Govt mulls options for expiring NAB law tweak

Parliamentary nod needed for ordinances but both houses in recess over Covid-19


Saqib Virk April 19, 2020
Parliamentary nod needed for ordinances but both houses in recess over Covid-19 PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: A major challenge faced by the government because of the coronavirus pandemic is the parliamentary approval needed for several temporary laws reaching their expiry dates including amendments to National Accountability Ordinance as both houses of parliament are in recess to ensure social distancing.

Sources said the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 is set to expire on April 24.

Last year, President Dr Arif Alvi had promulgated eight ordinances in a single day including “the Letter of Administration and Succession Certificates Ordinance, 2019; Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Ordinance, 2019; Benami Transactions (Prohibition) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019; Superior Courts (Court Dress and Mode of Address) Order (Repeal) Ordinance, 2019; National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019; Legal Aid and Justice Authority Ordinance, 2019; The Whistle-Blowers Act” on October 30, 2019.

If the presidential decrees are not ratified, it would become a major challenge for the government, which is already considering options to give legal cover to the ordinances.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and the Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani are mulling over the possibility of convening virtual proceedings.

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The NA speaker is consulting with legal, constitutional and parliamentary experts to run parliamentary affairs. The parliamentary affairs ministry has also sought feedback from the law ministry.

Qaiser and Parliamentary Affairs Adviser Dr Babar Awan have discussed the matter with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Earlier this month, the NA speaker ordered special arrangements for holding meetings of parliamentary committees via video-conferencing.

The information technology wing of the National Assembly Secretariat was mandated to provide video-conferencing facilities in committee rooms of the Parliament House.

Qaiser also decided to contact and take into confidence the leaders of all political parties in parliament for the presentation of the next financial year’s budget amid the country dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is necessary to take political parties into confidence over the passage of the next budget in view of the concerns over the coronavirus outbreak,” the speaker said in a statement.

“It is the responsibility of parliament that the budget is presented before the House in time and it should be aimed at providing relief to the people,” he added.

“People are facing immense financial difficulties due to the Covid-19. This pandemic has not

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only affected the livelihoods of the people but also had a devastating impact on the economy.”

The speaker urged the need for both parliament and people to join forces to steer the country out of the crisis.

Qaiser said he would try to work out a way through which discussion on issues of public importance could continue in parliament.

“The decision to hold committee meetings through video conferencing is a step towards this direction,” he added.

The speaker said the entire world was grappling with the viral outbreak and it was need of the hour to demonstrate national cohesion to face the pandemic.

“I am confident that the government will offer more incentives to the business sectors for stabilising the economy.”

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