• Sanjrani ignores lawmakers’ demands, sends bill to standing committee anyway
• Senators lambast govt for turning upper house into ‘rubber stamp’

ISLAMABAD: After fierce opposition by lawmakers to the controversial bill seeking to amend the Official Secrets Act, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani saved the government from an awkward situation by referring the bill to the standing committee concerned, even without the consent of the upper house.

When Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar moved a motion seeking to take the bill for immediate consideration amid slogans of ‘no, no’, the chairman while sensing the mood of the house referred the bill to the standing committee.

The bill was referred to the committee even though lawmakers demanded that the proposed legislation be put to vote as they wanted to reject it.

Soon after the law minister moved the motion on behalf of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, the house witnessed an uproar, with members on both sides of the aisle standing up and chanting slogans against the bill.

PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, National Party Senator Tahir Bizenjo, and JUI-F senators Kamran Murtaza, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and Maulana Attaur Rehman were among the prominent lawmakers who opposed the government bill and demanded it be rejected immediately.

On this, Mr Sanjrani ruled that the bill has already been referred to and cannot be rejected this way. He added that he would put it to vote when the government would bring the proposed law for passage.

‘Tough day’ for govt

Overall, it was a tough day for the outgoing government in the house as both the treasury and opposition benches severely criticised the legislative process being witnessed in the upper house of parliament during the past week.

Besides the opposition, some treasury lawmakers also objected to the two bills, the Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology, Islamabad (Amendment) Bill, 2023 despite Education Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain pressing for their immediate passage. Both bills were referred to the standing committees concerned.

At one point when the education minister was arguing for the immediate passage of bills, Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed said the past week’s legislative process had turned the house into a “joke”.

“Why has a floodgate of legislation been opened in the government’s last days,” he asked, advising that “the government should not have done this when few days have left in its tenure.” He reprimanded the government by saying that when the National Assembly would approve charters for 25 universities in a day, then “what would people say about you.”

PML-Q leader Kamal Ali Agha said that the argument was wrong that any bill should be passed by the upper house without examining it because the National Assembly has already approved it. He added that then the Senate “should be shut down”.

‘Rights are being mauled’ PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, in his strongly worded criticism, said that new traditions were being laid down.

“I feel that I have not been sent to the Senate but to a princely state where I am blindfolded, handcuffed, and I endorse whatever the ministers say or whatever comes after being passed by the cabinet,” he retorted.

“My right as an individual member to move an amendment against a law according to my conscience and my dictate is being taken away from me for the last 10 days,” he added.

Senator Rabbani said his rights as an individual parliamentarian were being “mauled”, adding that his proposed amendments to the Federal Urdu University Bill were not being considered. The senators’ right to deliberate and vote on amendments should not be taken away, he added.

“We are setting bad precedents,” he said while advising his government. JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza also opposed the bill.

Earlier, the house passed four bills including the Pakistan Civil Aviation Bill, the Pakistan Air Safety Investigations Bill, the Pakistan Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill and the National Commission for Human Development (Amendment) Bill.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2023

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