ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Monday successfully stymied a government attempt to get the National Assembly to adopt a crucial bill by staging a walkout and pressing for an abrupt adjournment of the house over a lack of ‘quorum’.
If passed, the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Bill-2016 could have provided a mechanism to probe the Panama leaks.
Monday’s proceedings left the treasury benches red-faced when ruling party lawmakers tried to put the controversial piece of legislation to a final vote. The opposition heaped scorn at the government for getting two resolutions passed. Following back-to-back walkouts, one PPP legislator pointed the lack of quorum, forcing Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to order a headcount.
The speaker tried to rescue the troubled treasury benches by ringing the bells for 20 minutes. When the headcount was conducted after the expiry of the grace period, it again turned out that the house still lacked the required number to continue with the proceedings.
Opposition members -- including the PPP, MQM, JI, PPP-Sherpao and others opposed the bill. They were of the view that such a resolution would not be able to save the prime minister in the Panama Papers case which was being heard in the Supreme Court.
Opposition legislators asked the PML-N to give up the “kingdom-like mode of governance” and “avoid saving just one family for their alleged corruption”. “Let us face the reality and leave the judiciary to make an independent decision.”
PPP parliamentary leader Naveed Qamar said that everyone knew that it was the Panama-specific bill and claimed that it would not save the government.
Another PPP MNA Nafisa Shah was of the view that the government had no right to enact such legislation. She claimed that the government has presented the bill with mala fide intention. “Utmost efforts were being made to save the Sharif family.”
She said if such a law is passed, then another round of street agitation would start, another container would be decorated and it would be difficult for the government to function smoothly.
Meanwhile, the government moved two resolutions in the house – the Income Tax (Amendment) Ordinance-2016 and the Tax Laws (Amendment) Ordinance-2016 -- extending the time period for the effectiveness of presidential decrees, despite a strong protest by the combined opposition.
The opposition believed that by extending the Income Tax (Amendment) Ordinance-2016 for another 120 days, the government was encroaching upon the powers of the federating units.
The opposition, terming it against the spirit of the 18th Amendment, said the power to evaluate real estate lies with the provincial authorities and it was not the mandate of federal tax authorities to do the job.
The government tried to continue with the legislative business after the first walkout of the opposition and moved the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Bill-2016.
However, the opposition, led by the PPP, joined the house again and staged another boycott of the session, and at the same time also pointed out quorum that finally led to the adjournment of the session.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2016.
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