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June 26, 2019

NA inundated with private members bills

Top Story

June 26, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is overburdened with a large number of private members’ bills, which are much more than the government’s proposed legislation lay before it.

The official record shows that all these bills are lying unattended because of the prevailing government-opposition relations, which are not seeing any improvement, hampering the legislative business. Only two supplementary budgets that the government had laid before the National Assembly have so far been passed due to majority of the ruling coalition. The Senate has no role in matters related to the federal budget.

At present, there are a total of forty-two private members’ bills, which are pending disposal have in the Lower House of Parliament. Included among them are fifteen constitutional amendment bills. All this proposed legislative business has been sponsored by the opposition members. Such bills can only be passed if the treasury benches agree to them as per parliamentary traditions.

By now, the government has tabled nineteen bills while it has laid six presidential ordinances during all the ten sessions of the current National Assembly, starting from August last. The record discloses that all the private and government bills were brought before the National Assembly since August 2018 when the present regime came in place in the wake of the general elections.

Both the parliamentary chambers have so far passed two laws – minor amendments in the Elections Act. The opposition-dominated Senate is in no mood to extend a helping hand to the government due to the prevailing confrontation between the two sides.

The National Assembly had approved an amendment in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Act raising the number of judges, but it was rejected by the Senate, leaving the legislative piece in limbo. The government had prepared the bill in the light of a direction of the outgoing chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar. The Lower House of the Parliament had also passed a constitutional amendment bill, enhancing the number seats of the tribal areas in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly from sixteen to twenty-four and extending the period of holding this election by six months. It is now before the Senate which seems in no hurry matching that of the National Assembly to clear it at an early date. There is no other worthwhile legislation that the Lower House has so far done.

The ordinances laid before the National Assembly by the government relate to assets declaration scheme, Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, Elections Act, validation rules of the Federal Public Service Commission and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

It may be inconsequential whether the National Assembly approves the assets declaration scheme ordinance because the government has announced that it has no plan to extend its application beyond the deadline, June 30. It is stated that the government has agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not to extend it.

The government bills laid before the National Assembly pertain to establishment of University of Islamabad, Muslim family laws, letters of administration and succession certificates, enforcement women’s property rights, setting up of whistleblower protection and vigilance commission, Code of Civil Procedure, legal aid and justice, Zainab alert, response and recovery, foreign exchange regulation, anti-money laundering, control of narcotic substances, Heavy Industries Taxila Board and rights of persons with disability.

Apart from the proposed constitutional amendments, the private members have also sought legislation for the federal newborn screening, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) local governments, workers, transplantation of human organs and tissues and corporal punishment, criminal law, protection of persons against forced religious convention, control of narcotics substances, child marriage restraint, employment and rehabilitation of disabled persons, Pakistan citizenship, family courts, prevention of corruption, protection against harassment of women at workplace, prohibition of forced religious conversion, chamber of agriculture, eradication of “riba” (interest), microfinance institutions, National Database and Registration Authority, Pakistan Psychological Council, legal practitioners and bar councils, National Commission on the Status of Women and management and disposal of Evacuee Trust Properties.

The government has repeatedly announced that it has an ambitious legislative agenda to bring reforms in different areas, which are possible only after making the relevant laws. However, no official effort is in sight to have even a working relationship with the opposition so that the National Assembly executes its actual duty – legislation – and the opposition cooperates in the Senate. Any legislation stands blocked if any of the two parliamentary chambers creates hurdles.

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