Government faces embarrassment


Asim Awan May 18, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The government faced embarrassment in the Senate on Monday because of lack of quorum and for getting a bill passed by the upper house of parliament which under the 18th amendment was the job of the provincial assemblies.

When the session started, only one member – Kathumal Jeevan of the PPP – was present in the house. When Jamal Leghari of the PML-Q showed up, he immediately pointed out the lack of quorum. The chairman suspended the proceedings for 30 minutes and bells were rung to call the senators to the house. But it helped little as the situation was almost the same half an hour later when Tariq Azeem of the PML-Q raised the quorum issue. The house had to wait another 30 minutes.

Under the rules, the house must have a quorum of 25 per cent of its total strength to continue proceedings. But this rule is applied only when a member points out the quorum. The government faced more embarrassment when Zafar Ali Shah of the PML-N said on a point of order that the house had passed the Code of Civil Procedure Amendment Bill on Thursday but under the 18th amendment it was now a provincial subject. “How did the Senate pass the bill which should have been passed by the provincial assemblies,” he wondered aloud.

Adviser to the Prime Minister Raza Rabbani agreed with Shah. He said this was quite an embarrassing situation for the government. He said the law ministry should have checked this matter before sending the bill for legislation to the Senate. He said now the only way out was that the National Assembly should not pass this bill or the President should not sign it into law. Earlier the Senate rejected a bill of Hafiz Rasheed by 13 to 11 votes that called for giving the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) representation in The Council of Common Interests (CCI).

Leader of the House Nayyar Bokhari opposed the bill, saying the CCI is a constitutional body that includes the four chief ministers and is headed by the prime minister. He said Fata is not a province so it could not be included in the CCI. Ghulam Ali of the JUI-F moved a resolution that the age limit for government jobs should be increased to 35 years. It was supported by the PML-N, PML-Q, JUI-F, PKMAP and the JI but the government opposed the resolution.

The chairman sent the resolution to the cabinet committee and asked for a report on it. Abdul Khaliq Pirzada of the MQM said on a point of order that blasphemous cartoons against Prophet Muhammad had been put on the internet and a competition is being held for such cartoons. Senators from all parties present in the house condemned the blasphemous website and asked the government to take action. Ishaq Dar of the PML-N informed the house that the authorities had already blocked the website.

Professor Khursheed Ahmed of the Jamat-e-Islami said the blasphemous website had only been blocked in Pakistan. He urged the government to lobby other governments for similar action across the world. The Senate did not debate President Zardari’s April 5 address to the parliament nor did it have question hour because Monday is the private members’ day. The house will meet again on Tuesday.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 18th, 2010.

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