Barbs fly in Senate body meeting over legislation process

Updated October 05, 2019

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PML-N, PPP governments promulgated 26 ordinances each year on average, says PTI lawmaker. — APP/File
PML-N, PPP governments promulgated 26 ordinances each year on average, says PTI lawmaker. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The opposition lawmakers agitating the government’s attempts to ‘rule through ordinances’ were left red-faced with embarrassment when an official disclosed that 26 ordinances had been promulgated each year on average over the past one decade when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People Party had been in power.

Speaking on an agenda item of promulgation of ordinances by the president under Article 89 of the Constitution during the meeting of the Senate’s standing committee on parliamentary affairs, the PML-N and PPP members criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government for frequently issuing ordinances, claiming that the government had bypassed the parliament 15 times over the past 13 months.

Chairperson of the parliamentary affairs committee Sassui Palejo said the number of legislation enacted in one year was very low when compared to the ordinances promulgated during this time. This was an attempt to turn the parliament into a rubber stamp, she said.

A PML-N Senator, retired general Abdul Qayyum, who atten­ded the meeting as a special inv­itee, said Article 89 (1) 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.”

PML-N, PPP govts promulgated 26 ordinances each year on average, says official

In the presence of parliament, the president should not promulgate ordinances every now and then, he said. “This practice must be discouraged,” he added.

While a bill came under discussion before being passed, the ordinances were promulgated at whim without bringing the same before the parliament, he pointed out.

After an official of the ministry of parliamentary affairs informed the meeting that the frequency of promulgation of ordinances had been even higher during the terms of the PML-N and the PPP government, PTI Senator Waleed Iqbal chided the opposition for its clamour. He insisted that the figure of promulgation of 15 ordinances since the PTI assumed power was incorrect. “Even if it is assumed to be correct, it means we have minimised it [the frequency] by about 50 per cent,” he remarked.

He was of the opinion that the power to promulgate ordinances had been recklessly used before the enactment of 18th Amendment to the Constitution. He said the Senate and the National Assembly could disapprove an ordinance through a resolution. Former chairman of Senate Farooq H. Naek said the 18th Amendment showed that the parliament did not see promulgation of ordinances as something good.

The Senate panel also discussed the way forward to deal with the situation arising out of the deadlock in appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the arbitrary appointment of the two members by the President and refusal of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) to administer oath to them on the plea that the appointments were unconstitutional.

During a briefing over the matter, the ministry of parliamentary affairs said as the Constitution was silent on how to move forward in case of such a deadlock on ECP members’ appointment, the President was requested to appoint the ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan in the light of the NA Speaker’s ruling and law ministry’s legal opinion.

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad said the CEC had refused to administer the oath to the two individuals, as in his opinion both the appointments were unconstitutional. He said the CEC in his order had mentioned that he was under oath to protect the Constitution. He said the same plea had been taken by the Commission before the bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) hearing this case. The matter should be resolved at the earliest, he said, adding that the CEC would retire in the first week of December.

When the opposition members criticised President Arif Alvi for violating the Constitution, Senator Waleed objected to it, arguing that it was premature to term it a violation of the Constitution.

Senator Qayyum said reasons for the deadlock and the way forward should be discussed. The Constitution should be suitably amended to avert such a situation in future, he said. Under a new mechanism, he said, the process of appointment of the CEC and the ECP members should start three to six months prior to their retirement to avoid any void.

He noted that in case of a stalemate at the parliamentary committee, the matter should be referred to the ECP as was done in the case of interim prime minister and chief ministers.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2019