Cabinet approval for six more ordinances sought

Updated October 13, 2019

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In order to initiate legal reforms, the federal government constituted a task force under the chairmanship of the minister of law and justice Barrister Farogh Nasim to propose laws. — PID/File
In order to initiate legal reforms, the federal government constituted a task force under the chairmanship of the minister of law and justice Barrister Farogh Nasim to propose laws. — PID/File

ISLAMABAD: Paying no heed to the ongoing criticism against the government for carrying out legislation through presidential ordinances, the law ministry has sent yet another summary to the federal cabinet to get approval for six more ordinances, Dawn has learnt.

Through the summary, the law ministry has informed the federal cabinet that it has already “prepared” six ordinances and suggested that “keeping in view the urgency involved”, these ordinances “are proposed to be promulgated immediately”.

The ordinances, according to the law ministry’s communication, have been pending before various committees of the National Assembly in the form of bills since long.

“As the legislative process will take substantial time, it is suggested that the bills …. maybe promulgated as ordinances,” writes the law ministry in its summary to the federal cabinet, which is expected to meet on Oct 16.

Government faces censure for bypassing parliament

The proposed six ordinances are as follows: the Letter of Administration and Succession Certificates Ordinance 2019; the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Ordinance 2019; the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) (Amendment) Ordinance 2019; the Superior Courts (Court Dress and Mode of Address) Order (Repeal) Ordinance 2019; the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 and the Legal Aid and Justice Authority Ordinance 2019.

“In order to initiate legal reforms, the federal government constituted a task force under the chairmanship of the minister of law and justice [Barrister Farogh Nasim] to propose laws with the primary objective to alleviate hardships of people of Pakistan. To secure and promote the rights of people in particular women, the said task force recommended new laws for the protection of women property rights, setting up of legal aid mechanism for the poor and vulnerable and a mechanism for issuance of succession certificates by National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra),” states the law ministry’s summary arguing in support of its recommendations for early approval of the ordinances.

“Further, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan empowers the superior courts of Pakistan i.e. Supreme Court and High Court to regulate its own practice and procedures. It is, therefore, proposed that the law regulating the court dress and mode of address may be repealed thus allowing superior courts to decide the appropriate dress code and the manner in which the advocates must conduct themselves in a court of law,” says the summary while seeking support for the ordinances related to the judicial reforms.

The law ministry says that it has prepared two ordinances aimed at exposing Benami transactions and to deal with individuals arrested under the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.

It says the recommendations are being made in the light of the directives of the federal cabinet in which the law minister has been directed “to examine and recommend the best course for the enactment of the above draft laws relating to matters of public interest”.

Red-faced opposition

The present coalition government led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has already laid 11 ordinances before the National Assembly whereas two more ordinances were promulgated earlier this month regarding setting up of a CPEC Authority and giving tax concessions to Gwadar Port. Besides this, the government had also introduced a controversial amnesty scheme through an ordinance, which it withdrew after condemnation from all the sides.

The government has been facing criticism from the opposition, law experts and civil society organisations for bypassing the parliament and relying on ordinances for carrying out legislation since assuming power.

The opposition parties even staged a walkout from the Senate last month when the government attempted to lay some of the ordinances before the House. The issue was also taken up by Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs headed by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Sassui Palejo last week.

However, the opposition lawmakers agitating the government’s attempts to “rule through ordinances” were left red-faced when an official of the parliamentary affairs ministry disclosed that 26 ordinances had been promulgated each year on average over the past decade when Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PPP had been in power.

At present, a total of 127 bills, including 102 private member’s bills, have been pending before various committees of the National Assembly. The opposition alleges that the pendency of such a large number of bills is also because of the controversial directives issued by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser that the committees can only meet when the house is in session. The speaker had issued these instructions in July as part of the austerity measures of the government.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2019