ISLAMABAD: Majority of the members of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance on Wednesday strongly criticised the government for implementing financial decisions through presidential ordinances, saying it was violation of the constitution and an insult to the parliament.
The meeting of the committee presided over by PTI lawmaker Faiz Ullah dropped detailed discussions on State Bank of Pakistan Amendment Bill 2021 and the revised IMF programme on the request of the chairman saying some proponents of the agenda items could not make it to the meeting.
While discussing the agenda pertaining to the point of order with regard to issuance of ordinance on money bill by the government, the members of the PML-N, PPP and JUI-F said it was totally illegal and unconstitutional against the sovereignty of the parliament for the government to implement financial matters through ordinances.
Ahsan Iqbal and other members from the Opposition were of the stance that financial impact of any ordinance to public should also be considered, because “the Tax Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 had imposed Rs700bn in kind of taxes on the public.
Mr Iqbal expressed his concerns that the government can collect the taxes from the masses on the promulgation of ordinance on money bill despite the fact that Article 73 of the Constitution required the money bill to originate from the National Assembly and the president or any other institution had no powers to make changes in the tax laws. “Imposition of taxes through ordinances from the Presidency is an insult to the whole house,” he said, adding it was particularly a breach of the parliament’s jurisdiction for the fact that the national assembly was in session just two days before the ordinance was issued.
The secretary parliamentary affairs on behalf of the PM’s Adviser Babar Awan said the president may promulgate an ordinance under Article 89 of the Constitution on any subject enumerated in Federal Legislative List.
An ordinance promulgated on money matters in terms of Article 73(2), is to be laid in the National Assembly as per Article 89(2)(a)(i) of the Constitution. It is needless to say that after promulgation of an ordinance the moment it is laid in the floor of the house, it becomes a bill.
The secretary said Mr Awan had also quoted 17 examples in the past, most of them between 2008-13 when money matters were addressed through ordinances. Hina Rabbani Khar of PPP said ironically all those illegalities being referred as past precedents were also committed when Mr Awan was himself a law minister and he was now using his illegalities as precedence for more illegalities.
Naveed Qamar of PPP said even the past examples were unconstitutional but added that the situation of ordinance had drastically changed after the 18th amendment and they die of their own on completion of 120 days unless approved by the national assembly.
Mr Iqbal said the bad precedents would have to be stopped and all the members of the parliament whether in opposition or the treasury would have to stand up. He said the matter pertained to over Rs700bn taxes and if the ordinance is not cleared by the assembly, there was no mechanism to refund those taxes.
Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2021