Consensus reached: 20th Amendment bill passes as obstinate Senate relents

Published: February 21, 2012

Prime Minister Gilani shares a light moment with Senators Ishaq Dar and Tariq Azeem upon the bill’s adoption. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: 

Suspended lawmakers can breathe a sigh of relief after the 20th Amendment bill was passed by Senate almost unanimously on Monday, with 74 votes in favour and two against.

The bill on the amendment, which will allow for parliamentarians currently in limbo to be restored and for an interim set-up to be constituted to oversee the next general elections, now only awaits a final nod from the presidency. It has already been approved by the National Assembly.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani looked upbeat as he congratulated the members of the upper house, saying it was a historic and remarkable moment.

“There is no looking back now as far as democracy is concerned and I want to say that gone are the days when a dictator would appear on national television and announce the toppling of an elected government,” the beaming premier stated.

In addition, the prime minister said, the 20th Amendment will make the electoral system credible. Without naming Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Premier Gilani said that those who speak of boycotting elections should now end their rhetoric.

Prime Minister Gilani has also advised President Asif Ali Zardari to approve the bill.

Reservations on bill

Not everyone seated in the Senate chambers wore smiles, however. Professor Khursheed Ahmed and Professor Ibrahim Khan of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) voted against the amendment. They cited its proposed legislation to empower the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to formulate the interim setup as the reason for their negative vote.

JI’s other objection was that their party was not consulted and taken onboard by the government as it had been during consultations on the 18th and 19th amendments.

Reaching a consensus

While the bill sailed through the Lower House, the 20th Amendment bill suffered a major setback in Senate when the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) coalition partners expressed their reservations on the issue of the caretaker setup.

Leader of the House in Senate Nayyer Hussain Bokhari and Qamar Zaman Qaira negotiated from the government’s side in a meeting with opposition senators in order to address the issue, threatening lawmakers across the political spectrum.

According to sources, coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) had also expressed reservations over the process of selection for the caretaker setup.

Sources added that during the meeting, PML-Q head Chaudhry Shujaat Husain said that if the parliamentary committee failed to reach a consensus in creating a caretaker setup, the matter should not be sent to the chief election commissioner and should instead be referred to Parliament.

PML-Q was not the only disgruntled coalition partner. Government ally Awami National Party (ANP) also disagreed with the idea of empowering the ECP. ANP, PML-Q and BNP-Awami raised their objections on the formulation of committee for creating the interim setup and called for the inclusion of senators in the committee.

The coalition partners also wanted the parliamentary committee to be set up mutually by the senate chairman and the National Assembly speaker. Reports indicate the government has agreed to bring a 21st amendment to the table if necessary, in order to address the recommendations and suggestions provided by allies and opposition alike.

Senators funds restored

More good news flowed in for senators when PPP’s chief whip in Senate, Islamuddin Shaikh, informed the house that the lapsed funds of treasury and opposition members have been restored. Shaikh said the funds had lapsed in the wake of last year’s devastating floods, after which half of the funds of members of Parliament were diverted to the Annual Development Plan.

(Read: Amending the Constitution)

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2012.

Reader Comments (12)

  • tg
    Feb 21, 2012 - 6:18AM

    look at all of them laughing …
    the country is getting destroyed and all they care about is seats..

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  • Ali Q.
    Feb 21, 2012 - 7:40AM

    Look at them “share a light moment”!
    The status quo can smile all it wants..soon PTI will be the only game in town

    Recommend

  • sikander
    Feb 21, 2012 - 7:55AM

    its a good sign that parliment approves the 20th amendmend bill

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  • Karim Alam
    Feb 21, 2012 - 10:03AM

    They passed the bill after getting 36 Million

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  • Karim
    Feb 21, 2012 - 10:04AM

    They passed the bill after getting 36 Million in exchange for its passage?

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  • MAD
    Feb 21, 2012 - 10:34AM

    you know what. i think the three parties that boycotted willn get back together again for the elections. infact they probably never seperated. (PTI, JI & PKMAP)

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  • zehra
    Feb 21, 2012 - 11:30AM

    why is there no mention of 36 million and this is why we are in a sad state, where democracy thrives on bribery and corruption!! the gov bought the senators and then it is claimed as a victory of democracy? na its is the win of the money not democracy

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  • Saleem
    Feb 21, 2012 - 12:18PM

    Has our esteemed parliament passed any amendments to correct the legal system for the common man as well ? Or all there law making is only to ensure there own rule. Haven’t we got sick of hearing from them about the esteem ‘democracy’ and how they are fighting for it from our monarchic leaders attaining hereditary titles !!!

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  • Adnan
    Feb 21, 2012 - 12:55PM

    Sad day for the nation indeed.

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  • IFTIKHAR-UR-REHMAN
    Feb 21, 2012 - 1:12PM

    @tg:
    It was not the seat the senators got millions of Rupees from the govt. to agree to this 20th. amendment .Sheer wastage of funds, these funds will go directly to the senators pockets.

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  • Karim
    Feb 21, 2012 - 2:35PM

    Express Tribune may like to write a story on events when all political parties joined hands together and passed bills.

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  • Zubair
    Feb 25, 2012 - 8:22PM

    You can get people and leaders who care only thanks to PPP who has fought for democracy since its birth. Hazrat Ali said if some one has 99 bad qualities and 1 good quality highlight the good quality but we Pakistanis just love to exaggerate and multiply those 99 bad qualities by a 1000. The government has been poorly managed but we should give them some credit. It is because of this government that women have jumped leaps and bounds and been empowered. It is because of this Govt people are realizing about the rights of minorities. Economy is there but social changes matter more and that is exactly what this government has done. I will again vote for PPP not because of Mr.Zardari might not manage it well but I will vote for it because I believe that it is the only party that can fight social ills like extremist elements.

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