ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Tuesday staged a walkout from the Senate to protest what it described as the government’s attempts to rule through ordinances.
Tensions began when four ordinances promulgated by President Dr Arif Alvi in May and July were laid in the house by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati towards the end of the proceedings, amidst slogans of ‘shame, shame’ from the opposition benches.
Interestingly, the most controversial Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) Ordinance promulgated recently was not among the ordinances laid before the house.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq regretted that parliament was being bypassed and ordinances were being promulgated without fulfilling the preconditions enshrined in Article 89 of the Constitution.
He said a shortcut was in no way permissible under the law, which made it clear that an ordinance could not be promulgated when either house of parliament was in session. “It is a fraud with the Constitution,” he remarked.
Leader of house in Senate accuses opposition of misusing its numerical strength
“The four ordinances laid in the Senate today are proof that the government wants to bypass the opposition’s majority in the house and legislate solely through presidential ordinances,” asserted parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the Senate Sherry Rehman.
“The government has now bypassed the parliament 15 times through these presidential ordinances only within one year and yet they blame the parliament for not being able to legislate. Are we only here to rubber-stamp these ordinances which were not even introduced by the worst dictators?”
Ms Rehman said the four ordinances had been laid in the Senate on the day it was being prorogued to make sure that the house could not pass a resolution disapproving them. She said notices had already been submitted with the Senate Secretariat for resolutions disapproving all the four ordinances. She said although a notice of three days was required for it under the rules, the chair had the powers to dispense with the requirements of the rules.
Raza Rabbani of the PPP said attempts were being made under a preconceived plan to make the parliament redundant.
He said Article 89 (1) of the Constitution reads: “The President may, except when the Senate or National Assembly is in session, if satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action, make and promulgate an Ordinance as the circumstances may require.”
Mr Rabbani said the president does not do it mechanically on receiving a summary but he has to be satisfied. “Satisfaction means he has to apply his mind if such circumstances exist which warrant promulgation of an ordinance.”
He said the president recently breached the Constitution by issuing an unconstitutional notification for appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
He also referred to a ruling of the chair under which an ordinance is to be laid on the first day of the sitting of the house held after the promulgation of the said ordinance on which formal government business is to be transacted, and the government is required to provide the reasons that necessitated the president to promulgate the ordinance. He said the house can condone the delay for a maximum of 10 days.
“We disallowed the PMDC Ordinance in parliament but doctors informed us today that operations were continuing in the same way as before,” he said.
Mr Rabbani said the GIDC Ordinance waiving a colossal amount of Rs 210 billion to capitalists and foreign companies had been promulgated in violation of the Constitution. “This is the biggest ever dacoity. This order does not meet the requirements of the Constitution,” he remarked.
He said the president knew the Senate would be meeting next day when he promulgated the ordinance as he himself had summoned it.
Mushtaq Ahmad of the Jamat-i-Islami also slammed the PTI government for promulgation of ordinances.
Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz, however, held the opposition responsible for what had been done. He said the opposition was opposing legislation meant to serve the country for political point-scoring. He said even a bill that had been supported by the opposition members at the committee level was opposed when it came to the house. “This is happening because the opposition is misusing its numerical strength in the House,” he remarked.
Soon after these remarks, Raja Zafarul Haq announced staging a walkout.
The quorum was pointed out after the opposition walked out. Quorum bells were rung for five minutes but of no use. The house was prorogued sine die.
Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2019