ISLAMABAD: Though the Pakistan Peoples Party met with more opposition in the National Assembly a day after passing a contempt of court bill, the situation provided a chance for a number of parliamentarians to hit out at the judiciary.
This time it was the Awami National Party, a key ally of the government, and the opposition was to the seemingly innocuous 21st Constitutional Amendment seeking to increase the pension of widows of Supreme Court and high court judges from 50% to 75%.
Though some say the amendment is no less than bribing judges, others heaped scathing criticism on the judiciary.
ANP’s Bushra Gohar questioned the performance of judges, saying “there is a huge backlog of cases and the country is being run through taking suo moto notice of everything. This bill is neither acceptable to me or my party.” Gohar added judges were already receiving handsome salaries and there was no need for such “special favours.”
The latter half of the session revolved almost exclusively around the judiciary’s performance, with members from the treasury benches being quite vocal about their reservations.
Noor Alam Khan was blatant in his criticism: “Why is the chief justice biased against the PPP? What is the reason for not taking up cases against the PML-N?” He also retorted to the CJP’s comments earlier questioning the parliament’s supremacy: “We (parliamentarians) are public representatives and not useless.”
Even PML-N parliamentarians agreed there was room for improvement in the current judicial set-up. “Justice is not available to the common man. We did not want the prime minister’s ouster, but will not allow anyone make a mockery of judicial orders,” said khawaja Saad Rafiq. Ayaz Amir of the PML-N, too, said it was unfortunate the premier had to be sent home, but was quick to add the government was not moving in the “right direction.”
Commenting on the Supreme Court’s refusal to send its registrar to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for the scrutiny of its accounts, Bushra Gohar said “no one is above the law and every institution has to appear before the PAC.”
PPP’s Dr Azra Fazal also reiterated that the SC should be held accountable for its expenditures.
Though the session was for private members to deliberate over pressing concerns, six new bills were introduced.
These include an amendment in the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996, which calls for the cancellation of telecom licences of some service providers citing violations in their code of conduct.
The bill on protection against domestic violence, which has already been passed in the Senate, was deferred till the next private members session due to reservations voiced by the opposition.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2012.