Opposition slams govt in Senate for convening joint session without holding talks

Published November 17, 2021
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Yousuf Raza Gilani speaks in the Senate on Tuesday. — Senate of Pakistan Twitter
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Yousuf Raza Gilani speaks in the Senate on Tuesday. — Senate of Pakistan Twitter

ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday drew flak from the opposition in the Senate for convening a joint session of parliament without holding talks to evolve consensus on electoral reforms.

Senators belonging to the joint opposition also staged a walkout from the house as a mark of protest against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for buying time in the name of efforts to build consensus to win back the support of its estranged allies of having plans to bulldoze all controversial bills in the special sitting of parliament.

Raising the issue in the house, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Yousuf Raza Gilani said the convening of the joint session to bulldoze legislation at a time when the opposition had agreed for talks clearly manifested ill-will.

He said the opposition had positively responded to the letter written by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar inviting it for talks.

Says PTI trying to buy time to woo estranged allies

“We expressed willingness to hold talks for the greater cause, democracy, the rule of law and Constitution and for betterment of the country. But they are playing to the gallery…This is a mala fide intention [of the government] because they were short of required numbers to get all the bills passed,” he said.

Mr Gilani said the government only used the ploy of talks to gain more time to woo its allies who earlier had reservations over the bills.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said that the opposition wanted a consensus on the controversial bills to give a positive message to the public.

She said the opposition also formed a joint steering committee to hammer out a joint strategy and wanted to find a solution within parliament.

She rejected the impression an adviser to the prime minister tried to give, saying that the opposition held no secret dialogue with the government.

She revealed that the government had requested them to say before the media that the joint sitting was postponed at their insistence.

“Why the committee was announced if the government wanted to bulldoze the 21 bills already passed by the National Assembly and other ordinances in the joint sitting?” she asked.

Positive amendments

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan in his response justified the government’s decision to convene the joint sitting of parliament. He said the opposition had every right to introduce any “positive amendments”.

He said a committee had already been formed to hold talks on these bills for the last many months, but the opposition did not give any importance to it. Now the opposition leader in the National Assembly in his response to the speaker has sought one-month time to hold talks on electoral reforms bills and all other legislation that had been passed by the National Assembly, but not by the Senate, he added.

“This is a public time, public money is spent on every session and committee,” he remarked and noted that if there was no result of the exercise, it was not a good sign for parliament.

Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem said that the impression was wrong that the earlier joint sitting was postponed because the government was short of numbers. “We belong to them and they belong to us. We enjoy good relations with our allies,” he remarked.

He said that not the government, but the opposition was looking for crutches. “PTI needs no crutches because it is the same party that came into power from grass roots after a struggle of 22 years of Prime Minister Imran Khan… It is the party that broke the two-party system through the power of vote.”

Mr Waseem said that the election process in the country should be non-controversial and transparent for the continuity of democracy.

The federal government had postponed the joint sitting of parliament, earlier scheduled for November 11, saying that it wanted to develop a consensus with the opposition on the controversial bills, including the electoral reforms bills providing for use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and introduction of I-voting system for overseas Pakistanis in the next general elections.

A day after the joint opposition sought a written assurance from the government for holding negotiations on the bills, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser had on Friday wrote a letter to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif for initiating talks.

He had also formed a committee on legislative business with consensus from the government and opposition. But without any talks between the government and the opposition, the joint session has been convened again on November 17 (today).

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2021

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