Commission of Inquiry Bill: PML-N to start lobbying for wider support in Senate

Ruling party is looking for 13 more votes to adopt piece of legislation

Sardar Sikander December 04, 2016
Ruling party is looking for 13 more votes to adopt piece of legislation. PHOTO: PPI

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led federal government has planned to start lobbying to win parliamentary support to sail the controversial Commission of Inquiry Bill 2016 through the Senate where the PML-N is not a majority party.

Following its passage from the National Assembly on Nov 30, the government is planning to move the bill – that primarily aims to probe mega corruption cases including the Panamagate scandal – in the upper house in its upcoming session, expected sometimes this month.

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Sources said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has tasked Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq to reach out to political parties as well as independent candidates having representation in the Senate to ensure majority in order to get the Senate’s nod for the proposed legislation.

In the 104-member Senate, the PML-N has 26 lawmakers while the PPP – which has moved Panama Papers Inquiries Act 2016 in the Senate to counter the government’s bill – enjoys majority in the house with 27 lawmakers.

Other opposition parties that support the PPP’s bill include the MQM [8 seats], the PTI [7 seats], the ANP [6 seats], the PML-Q [4 seats], BNP-Mengal [1 seat] and Jamaat-e-Islami [1 seat]. Collectively these parties have 27 seats which together with the PPP’s 27 make up 54 seats.

On the other hand, the parties that support the government’s bill include JUI-F [5 seats], National Party [3 seats], PkMAP [3 seats], BNP-Awami [2 seats] and the PML-Functional [1 seat].  These 14 seats when added to the PML-N’s 26 lawmakers make 40 seats. However, the PML-N requires a simple majority or 53 seats to get the said bill passed.

Apart from these parties, there are also 10 independent candidates who do not follow any party’s policy and make decisions individually in view of their political interests in any given situation.

“The situation is quite complex,” admitted a senior PML-N leader wishing to be kept unnamed. “For us, it is quite a challenge to have the required numerical strength in Senate.” In such a scenario, he said, the role of independent candidates and some ‘favourable’ political parties becomes crucial.

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“Even if we get the support of all the 10 independent candidates, we will end up having 50 seats, still three seats short of the required 53 votes.

But, there are some ‘friendly’ parties. Who knows the MQM and some other smaller parties may have a ‘change of heart’,” the senator said, implying possible backdoor negotiations between the government and such groups.

“It’s all about give and take, and the issues are eventually resolved,” he added. However, sources close to the PM said the central ruling party had so far not established backdoor contacts with any political party, adding that there was plenty of time for that.

The passage of the bill is crucial in the backdrop of the ongoing proceedings of Panamagate case in the Supreme Court. It is a possible that the SC may set up an inquiry commission to probe the scandal to determine the alleged involvement of the PM and his family members.

The mainstream opposition parties – including the PPP and PTI – have slammed the Commission of Inquiry Bill 2016 as a ‘useless’ draft, which, they say, is a replica of Commissions of Inquiry Act 1956 – a law regarded as overly generalised and ineffective to probe the Panama leaks issue.

On May 13, the SC also turned down a related request from the government and refused to form a ‘toothless’ inquiry commission on the Panama leaks under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1956.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Raja Zafarul Haq denied that the pending bill was specifically linked to Panamagate case proceedings in the SC. “It is for the SC to decide whether it wants to form an inquiry commission. Our bill is not Panamagate-specific. It is for probing mega graft cases of all kinds.”

Asked about lack of required number in the Senate for the government to have the bill passed, Haq said, “Every parliamentary political party has the right to press for legislation it deems necessary. The opposition has every right to lobby for getting their bill sailed through parliament. So do we.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2016.



Sodomite | 7 years ago | Reply Politicians can always be bought. Only 13 to go. Changa Manga tactics could work here as well.
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