ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday faced embarrassment in the National Assembly after it failed to ensure the passage of its own inquiry commission bill due to a lack of quorum following an opposition boycott.
As soon as Law Minister Zahid Hamid took the floor to present the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Bill 2016 for passage, opposition members mainly from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) protested and announced a boycott of proceedings.
PPP’s Shazia Marri then pointed out lack of quorum just as Mr Hamid was about to respond to the opposition’s points.
Realising that the government did not have the required numbers, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi immediately adjourned the sitting until Friday morning, without taking up the rest of the agenda.
Lack of quorum hampers govt attempt to pass controversial law; Shah accuses leadership of ‘silence’ over LoC violations
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah had lashed out at the ruling party and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for not giving due importance to parliament.
Amid slogans of “shame, shame” by the opposition members, Mr Shah said that he had attended 96pc of parliamentary sittings over the past three years, whereas the prime minister’s attendance was only 11pc. He also warned the government against passing legislation without meeting quorum requirements, which stipulate that the presence of at least 86 members (one-fourth of the total 342) is necessary.
Opposing the bill, which was passed by the law and justice committee last month in the absence of opposition members, PPP parliamentary leader Syed Naveed Qamar said the government had introduced the bill after the Supreme Court rejected its request to constitute an inquiry commission on the Panamagate scam under the existing 1956 Act, which had been termed “toothless and powerless”.
However, he claimed that there was not much of a difference between the existing and the proposed laws; the government was just reintroducing the old law with a new name.
“It is too little too late,” Mr Qamar said, asking the government to accept the opposition’s bill on the Panamagate issue moved in the Senate.
Mr Qamar said the government was tabling the bill at a time when a five-judge Supreme Court bench had taken up the Panamagate issue under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, saying that even the judges would not appreciate such a move.
Opposition members from the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) supported the PPP, saying they could not accept the proposed law, which was introduced without taking them on board.
The federal cabinet had approved the draft of the bill on Aug 31, following which the opposition submitted its own bill to the Senate secretariat, seeking the formation of a judicial commission to probe the Panamagate scam.
After the cabinet’s approval of the draft, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had stated that the new law would replace the 60-year-old law. However, he said, there was a general feeling that the law should be changed and the commission should be empowered.
Under the proposed law, the federal government will have the power to constitute a three-member commission of inquiry “whenever it is expedient to conduct an inquiry into any definite matter of public importance”. The Commission shall conduct the inquiry and perform its functions in accordance with the terms of reference (ToR) given in the notification.
It says: “The chairman or any officer, not below the rank of an officer of BS-17, especially authorised in this behalf by the chairman, may enter any building or place where the Commission has reason to believe that any books of account or other documents relating to the subject matter of the inquiry may be found; and may seize any such books of account or documents or take extracts or copies therefrom.”
The commission will also have the powers to constitute special teams, consisting of officers from the executive authorities and experts in specific fields for the purposes of assisting the commission in conducting an inquiry.
The house also witnessed a verbal clash between treasury and opposition members when Mr Shah alleged that India had stepped up hostilities against Pakistan due to the rulers’ silence over the killings of innocent civilians along the Line of Control (LoC).
Mr Shah was of the view that India had adopted an aggressive policy because it knew that it had a friendly government that would not lodge a protest. He said that India was killing innocent civilians and the time had come for Pakistan to respond in similar fashion.
“We do not want war, but how long we will continue to collect bodies?” he asked.
Mr Shah advised the government not to attend the forthcoming Heart of Asia conference in India, in protest.
Responding to Mr Shah, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Region retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch said it was wrong to say that the government was silent over Indian ceasefire violations along the LoC.
He said the armed forces were giving a befitting response to Indian aggression, adding that India should know that the war would be harmful.
The deputy speaker also declared that the National Assembly would hold full-fledged debate on the LoC situation on Friday (today).
Courtesy : Dawn News