Expressing disappointment on the court’s scrutiny of the opposition’s failure to resist the controversial Contempt of Court Act, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said that the party did everything it could to prevent the passage of the legislation, “short of taking up sticks.”
“How can such a statement be made about a party which has been struggling singlehandedly for the independence of the judiciary and rule of law in the country?” asked Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. “Our members made speeches, protested, shouted and did everything short of taking up sticks in their hands to prevent the passage of the bill,” he added.
Nisar, who was overseas when the contempt of court act was presented in the National Assembly, was responding to observations made by a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, which is hearing petitions challenging the new contempt law. The opposition had insisted for a debate over the bill, to no avail. The opposition later staged a walkout prior to voting on the legislation.
“A walkout is the ultimate and most extreme form of dissent in parliamentary practice as governments in most developed countries do not vote on legislation in the absence of the opposition,” Nisar said.
A statement issued by the opposition leader further said that the five-member bench should have elaborated how the opposition with 90 members in a house of 342 could have stopped the passage of the bill, asking whether the opposition should have snatched the bill to stop its passage.
“PML-N being the opposition party not only stood steadfast against the government’s efforts to amend the contempt law but used every political, legal and parliamentary avenue to prevent the government bulldozing the bill through the assembly,” Nisar said.
Addressing the five-member bench, Nisar said sarcasm and inaccurate comments over the opposition walkout without understanding parliamentary norms and practice was unfair and unjust. “These comments would play into the hands of government,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.