ISLAMABAD - The PML-N government finally succeeded in getting a controversial bill passed from the National Assembly in its fourth attempt, to the dismay and protest of the opposition.
The opposition members previously managed to block “The Pakistan Commission of Inquiry of Bill, 2016” three times, calling it the “Save Nawaz Sharif bill”.
They believe the legislation is being pushed through parliament only to save the prime minister from the Panama Papers fallout.
The government side, even on the last day of the sitting, initially faced trouble in getting the bill passed as opposition members in a calculated move left the house, leaving behind only PPP’s Shazia Marri to point out the quorum. Marri, as soon as the question-hour was over, rushed to point out the quorum.
Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, after the head count, announced that the house was in order. But PPP’s sole elected women MNA even challenged the chair after the count was made.
On that, the speaker ordered to lock the hall doors and asked the PPP’s MNA to count the members herself. Marri was seen counting the members sitting in the house. “It was my right to point out the quorum and challenge it,” she said.
Interestingly, Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Parliamentary Affairs minister were seen active before the controversial bill was taken up by the house to ensure required strength.
The government earlier thrice failed to get Commission of Inquiry of Bill passed from the house owing to lack of quorum.
Opposition parties, seemingly waiting to take the government to task over its handling of the Panama Papers issue, announced to boycott the session, citing lack of quorum.
The government bill provides for the constitution of a powerful commission for investigation into Panama Papers issue as well as other issues.
According to the government, the scope of the commission will be wider and it will have all the authority to constitute special teams of experts as well as international teams to get the required information.
The existing law related to the appointment of commission of inquiry and empowering it for the purpose is Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956.
According to the government bill, on some matters the need has been perceived for a commission with greater powers than those that can be conferred under the existing act.
“It is, therefore, considered desirable that a new law be enacted enabling the government to confer additional powers on a commission of inquiry where the nature of the issue is being inquired into, so requires,” it says.
A clause of the bill “protection of action taken in good faith” says, “no suit or other legal proceedings shall lie against the federal government, the commission or any member therefore, or any person acting under the direction either of the federal government of the commission in respect of anything, which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this act or of any rules or orders made there under or in respect of the publication.”
The current session was to be prorogued yesterday as per business advisory committee, but the government extended it by one day to pass the bill.
After the passage of the bill, PPP MNA Aijaz Jakhrani protested against the attitude of the government, saying the government was not ready to give any importance to the opposition.
“There is monarchy in the country, we cannot call it democracy,” he said and criticised the government for taking two weeks to pass a bill.
“You [government] faced embarrassment thrice for not maintaining quorum in the house despite having 2/3 majority,” he said, announcing boycott from opposition side.
MQM also supported the PPP lawmakers’ sentiments and criticised the government for not taking the house seriously.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has already boycotted the whole session, saying that they would not participate in the proceedings of a parliament where the prime minister had become controversial.
Govt gets ‘Save Nawaz Sharif’ bill passed