ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Tuesday blocked immediate passage of seven bills by the upper house of parliament, while Law Minister Farogh Naseem accused it of violating an agreement it had signed with the government.
The government wanted the Zainab Alert Bill, ICT Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates Bill, Legal Aid and Justice Authority Bill, Enforcement of Women Property Rights Bill, the Court Dress and Mode of Address Bill and Code of Civil Procedure Amendment Bill, already passed by the National Assembly, to be immediately taken up for consideration and approval, but the opposition insisted that the bills go to the Senate standing committees first.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani referred the bills to the standing committees concerned.
Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari moved the Zainab Alert Bill and ICT Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, while the law minister moved the five other bills.
After parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Mushahidullah Khan insisted that the Zainab Alert Bill go to the Senate committee, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Khan Swati pleaded that the bill had already been thoroughly discussed at the Human Rights Committee of the National Assembly headed by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
Insist bills go to standing committees first
Leader of the Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq also said the upper house had its own responsibilities.
When Mushahidullah refused to change his position, the law minister asked him to keep what he had said in mind in future.
The Senate passed the Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority Bill as Javed Abbasi of the PML-N agreed to withdraw his amendments after the government assured him they would be accommodated later.
Mr Abbasi said an amendment to a bill could be proposed even after its clearance from the standing committee concerned.
He said the only requirement was a three-day notice which he had already given. He, however, agreed to withdraw his amendments.
Mushtaq Ahmad of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) said he had proposed nine amendments which were neither allowed at the committee level nor in the house.
JI chief Sirajul Haq said the law had an element of usury in it.
Raja Zafarul Haq said there should be no legislation having the element of usury as it was against the concept of “state of Madina”.
“Today unfortunately the Opposition in the Senate chose to refer our Zainab Alert Bill and Disability Bill to the Senate HR Standing Committee before it gets passed from the Senate. Disappointing to say the least,” the human rights minister tweeted after the senate session.
“Sorry I don’t understand why it’s called disappointing for a bill to go to its regular standing committee. When a bill is passed in one house, it goes through the standing committee of the other house.
This is the parliamentary procedure for both houses. Why should it be bulldozed,” PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman responded.
Talking to Dawn, Ms Rehman said there was no agreement to bulldoze the bills through the Senate. “This is absolutely wrong,” she said about Mr Naseem’s claim.
She regretted that the government was trying to suspend rules and strip the Senate of due process. She said the Senate usually keeps the bills for less than two weeks.
“We always process public-interest legislation as quickly as possible in the upper house,” she said.
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2020