NA panel to reconsider key bills tomorrow

Published January 5, 2020
The bills empowering the prime minister to give extension to the three services chiefs and the chairman of joint chiefs of staff committee are set to be passed by the parliament on Jan 8 (Wednesday), informed sources in the government and the opposition told Dawn on Saturday. — APP/File
The bills empowering the prime minister to give extension to the three services chiefs and the chairman of joint chiefs of staff committee are set to be passed by the parliament on Jan 8 (Wednesday), informed sources in the government and the opposition told Dawn on Saturday. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The bills empowering the prime minister to give extension to the three services chiefs and the chairman of joint chiefs of staff committee are set to be passed by the parliament on Jan 8 (Wednesday), informed sources in the government and the opposition told Dawn on Saturday.

They said a new timeline for the entire legislative process had been agreed upon under which the National Assembly’s standing committee on defence would reconsider on Monday (tomorrow) the three key bills after the Friday controversy over their approval at a meeting attended by members of the defence committees of the both houses of parliament.

They said the NA committee after approving the bills on Monday will lay its report before the house on Tuesday and the assembly would pass the bills the same day before referring them to the Senate for a similar procedure. The Senate defence committee, too, would be required to approve the bills on Tuesday and present its report to the house on Wednesday (Jan 8) for the immediate passage of the bills, the sources added.

The government that wanted to get the bills passed at the earliest had to postpone the sessions of the two houses convened for Saturday when the opposition protested over the “undue haste” being shown by the ruling coalition.

Opposition, govt agree on renewed timeline for legislation regarding services chiefs tenure

The government, the sources said, had agreed to the new timeline on the demand of the opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that had presented its own timeline in the light of the directives received from the party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif from London for the whole process, suggesting that the bills should be passed on Jan 15.

When contacted, federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry confirmed to Dawn that the NA standing committee on defence had been rescheduled for Monday to take up the bills again. He, however, refused to offer any comment on the newly agreed timeline.

Mr Chaudhry said the most important thing for the government was to complete the whole process with consensus.

“Now it’s important to accommodate opposition’s concerns. We are to create a balance between two things. Number one that the matter should not linger on for an indefinite period because of the situation and secondly we want to do it with consensus,” the minister said, adding that “we have agreed to place the bills before the NA committee again on Monday for the sake of developing a consensus”.

The National Assembly secretariat has already issued the agenda for the “in-camera meeting” of the defence committee that would meet under the chairmanship of Amjad Ali Khan of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) at 3pm on Monday. The agenda says the committee will take up the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020 in its meeting.

After a meeting attended by members of the defence committees of the both houses on Friday, Law Minister Barrister Farogh Nasim had announced that the bills had been passed and that there was no need for seeking a separate approval from the Senate committee.

The minister’s claim, however, had been refuted by the opposition members.

PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan claimed that the bills had not been passed by the NA committee, which had invited the Senate committee members as special invitees. He was of the opinion that the senators who attended the meeting had no right to take part in the voting as the bills were yet to be tabled before the Senate.

Sources in the PML-N confirmed that ex-PM Sharif, who was currently under treatment in London, had sent special instructions to the party legislators, telling them that it was “not in the interest of any party to show undue haste or to bulldoze the rules and procedures”.

In his message, a copy of which is available with Dawn, Mr Sharif expressed his pleasure over government’s decision to extend the time by 24 hours and then suggested another timeline. “Such important bills cannot be passed in 24 or for that matter 48 hours. We would like to look at the bills positively for stability in the country. However, we cannot possibly allow the dignity of the parliament to be compromised,” Mr Sharif said in his message, sent to several senior leaders of the party including parliamentary leader and former defence minister Khawaja Asif.

Mr Sharif had suggested that the NA committee on defence should consider the bills on Jan 7 and send its report to the house on Jan 8 for a debate. He had suggested that the NA should “consider, debate and vote” on the bills on Jan 9 and 10.

According to the timeline he suggested, the Senate will refer the bills to its standing committee for consideration on Jan 13 and the Senate will debate and vote on it on Jan 15.

“This is the minimum possible timeframe for the passage of the bill with meaningful input from all concerned. We should also be cognizant of the fact that the Parliament should not be seen to rubber-stamp a bill of such importance,” the ex-premier stated, adding that the “political fallout for all parties will be substantial, if parliamentary norms are not properly observed”.

The government had introduced the three bills in the National Assembly on Friday as per the Supreme Court directive to remove ambiguity in laws and to provide legal ground to the extension given to Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa after the SC suspended controversial notifications of the government in this regard last year.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2020

Opinion

Editorial

The establishment pivot
18 Jan, 2022

The establishment pivot

It is a sad reality that the power matrix continues to revolve around the establishment.
18 Jan, 2022

Remittances growth

THE hefty growth in remittances from Pakistanis living abroad continues to defy forecasts to the contrary. New State...
18 Jan, 2022

China-Iran deal

THE China-Iran strategic deal that has recently taken effect is more than just a long-term bilateral agreement...
Security policy unveiled
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Security policy unveiled

PAKISTAN’S freshly unveiled National Security Policy has broadened the traditional concept and included economic...
Bold decisions
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Bold decisions

IT is a double blow within a matter of days. The Islamabad High Court’s order last week to demolish a navy golf...
17 Jan, 2022

Rohingya camp blaze

A HUGE blaze in a refugee camp housing members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh last week has left up to ...