Govt bulldozes CPEC Authority bill through NA

Published February 2, 2021
Helped by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, the government on Monday hurriedly passed three bills, including the one seeking establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority. — Photo courtesy NA Twitter
Helped by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, the government on Monday hurriedly passed three bills, including the one seeking establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority. — Photo courtesy NA Twitter

ISLAMABAD: Helped by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, the government on Monday hurriedly passed three bills, including the one seeking establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority, amid ruckus by the opposition members.

Besides the passage of the bills, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan also laid two ordinances, including the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance 2020, before the house as the opposition members continued their noisy protest in front of the dais of the speaker after he refused to give them the floor to speak on the issue of price hike with particular reference to the recent increase in prices of electricity and petroleum products.

As soon as the speaker gave the floor to Mr Awan for tabling the ordinances soon after the question hour, the opposition members stood up and demanded the floor, stating that they wanted to speak on the government’s decision to increase the prices of petrol and diesel.

After the adviser laid the ordinances amid noisy protest by the opposition and presented the CPEC Authority Bill for consideration, the speaker gave the floor to Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), asking him to speak on the proposed legislation, but he insisted that the opposition should be allowed to speak on price-hike before taking up the legislative business.

Speaker refuses to give opposition members floor to speak on issue of price hike

Mr Qamar also protested over the placement of the opposition’s admitted adjournment motion “regarding increase in the prices of electricity in the country” on the agenda after the legislative business.

The speaker, however, ignored Mr Qamar’s suggestion and started reading the bill clause by clause, prompting a strong protest by the opposition members who gathered in front of the dais of the speaker and started raising full-throated slogans against the government as well as the speaker. Some of the members tore copies of the bills and agendas and threw the pieces into the air.

The opposition raised slogans like Sharam karo, haya karo, speaker ko riha karo (Be ashamed, release the speaker) and Bijli chor, aata chor aur cheeni chor (Electricity thieves, flour thieves and sugar thieves).

As the opposition members aggravated their protest, the speaker put the bills before the house for a voice vote after clubbing their clauses, instead of putting each clause before the house for a vote.

When Babar Awan presented the CPEC Authority Bill 2020 and the Public Private Partnership Authority (Amendment) Bill 2020, parliamentary secretary for finance Zain Qureshi presented the Pakistan Single Window Bill 2020 which was also passed by the house within minutes.

Later, Mr Awan moved a motion seeking start of a general debate on the presidential address to the joint sitting of parliament on Aug 20 last year.

The speaker gave the floor to parliamentary secretary for commerce Aliya Hamza Malik to open the debate who started her speech with the opposition bashing. In her speech, which could not be heard clearly in the galleries due to noisy protest, Ms Malik particularly targeted the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and its vice president Maryam Nawaz.

Referring to the last week’s meeting of the PML-N’s parliamentary groups at the Parliament House presided over by Maryam Nawaz, Ms Malik said that an unelected member had made the parliamentarians hostage. She particularly lashed out at the opposition members and Ms Nawaz for targeting Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi and his sister Aleema Khan in their speeches and questioned their act of dragging apolitical personalities and women into politics.

Ms Malik was still on her legs when the speaker abruptly adjourned the sitting till Tuesday evening (today).

The CPEC Authority Ordinance had been promulgated by President Dr Arif Alvi in October 2019 before the visit of Prime Minister Khan to China. Later, the government had succeeded in getting another 120-day extension for the ordinance, but it finally lapsed on May 31, 2020 as the government failed to get it passed from either of the two houses of parliament. Later, the government reintroduced the ordinance in the National Assembly in the form of bill in October last year.

Earlier, during the question hour, Minister for Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, through a written reply to a question asked by MNA Hamid Hameed, informed the assembly that an amount of Rs11,250,487,205 as donations/contributions in the “Supreme Court of Pakistan and Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dam Fund” had been deposited till November 17, 2020.

“An amount of Rs1,708,316,344 as profit on investments of the Dams Fund have also been received in the Fund Account,” the minister said. He also informed the house that Rs155,785,486 for the fund had been collected through cellular companies. Furthermore, he said, Pakistan Railways had deposited Rs17,603,883 in the Dam Fund Account with respect to donation collected through sale of train tickets.

The minister further said that “so far no amount has been withdrawn from the Dams Fund accounts maintained with the State Bank of Pakistan”.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2021

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