Barbs fly in Senate over promulgation of ordinances

Updated 16 Nov 2019

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Opposition says govt has made parliament irrelevant while treasury benches blame opposition for being stubborn. — APP/File
Opposition says govt has made parliament irrelevant while treasury benches blame opposition for being stubborn. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Friday witnessed the opposition and the government locked in a heated debate on justification for frequent promulgation of ordinances, with the opposition accusing the government of trying to make the parliament redundant and the government terming the opposition’s stubborn attitude responsible for it.

Rejecting the opposition’s criticism over what it called ‘rule through ordinances’, Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz said that ordinances were part of the constitution and nobody could declare them illegal. “It’s a pure constitutional step and there is no restriction on promulgation of ordinances”, he said.

Winding up the discussion on the government’s decision to dissolve Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) through an ordinance, he said that those who said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government should be ashamed of it should in fact be more ashamed as the Pakistan Peoples Party had promulgated as many as 104 ordinances during its days in power, while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had issued 46 ordinances.

Opposition says govt has made parliament irrelevant while treasury benches blame opposition for being stubborn

He said that the government was forced to introduce legislation through presidential ordinances as the opposition was exploiting its numerical stren­gth in the Senate to block the way for passage of public interest laws. “Their agenda is not public oriented but meant to pressurise the government and achieve political benefits. Opp­o­s­ition has invoked tyranny of majority”, he remarked.

Mr Faraz said that the government was forced to promulgate ordinances because opposition had rejected important government-sponsored bills because of its majority in the house.

Citing examples, he said the opposition was frustrated that the government’s attempt to make Nepra technically sound through a bill meant to determine qualification of its members, and said Raza Rabbani had later brought a bill opposite to it. He also said a government bill seeking to increase the number of judges of Islam­abad High Court was rejected by the opposition only for ‘negative political point scoring’ aft­er it was approved by the Senate standing committee on law.

On the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) Ordinance, 2019, that dissolved the PMDC, he said that it was not a repeat of the PMDC Ordinance earlier disapproved by the house. He said that the PMDC Ordinance brought in January 2019 was meant to introduce an amendment in the law framed back in 1962, while regulatory structure of the body had been changed in the PMC Ordinance.

Earlier, Parliamentary Leader of PPP in the Senate Senator Sherry Rehman criticised the government for promulgation of 19 ordinances in a little over a year.

She said the way 11 ordinances had been bulldozed in the National Assembly in 30 minutes without being referred to the standing committees concerned was something unprecedented in the parliamentary history. She said though the constitution empowered the president to promulgate ordinances, the authority could be exercised only for emergency purposes. “These ordinances must be rescinded before they land in Senate”, she remarked.

PPP Senator Dr Sikandar Mandhro taking part in the debate rejected the dissolution of PMDC and said it was an ambush on the constitution.

Terming it a fraud with the constitution, he said there were judgements of the superior courts under which an ordinance disapproved by a house of the parliament could not be re-promulgated, but claimed that it had been done.

He said that the government’s move had put at stake the integrity of Pakistani doctors abroad. “We have to save PMDC and to end the new commission.”

Leader of Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq also opposed the government’s decision to bring legislation through ordinances. He also rejected the new PMC, saying that it would ruin the medical profession. He demanded withdrawal of the PMC ordinance and added that the government should adopt a normal way to bring legislation.

The Senate was prorogued sine die.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2019