ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Thursday witnessed the first walkout against newly elected Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani when he rejected an adjournment motion seeking to discuss a controversial letter of the Cabinet Division over rollback of the 18th Constitution Amendment.

Interestingly, the walkout was announced by the Pakistan Peo­ples Party (PPP) that had played a key role in installing Mr Sanjrani in the coveted position he holds.

All opposition members, except Dr Jehanzaib Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal that is known for supporting the government while sitting on the opposition benches, staged the walkout when PPP Senator Sassui Palejo’s motion for discussing the move to withdraw the powers devolved to the provinces under the 18th Amendment was not found by the chairman in order.

Another walkout was staged by the combined opposition when three controversial ordinances recently promulgated by the president were laid in the house as money bills. They are: Foreign Assets (Declaration and Repatriation) Ordinance 2018, Voluntary Declaration of Domestic Assets Ordinance 2018 and Income Tax (Amendment) Ordinance 2018.

The opposition severely criticised the scheme offering a one-time amnesty to whiten undeclared assets at home and abroad, when the Income Tax Ordinance was laid in the house. The opposition made it clear that it would not allow the government to provide legal cover to ill-gotten money stashed in foreign banks.

Chairman rejects motion seeking discussion on attempt to roll back 18th Amendment

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Sherry Rehman was of the view that the government could not introduce a money bill at the fag end of its tenure. She wondered as to why a money bill was being introduced through an ordinance, emphasising that the money bill came with the budget.

She was of the opinion that under the law, no government could bring an ordinance two weeks before dissolution of the assemblies. “The law doesn’t permit this…it never happened before. Fiscal ordinance can only be moved in case of financial emergency in the country,” she added.

The PPP senator asked the government to share with the opposition if there was a fiscal emergency. Terming the move negation of the law, she regretted that the country was being run through SROs.

Minister for Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan tabled the three ordinances in the house.

The opposition lawmakers led by Sherry Rehman kept protesting against the laying of the Income Tax Ordinance in the house despite a ruling by the chair which he had reserved on Monday on a point raised by former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani of the PPP regarding the ordinance.

Another PPP Senator Mustafa Khokar said that before the announcement of the chairman’s ruling on the controversial ordinance, the government could not lay the ordinances in the house.

Without paying any heed to the objection raised the senators, the chairman allowed the government to present the bill in the house. “We have to lay the bill in Senate as it has been sent by National Assembly Speaker…the ruling of the chair can be announced later, so let the bill be laid,” said Mr Sanjrani.

Sherry Rehman, however, said it was an extraordinary step.

Parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the house Azam Swati said that bringing an ordinance when the term of the government was going to end in less than two months was tantamount to keeping the country ‘mortgaged’.

“What the government is doing to save the skin of the plunderers and cronies through such tactics is deplorable…stop keeping the country mortgaged any more, as we want no amnesty for those who have stolen the national wealth,” he maintained.

The joint opposition then staged the walkout which led to lack of quorum, forcing the chair to adjourn the house till Friday (today).

Published in Dawn, Aprill 13th, 2018

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