPs not on same page on clause of elections bill n House witnesses uproar over Kh Asif, Ali Zafar’s non-parliamentary remarks.

ISLAMABAD  -  As the coalition partners of the pres­ent government are striving to evolve consensus to empower the caretaker setup for taking major administrative and economic decisions, the Election (Amendment) Bill, 2023 will be ta­bled in the joint session today. In yes­terday's sitting, the house saw a dif­ference of opinion over the matter of empowering the upcoming caretak­er government which is seemingly the wish of the ruling party [PML-N]. Two allied partners -- Pakistan Peo­ple’s Party (PPP) and JUI-F were not on the same page to smoothly pass the controversial clause of the Elec­tion (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

Senator Kamran Murtaza from JUI-F and Senator Mian Raza Rab­bani from PPP were against the proposed amendments in section 230 of the Election(Amendment) Bill, 2023. They pointed out these amendments were not discussed in the parliamentary committee’s meeting. Raza Rabbani said that he strongly opposes insertion of clause 2A which amends section 230 the Election Act, 2017. “It is clearly mentioned in the law and verdicts of superior courts that the role of caretakers is very limited and total­ly different from the elected govern­ment,” he shared with the house.

“The caretaker government is meant to take care of day to day af­fairs of the country and hold fair and free elections,” he said and added that objected addi­tion of words ‘on urgent mat­ters’ after ‘day to day matters’ in clause 230 (a) of the Elections Act, 2017. Rabbani termed the words ‘urgent matters’ as vague and carry vast meanings. 

About the election amend­ment bill, Minister for Law Sen­ator Azam Nazeer Tarar said that empowering the caretak­er setup was meant to ensure continuity of measures. He ar­gued that the caretaker gov­ernment was also being given powers to take decisions in ur­gent matters. He said that these proposed amendments in the bill were finalized in consulta­tion with all the political parties which are represented in the Parliament. He recalled that a special committee led by Sardar Ayaz Sadiq also held a series of meetings for discussion on the bill. The members of the com­mittee, he said, also included Dr. Fahmida Mirza, Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema, Syed Nav­eed Qamar, Afzal Khan Dhand­la, Agha Hassan Baloch, Sena­tor Taj Haider, Senator Kamran Murtaza, Senator Ali Zafar, and Senator Manzoor Ahmed. He said the parliamentary com­mittee on Electoral Reforms has prepared a consensus report for amendments in the Election Act with aim to ensure transparen­cy in electoral process. “We per­formed this task in the nation­al interest and nothing has been kept under the carpet.”

The house also saw up­roar when Minister for De­fence Khwaja Asif and Sena­tor Ali Zafar of PTI exchanged harsh words. The chair had to expunge some of the words ut­tered by Khwaja Asif against the PTI lawmakers. Ali Zafar re­ferred government members to herd of sheep which can be directed to any side. On it, Kh Asif termed PTI women legis­lators as ruins and garbage of the previous regime present in the House which needs to be cleansed. He came down hard on the PTI government for its practice of carrying out legisla­tion without adequate consulta­tion with political parties. 

Asif went to support the law minister’s statement, affirm­ing that all amendments in the Election Commission Bill were made with the consensus of all political parties presentin the Parliament. Earlier, Minister for Economic Affairs and Political Affairs Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said all amendments and sugges­tions of members were incorpo­rated in the Elections (Amend­ment) Bill, 2023. He assured the house that the report was pre­pared after consensus. He said that the Speaker National As­sembly and Chairman Senate jointly constituted a committee comprising members from both houses to address election-re­lated issues raised by the par­liamentarians and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the report was prepared after detailed deliberation and consensus of all members.

Senator Irfanul Haq Siddiqui of PML-N called for maximum con­sensus on legislation. He lauded the chair for giving its ruling in this regard. Later, Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, who was chair­ing the session, directed to defer eight bills and give time to the lawmakers for consideration on amendments proposed in them. The deferred bills includ­ed the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the Oil and Gas Regu­latory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the Exit from Paki­stan (Control) (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the Maintenance and Welfare of Old Parents and Se­nior Citizens Bill, 2023; the Civ­il Servants (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the Banking Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the In­ternational Institute of Technol­ogy, Culture and Health Sciences Bill, 2023 and the Code of Civ­il Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2023. Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan also objected that neither agenda having 25 points, copies of bills and amendments were provided to him. The joint sit­ting passed three government bills including the Qanun-e-Sha­hadat (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the Control of Narcotics Sub­stances (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Petroleum (Amend­ment) Bill, 2023.

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