ISLAMABAD: Despite succeeding in winning the support of its estranged ally, the ANP, and some of the independent senators from Fata for two bills relating to dual nationality, the PPP again could not go ahead with voting in the Senate on Thursday after failing to muster the required number.
A dejected Law Minister Farooq H. Naek sought deferment of the consideration of the 22nd and 23rd Constitution (amendment) bills after the PPP could not ensure the presence of the minimum 70 senators on the treasury benches in a 104-member house.
Senate Chairman Nayyar Bokhari, who provided an indirect support to the government by prolonging the 15-minute Maghrib prayers’ break for well over an hour to enable the ruling party to bring the members to the main hall, later prorogued the house for an indefinite period.
During the break time, the PPP senators were seen desperately persuading the opposition members belonging to the PML-N and JUI-F, but the two parties categorically declared that they could not support the controversial bills – one lifting a bar on holders of dual nationality to contest general elections and the other putting a ban on government servants in BPS-20 or above to continue in office while possessing the nationality of a foreign country.
The treasury members claimed that they were short of just four to five senators whereas the opposition claimed that the number on treasury benches never touched even the 60 figure. Independent observers belonging to the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), a civil society organisation which monitors parliamentary proceedings, later said in its report that the maximum presence of treasury members at one point of time was 48.
PPP dissidents Babar Awan and Faisal Raza Abidi were conspicuous by their absence, whereas Mushahid Hussain of the PML-Q, according to a party spokesman, was out of the country.
The PPP-led government comprising the ANP, MQM, PML-Q, PML-F and BNP-A had earlier failed on Tuesday to put the 22nd Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2012 for vote due to lack of a two-thirds majority. Besides the opposition parties, the ANP had also opposed the bill demanding that it would support it only if the government brought another constitution amendment putting a bar on dual nationals to become a government servant at the federal level and in the provinces.
Political analysts believe that even if the PPP succeeds in getting the two bills passed from the Senate in the next session it will be a daunting task for the ruling party to get the required support in the National Assembly where the numbers are very tricky.
It was after lengthy talks between representatives of the PPP and ANP on Tuesday night that the government had finally agreed to introduce and get the 23rd Constitution (amendment) bill passed from the Senate on Thursday.
The bill seeking amendment to Article 240 says that “the government servants in BPS-20 or equivalent and above” in the services of the federation and all the provinces “shall not hold dual nationality or citizenship of any foreign country.” It further says that any government servant holding dual nationality “shall renounce the same within thirty days of the coming into force of the Constitution (23rd Amendment) Act 2012.”
The 22nd amendment bill seeks amendment to Article 63 of the Constitution dealing with the disqualification of the members of parliament. It not only allows the dual nationals to contest the general elections but also nullifies the effect of the recent orders of the Supreme Court disqualifying a dozen legislators for possessing dual nationality as it will have a retrospective effect from Nov 1, 2007.