National Assembly speaker writes to Shehbaz, invites opposition to talks

Published November 13, 2021
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif meets National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser in this file photo. — Photo via NA of Pakistan website
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif meets National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser in this file photo. — Photo via NA of Pakistan website

ISLAMABAD: A day after opposition sought a written assurance from government for meaningful negotiations between them on controversial legislation, including about use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the next general elections, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Friday wrote a letter inviting Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif to talks and constituted a committee on appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Speaker Qaiser said a Committee on Legislative Business had been constituted with consensus between the government and the opposition for negotiations on various issues. He said bills — including the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2021 that had been passed by the National Assembly but not by the Senate in the stipulated time — were set to be considered during the joint sitting of the two houses of parliament, which had been put off on Monday.

He said both the treasury and opposition should proceed ahead with a view to building consensus beyond party politics on all reforms of common interest in the larger national interest.

Mr Qaiser emphasised the need for utilising the forum to restart the consultative process on the ‘controversial bills’ in the larger public interest. He also expressed the desire for the opposition members to play an active role to make the process meaningful.

Talking to Dawn, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari had been named as the head of the committee that would have representation from both the sides.

Leaders from the joint opposition met Mr Qaiser twice on Thursday and asked him to give them in writing the terms of engagement between the two sides, stressing that the document should include a categorical statement that it was the government that was approaching them for a dialogue and an assurance that the recently promulgated controversial ordinances would also be discussed by the parliamentary committee.

It has been learnt that even the coalition partners of the ruling party have expressed reservations over the use of EVM without taking all the parties on board.

Wasim Akhtar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said during a television programme on Friday that a minister from his party had asked Mr Khan that before holding a joint sitting of the parliament, the government should give one more chance to the opposition for consultation.

However, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan said during the same programme that EVM-related legislations were imperative to ensure rigging-free elections.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2021

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