Govt bulldozes four bills through NA amid fury

Published June 11, 2024
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar puts the motions for the passage of four bills before the National Assembly on June 10. — X/National Assembly
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar puts the motions for the passage of four bills before the National Assembly on June 10. — X/National Assembly

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly proceedings on Monday turned chaotic as the government rammed through four bills in a controversial manner amidst vociferous protests from the opposition, which accused the ruling coalition of bypassing democratic norms and stifling debate.

The tumultuous sitting saw Energy Minister Awais Leghari facing the wrath of both treasury and opposition members over the ongoing power outages and loadshedding issues, with the minister conceding that power companies and its officials had been inefficient in addressing the problem.

At the outset of the sitting, the opposition members belonging to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) staged a token walkout against the Punjab police for allegedly preventing opposition leader in NA Omar Ayub Khan and some MNAs from entering premises of an anti-terrorist court (ATC) in Sargodha, which resulted in the cancellation of Mr Khan’s bail.

The opposition members gathered in front of the dais of the speaker and raised full-throated slogans and tore apart the copies of the bills and agenda, as Deputy Speaker Ghulam Mustafa Shah allowed Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar to put the motions for the passage of four bills which had been approved by incomplete and ad hoc standing committees formed by the speaker.

Opposition stages walkout over Omar Ayub’s claim he was prevented from entering court

The house passed the bills after suspending the rules, which allowed the members two-day time to suggest amendments to the bills.

The bills passed by the assembly were the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Pakistan Postal Services Management Board (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Natio­nal Highway Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023. All these bills had already been promulgated by the caretaker government through ordinances.

Chief whip of the SIC Aamir Dogar later protested over what he called bulldozing the legislation and called the present government as well as the assembly as “fake”.

Power loadshedding

During the sitting, the energy minister came under severe criticism over the issue of ongoing loadshedding in various areas during the extreme hot weather. The lawmakers from across the country took the minister to task when he sought the support of the provincial governments and the elected representatives in detecting the power theft.

“The system has enough generation and transmission capacity to meet the electricity demand, and we are ready to provide 24-hour electricity to consumers. However, this is not possible without controlling line losses and power theft,” said the minister, adding the country could not afford to increase the circular debt further.

The minister stressed that unless distribution companies, with the assistance of provincial governments, change their course and control their losses, “load shedding will continue on these high-loss feeders.”

Admitting power company officials were hands in gloves in the power theft and overbilling consumers, he said XENs and SDOs had become the ‘biggest bureaucrats’ and there was no concept of costumer care in any power company. He then claimed he could “not fix everything in three months”.

The issue had been raised by Noor Alam Khan of the JUI-F and later by a PPP lawmaker. The MQM-P legislators also lashed out at the minister.

PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel asked the minister to take action “instead of complaining”. The minister, however, asked the chair to dedicate a full-day sitting for a debate on the issue, stating that he would come to the house with experts and respond to each point raised by the members.

Walkout

At the outset, the opposition SIC members staged a walked out from the NA to protest against Punjab police for allegedly stopping the opposition leader and other MNAs from heading towards an ATC in Sargodha.

The walkout was led by former speaker Asad Qaiser who had raised the matter through a point of order during the Question Hour.

Later, Mr Khan himself narrated the whole incident before the house, announcing that they would move a privilege motion against the Punjab police.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2024

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