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January 13, 2019

Govt-opposition gridlock: No step forward on new legislation

National

January 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In the absence of any agreement with the opposition parties on lawmaking, the government is considering doing legislation through ordinances.

“We are mulling over introducing some public interest laws through ordinances because the opposition is not cooperating,” an informed source told The News. He admitted that during talks with the opposition parties, there has been no breakthrough to get certain proposed laws of urgent nature unanimously approved by the parliament. “We are left with no option but to resort to ordinances.”

Federal Law Minister Dr Farough Nasim has been quoted as saying that promulgation of ordinances will put pressure on the opposition. He said that the opposition wants to make the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) very weak and claimed that the opposition was not putting obstacles in essential lawmaking. An ordinance can be promulgated only in the case of an ordinary law while it can’t be issued to amend the Constitution.

Legal experts are of the opinion that lack of requisite numerical strength of the ruling coalition in the Senate will hinder the government to keep an ordinance alive even for a couple of weeks.

Prominent lawyer and former Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad told The News that if an ordinance that the opposition parties would not sanction is promulgated they would pass a resolution in the Upper House of Parliament disapproving it. As this will be done, the piece of legislation would stand annulled much before expiry of its 120-day life.

In view of this scenario, there seems to be no point in promulgating an ordinance that may be killed by the Senate by a disapproving resolution shortly after its issuance. Such legislation will turn out to be inconsequential for having a brief life of just a few days as it would not be possible to achieve its intended objective.

Wasim Sajjad said the Supreme Court in its different judgments has rejected the practice of doing “legislation by the Executive” when lawmaking is the domain of the parliament. He said that in one of its rulings, the court has held that issuance of a presidential ordinance is an “abuse of the Constitution” because it doesn’t involve the legislature, which is assigned this job.

Former Speaker and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ayaz Sadiq told this correspondent that unless the opposition parties have before them the set of proposed laws that the government wants to introduce, they can’t respond. “The government should come out with all the laws that it plans to pass by the parliament. It has to accommodate the opposition when it is faced with no-majority in one parliamentary chamber and its numerical superiority in the other House is hanging by a thread.”

Under article 89, the President may except when the Senate or National Assembly is in session, if satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action, make and promulgate an ordinance as the situation may require. Such ordinance will have the same force and effect as an act of Parliament and will be subject to like restrictions as the power of Parliament to make law.

Every such ordinance will be laid before the National Assembly if it contains provisions dealing with all or any of the [financial and fiscal] matters specified in Article 73 (2) and will stand repealed at the expiration of 120 days from its promulgation or, if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving it is passed by the Assembly, upon the passing of that resolution.

The National Assembly may by a resolution extend the ordinance for a further period of 120 days and it will stand repealed at the expiration of the extended period or if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving it is passed by the assembly, upon the passing of that resolution. Extension for further period may be made only once.

All other ordinances will be laid before both Houses if they do not contain provisions dealing with any of the matters referred to article 73 (2), and will stand repealed at the expiration of 120 days from its promulgation or, if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving it is passed by either House, upon the passing of that resolution.

Either House may by a resolution extend it for a further period of 120 days and it will stand repealed at the expiration of the extended period, or if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving it is passed by a House, upon the passing of that resolution.

The article also says that extension for a further period may be made only once; and may be withdrawn at any time by the President.

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