ISLAMABAD: Senators belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party on Friday seemingly tricked the government into getting the opposition-drafted Panama Papers Inquiries Bill 2016 directly to the upper house without any discussion in the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice.
Despite repeated requests by the committee chairman Javed Abbasi and hectic efforts by Law Minister Zahid Hamid, the bill could not be discussed in the committee because of continuous interruption in its proceedings, mainly by PPP senators.
Friday was the last day for completing deliberations on the bill by the Senate committee, but for more than one hour the committee members remained undecided about the start of the proceedings.
Senators belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the law minister were visibly concerned as they feared that if the extension was not granted by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, who also belongs to the PPP, the bill would be presented in the upper house without discussion in the committee.
Since the opposition is in majority in the Senate, the bill is likely to be approved in its current form.
PML-N Senator Ayesha Raza and Law Minister Hamid alleged that the delay was a deliberate move by the PPP to bypass the committee and take the bill to the Senate directly.
“This is not the right way; we too want to give our input into this bill,” Ms Raza said.
The PML-N wants that the bill should include all undeclared foreign assets, and not limited to the Panama Papers only.
Discussion on bill in standing committee marred by disruption
The Panama Papers Inquiries Act 2016 was introduced in the Senate by the opposition on Sept 26 and Nov 25 was the last date for the committee to complete deliberations on it.
The Senate recently rejected a request made by the committee chairman to extend the date.
There are 33 movers of the bill and 11 senators are members of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice.
When the committee began its proceedings on Friday, objections were raised over the absence of majority of the movers of the bill. Starting at 2.30pm the meeting finally ended at 3.45pm, with a decision that the Senate chairman would be requested for an extension to finalise the bill.
“We will request the Senate chairman to give us an extension of another 20 days to finalise this bill,” committee chairman Javed Abbasi announced the consensus decision.
At the outset of the meeting, PPP Senator Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi suggested that the bill should not be read clause by clause.
There was some support for the suggestion, but the law minister argued that all draft laws were read clause by clause to propose amendments.
Mr Hamid’s point of view was supported by Senator Ayesha Raza who accused the PPP of delaying the proceedings.
Speaking on behalf of the movers of the bill belonging to the PPP, Senator Taj Haider said they were against wasting time and wanted the committee to start its proceedings.
As the committee was set to start its proceedings, Senator Babar Awan staged a walkout on the grounds that notice about the meeting was not received on time by the members as well as the movers of the bill.
Several senators went to bring him back and during those 15 minutes Senator Shahi Syed of the Awami National Party suggested that the bill be read clause by clause without wasting any time. “We want that the bill should also include all undeclared offshore assets,” he said.
At the same time during the walkout by Mr Awan, Senator Ayesha Raza and Zahid Hamid also went out of the committee room for discussions.
When all sides came in and the committee was set to start reading the bill clause by clause, some senators suggested that the Senate chairman be requested to extend the date to finalise the bill.
After the meeting, PPP and PML-N senators blamed each other for the delay, while Senator Shahi Syed accused both of not being serious about the matter.
Courtesy : Dawn News