• Govt lays seven controversial ordinances amid opposition by PTI and JUI-F
• PPP initially opposes move, but votes in favour of government
• Five women MNAs take oath after PHC decision on reserved seats
• House passes resolution to condemn Israeli aggression against Palestinians

ISLAMABAD: Accusations of betrayal flew back and forth in the National Assembly on Friday as the government laid seven IMF-directed controversial ordinances before the house and then sought approval of their extension for another four months amid strong protest by the opposition PTI and even the government’s key ally PPP.

When PTI’s Omar Ayub Khan asked the chair to take a picture of those members “who are selling Pakistan” by supporting these ordinances, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar responded immediately and dubbed the PTI members “traitors and anti-state” for writing letters to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union.

Though PPP members initially opposed the government’s move to table the ordinances that the caretaker government had promulgated in line with IMF conditions, they later voted in favour of the government when Speaker Ayaz Sadiq put the motion for a vote after the opposition challenged his ruling on the voice vote.

The speaker allowed the law minister to lay the resolution after the house approved the motion seeking suspension of the rules to do so with a 130-63 vote. The JUI-F also opposed the government’s move to table the ordinances “under the IMF pressure”, but its members abstained from voting on the motion.

Interestingly, the first opposition to the ordinances came from the PPP, when its MNA from Karachi, Abdul Qadir Patel, questioned the haste the government showed in bringing the ordinances without giving the members a three-day notice as required under the rules.

Mr Patel alleged that the caretaker government had promulgated the ordinances while exceeding its mandate. He asked the speaker to follow the Sindh model and constitute a committee to review the caretaker government’s decisions.

Instead of the government, Speaker Sadiq himself responded to Mr Patel’s objections, stating that these ordinances were linked to the “IMF-related issues” and, if not taken up timely “, Pakistan can face a loss”.

The speaker declared that the ordinances were being tabled in the form of bills and that he would refer them to the committees where the members would get an opportunity to debate them.

Another PPP MNA, Syed Naveed Qamar, also expressed “serious reservations” not over the way the government brought them before the house but also stated that his party had reservations over the contents of these ordinances.

Mr Qamar said they had voted in favour of the government being part of the ruling coalition, but asked the chair to rule that these laws would not be implemented until they were approved by the house and its committees. He asked the government to better “wind up” the house if it wanted to run the parliament in this manner.

‘Ordinances meant to sell Pakistan’

PTI’s Omar Ayub accused the government of “bulldozing” the ordinances through the assembly and alleged that the language of these ordinances showed that there was ill intention behind this move.

“These ordinances are meant to sell Pakistan. Take pictures of those members who are voting for it,” Mr Omar said as some PTI members tore apart the copies of the ordinances and flew them into the air. This prompted the speaker to issue a warning that he would take disciplinary action next time over such rowdyism.

Responding to the criticism, Law Minister Tarar explained that there had been minor changes in the laws through these ordinances, which were aimed at reducing the government’s control of the boards of some public sector enterprises and making them autonomous.

He said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had already issued directives to form a committee comprising allies for legislative business.

“Take pictures of those who are not faithful to the country, who want to destroy Pakistan’s economy and are writing letters to the IMF,” Mr Tarar said while responding to Mr Ayub’s remarks.

Mr Tarar also questioned the legal status of the members sitting on the opposition benches after the Peshawar High Court’s decision to deny them the reserved seats on the quota of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

“Stand behind the country and do not always stand behind a prisoner,” the law minister said in an apparent reference to jailed PTI leader Imran Khan.

“You should engage in some soul-searching, as writing letters to the IMF and EU will not yield any positive results,” Mr Tarar said, defending the government’s move of tabling the ordinances.

The ordinances laid before the assembly were the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023; the Pakistan National Shipping Corpo­ration (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023; the Pakistan Postal Services Management Board (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023; the National Highway Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023; the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023; the Privatisation Commission (Amen­dment) Ordinance, 2023; and the Establishment of Telecom­munication Appellate Tribunal Ordinance, 2023.

Earlier, five women elected on the reserved seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa took the oath as MNAs. These lawmakers are Naima Kanwal, Asma Arbab Alamgir, Shaheen Shah, Ghazala Anjum and Naeema Kishwer.

Resolution

The National Assembly also unanimously passed a resolution “condemning” the ongoing Israeli aggression against the people of Palestine.

The resolution was read out by PPP’s Shazia Marri. Interestingly, when the speaker put it for a voice vote, someone from the opposition benches shouted “No”. The speaker said that they had noted down the name of the member who had voted against the resolution that had been moved to express solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Later, the speaker read out President Asif Zardari’s prorogation order and adjourned the inaugural session for an indefinite period.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2024

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