NA session begins today amid spike in Covid-19 cases

Published March 29, 2021
The spring session of the National Assembly is set to begin on Monday (today) amid a surge in Covid-19 cases. — AFP/File
The spring session of the National Assembly is set to begin on Monday (today) amid a surge in Covid-19 cases. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The spring session of the National Assembly is set to begin on Monday (today) amid a surge in Covid-19 cases as the opposition protested over the government’s move to call the session in haste.

The opposition members expressed surprise over the government’s decision to call the session at a time when the National Command and Operation Centre had decided to ban outdoor gatherings and the positivity rate of coronavirus cases in Islamabad had already crossed the double digit mark.

Information secretary of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and MNA Shazia Marri not only expressed surprise over the government’s move, but also feared that the government might want to do some legislation without trying to develop a consensus.

She said even the people in the National Assembly Secretariat were unaware of the government’s plan regarding the convening of the session till Saturday evening, which showed a “total disconnect” between the government and parliament.

Opposition surprised over move to call session in haste

“We don’t know why the government has called the session all of a sudden. We had the information that the government was planning to convene the session in the first week of April,” she said, adding that most of the members were at present staying in their constituencies and already had some prior commitments. She said the government had called the session on just one-day notice, making it difficult for the members to reach in time.

And that too, she said, at a time when the Covid-19 positivity rate had already reached high in Islamabad and Punjab.

Ms Marri said the history of the preset government showed that it only convened the sessions when it had some emergency and wanted to bulldoze some legislations or carry out some business without a consensus. She said the opposition members would try to ensure their presence in the session to block any such move of the government.

The PPP leader said it seemed that the government was also concerned about meeting the constitutional requirement of holding the assembly session for at least 130 days in a parliamentary year. However, she said, even if it was the case, then at least the government should have followed the rules and informed the members at least 48 hours before calling the session.

When contacted, senior vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the government had made the parliament a joke. He alleged that the government had made the parliament redundant by not allowing any meaningful debate on any public matter. He said it would be difficult for the government to continue the session for long.

The official data of the National Assembly Secretariat showed that the assembly had so far remained in session for 50 days since the start of the third parliamentary year in August last year. The number of actual sittings during the past more than seven months is only 31 as the two sandwiched holidays between the two working days are also counted as the session days. It means that the government is required to keep the assembly in session for another 80 days by August 12.

Although there were no official words on the development, the 25-point agenda issued by the National Assembly Secretariat late Sunday night shows that the government intends to seek extension in the life of three ordinances which are set to expire in the first week of April.

Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed is also set to lay the Capital Development Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 before the assembly.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2021

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