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.