ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Tuesday withdrew a private member’s bill seeking an amendment to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, in the National Assembly in line with the decision of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) which had announced that the opposition would not support any government move to change the country’s accountability laws.
The other significant happening in the National Assembly was the rejection of a bill that had jointly been moved by independent MNA Mohsin Dawar and Balochistan National Party (BNP) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal seeking the punishment of life imprisonment for those found involved in enforced disappearances of the people in any part of the country after it was opposed by the government.
Through the withdrawn bill, the PML-N had sought withdrawal of the federal government’s power to appoint the judges of the accountability courts in the country and it had been jointly moved by Khurram Dastagir Khan, Rana Sanaullah, Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha and Marrium Aurangzeb.
NA rejects bill seeking punishment for those involved in enforced disappearances
“I withdraw the bill as the PML-N in line with the PDM decision has decided not to amend or hold discussions on NAB (National Accountability Bureau) laws,” said Khurram Dastagir Khan when asked by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri to move the private member’s bill titled National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Talking to Dawn after the assembly session, Mr Khan said it was a simple one-page bill through which they had called for the transfer of the authority of the federal government to appoint accountability judges to the chief justices of the respective high courts.
On the other hand, the assembly rejected four similar bills of the PML-N regarding the appointment of judges in banking courts, anti-terrorism courts, Customs courts and anti-narcotics courts when all of them were strongly opposed by the ministers concerned and parliamentary secretaries. All these bills were rejected through a voice vote.
While moving the bill regarding appointment of judges in the anti-narcotics courts, PML-N’s Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha quoted the example of the case of Rana Sanaullah and said that everyone saw as to how a judge was transferred during the hearing of the case through a simple message on the mobile phone. He suggested that the powers to transfer judges should be given to the chief justices of the provincial high courts to save the judges from possible influence of the executive.
After attending a joint meeting of the PML-N’s parliamentary groups on Monday, party’s vice-president Maryam Nawaz had ruled out possibility of holding talks with the government on any issue, particularly the NAB laws. She had stated that the PML-N would not allow the government to change the accountability laws, adding that the present rulers would face the same NAB which was now for the opposition.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly also rejected a bill moved by MNA Mohsin Dawar seeking an amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, aimed at “criminalising” the offence of enforced disappearances in the country.
Speaking in support of the bill, Mr Dawar said that there had been unrest in the provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the enforced disappearances of the people. He said the purpose of the bill was to criminalise the offence. He said the bill had suggested life-imprisonment for those found involved in the cases of enforced disappearances. He asked federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari to support the bill reminding her past when she used to talk about the issue while in the opposition.
Opposing the bill, parliamentary secretary for interior Shaukat Ali said that after the 18th Amendment, the law and order had now been the provincial subject. He said they had referred the bill to the provincial governments to seek their opinion and they were yet to respond. He asked the deputy speaker to defer the bill, but the latter put it for a voting which ultimately led to its rejection.
At the outset of the sitting, the house witnessed exchange of heated arguments between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the opposition members when the latter demanded a debate on their adjournment motion on the recent increase in power tariff.
When PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar and Raja Pervez Ashraf asked the deputy speaker to allow the debate after suspending the normal business, the foreign minister took the floor and first suggested the debate on some other day and later announced that the government was ready to hold a debate on the issue immediately even today when the opposition protested.
PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal questioned Mr Qureshi’s act of responding to a matter which the opposition had raised with the deputy speaker. He said Mr Qureshi was responding to the issues related to the parliamentary affairs despite the fact the government had an adviser. He said if the foreign minister was looking after the parliamentary affairs then who was running the foreign ministry. He alleged that it was because of such acts of the minister that the country was facing “humiliation” at the international level on all the fronts, be it the PIA or the Kashmir issue.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan defended the foreign minister and then hit out at the PML-N for not showing up to a scheduled meeting with a government delegation on Monday.
“Nearly 100 elected members of the opposition preferred to attend a meeting that was being presided over by an unelected person, instead of giving importance to the parliament,” said the minister in his apparent reference to the PML-N’s parliamentary party meeting which was also addressed by Maryam Nawaz.
“You said last week you would come and [cooperate in running] the parliament more smoothly [and] discussion would take place in the office of the NA speaker. We went to the NA speaker’s office, other people from the opposition came. If [any party did not come], it was the PML-N,” he said.
He said the PML-N members “remember the Constitution in front of the mike but forget everything outside the parliament”.
“We are told vote ko izzat do (respect the vote). Yesterday you gave a lot of respect to the vote when you went in front of an unelected person [instead] of this sacred Parliament,” he said.
He was of the view that the PML-N should have held this meeting at the party’s office instead of the Parliament House building.
PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzeb wanted to respond to the minister, but the deputy speaker adjourned the sitting till Friday morning without taking up more than 70 per cent business on the agenda.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2021