ISLAMABAD: The ‘disgruntled’ allies of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf — Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) — decided on Tuesday to vote for the bills to be tabled in a joint session of the parliament on Wednesday (today) after their concerns were addressed by the prime minister.
After this development, Prime Minister Imran Khan seems to be optimistic about getting over two dozen bills passed during the joint sitting of the parliament.
The opposition, on the other hand, appeared demoralised and claimed that its parliamentarians were getting phone calls in which they were being dissuaded from attending the session.
“When a sportsman steps into a playing field, he always believes in winning,” Prime Minister Khan said while responding to a question from a reporter in the corridors of the Parliament House on Tuesday. Mr Khan spent a busy day in the Parliament House, meeting a number of parliamentarians hailing from the PTI, MQM, PML-Q and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), who assured him of their support in getting the bills passed.
According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, around 28 bills will be presented during the joint sitting, including the most controversial one related to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections and giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.
In a give-and-take deal, the MQM, which had been accusing the government of failing to control price hike, has managed to win the prime minister’s assurance of getting their demands fulfilled.
Opposition claims members being asked not to attend session
The MQM had sought inclusion of two bills in the agenda of the joint sitting. They are Hyderabad University Bill-2021 and Amendment in Census Bill-2021, under which constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies in Karachi would be re-demarcated.
“The government has addressed the reservations of the coalition partners, and we will now carry out the pending legislations in the house with their support,” Fawad Chaudhry said.
Responding to a query about the opposition’s claim that its members were being asked not to attend the joint sitting, the minister said: “I think the opposition’s hopes of sabotaging the legislation have been dashed.”
On the other hand, Pakistan Democratic Movement president Maulana Fazlur Rehman said members of some opposition parties had received phone calls, dissuading them from attending the joint sitting. However, he did not say who was contacting the opposition members.
Federal Information Technology Minister Syed Aminul Haq, who is from the MQM, said the government had assured his party that all its reservations would be addressed.
Regarding the use of EVMs, Mr Haq said the MQM had sought assurances from the government that transparency and security of votes would not be compromised. “We were assured that our reservations in this regard would be looked into,” he added.
The IT minister said the government would also introduce the Hyderabad University Bill-2021 and Amendment in Census Bill-2021, as per the demand of the Karachi-based party.
When contacted, PML-Q spokesman Kamil Ali Agha said the government had accepted their demands and assured his party of taking it on board in the decision-making process. Mr Agha said the government had postponed the scheduled joint sitting of the parliament on Nov 11, therefore it should realise that it (government) could not run without the support of its allies.
“If the government deceives us again we will have a right to leave the ruling coalition,” he said, adding that once the prime minister had accepted PML-Q’s demands, how could it quit the government.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly Secretariat issued a 50-point agenda for the joint sitting which included 29 bills and a reference against the decision of the Council of Common Interests regarding Census-2017.
Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2021