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Record legislation in National Assembly amid opposition’s protest

Record legislation in National Assembly: In an unprecedented move in the parliamentary history on Thursday, the government did record business and managed to get 11 bills sail through the National Assembly by majority vote

By Asim Yasin
November 08, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In an unprecedented move in the parliamentary history on Thursday, the government did record business and managed to get 11 bills sail through the National Assembly by majority vote amid a strong protest by the opposition.

The House also approved extension in the time period of three ordinances, with the opposition staging a protest in front of the speaker’s rostrum. The bills passed by the House were basically the ordinances, recently promulgated by President Arif Alvi.

In an unprecedented move, the House also approved a 120-day extension to three presidential ordinances. Protesting against the Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri who did not give the floor to the opposition to object to the passage of bills, the opposition gathered in front of the speaker’s dais raising loud slogans of “Vote Chor (vote thieves), unacceptable, ordinance factory and Go Niazi go” and tore upthe copies of agenda of the day and the bills.

The deputy speaker however remained unmoved and continued to follow the agenda of the day. He even took up the bills in whole for the passage rather than clause by clause reading of the bills.

In spite of the strong protest, the treasury members were seen focused on the legislative business. PML-N MNA Khawaja Muhammad Asif sought permission to speak followed by the PPP lawmakers Syed Naveed Qamar and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf but the deputy speaker did not give them the floor.

Collectively, 15 legislations were presented in the House out of which 11 were passed, while three ordinances were extended for 120 days each. The passed bills include The Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates bill, 2019, The Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights bill, 2019, The Legal Aid and Justice Authority bill, 2019, Superior Courts (Court Dress and Mode of Address) Order (Repeal) bill 2019, The National Accountability (Amendment) bill 2019, Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) bill, 2019, The Whistle Blower Protection and Vigilance Commission bill, 20`9, The Benami Transaction (prohibition) (Amendment bill, 2019"The Medical Tribunal Bill, 2019", "The Pakistan Medical Commission Bill, 2019", and "The Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority Bill, 2019".

The ordinance include Federal Government Employees Housing Authority Ordinance, 2019 (No. VIII of 2019) for a further period of one hundred and twenty days, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 (No. VII of 2019) for a further period of one hundred and twenty days, and the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 (No. VI of 2019) for a further period of one hundred and twenty days.

The bills also include seven presidential ordinances which were promulgated by the president last week and shaped into bills. These were passed by the National Assembly without sending them to the standing committees concerned of the House.

The ordinances shaped into bills and passed by the National Assembly include The Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates Ordinance, 2019.

Currently, upon the death of an individual, the legal heirs are jerked around in courts for years before they are able to obtain succession certificates. However, under this bill, the Nadra will be authorised to issue succession certificates within 15 days when there is no dispute among the legal heirs.

It will also establish or notify any of its offices, domestic or abroad, as Succession Facilitation Unit(s) (SFU) to facilitate applicants for obtaining succession certificates.

In case of dispute, the matter shall be decided by the civil courts.

The law shall also prevent fraudulent practice and the proposed mechanism shall considerably reduce burden on the courts.

The Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights bill, 2019 shall protect and secure the rights of ownership and possession of women in properties.

The Ombudsman has the power to receive complaints of women deprived of ownership or possession of properties. The Ombudsman shall pass corrective orders under the law and direct the deputy commissioner or any state functionary, including the police, to restore the possession or ownership.

Complaints could be made by women directly or by their representatives or the NGOs and the Ombudsman can also take suo motu notice.

Under The Legal Aid and Justice Authority bill, 2019, Legal Aid and Justice Authority for whole of Pakistan shall be established. The Authority shall provide legal, financial or other assistance and access to justice to the poor and vulnerable segments of the society in criminal cases.

Disadvantaged women and children will be given preference by the Authority. Apart from the provision of legal aid, the ordinance also facilitates extension of financial facilities such as provision of bail surety, fine and penalty amounts to the poor people.

According to Superior Courts (Court Dress and Mode of Address) Order (Repeal) bill, 2019 Articles 191 and 202 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan empower the Supreme Court and High Courts to make rules in order to regulate their practice and procedure.

Through the said bill, the President’s Order No.15 of 1980 shall be repealed and matters relating to Court dress and mode of address to judges will be regulated by the Superior Courts. According to the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, definition of the term “whistleblower” has been inserted.

Whistleblower includes a person, entity, or an agency who files a complaint under any law for the time being in force of otherwise gives information under Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 2017 (V of 2017), with regard to the existence of any property held as benami in relation to the commission of offences:- a. of corruption and corrupt practices under the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999;

b. of a scheduled offence under Federal Investigation Agency Act, 1974; c. Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010;

d. Under the Securities Act, 2015 in relation to public listed companies; e. Cognizable under the Federal and Provincial anti-corruption laws.

According to The National Accountability (Amendment) bill, 2019, an amendment to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 has been made which provides that any person arrested under the provisions of NAB Ordinance for any offence involving any amount above fifty million rupees shall be entitled to “C” class or equivalent only in the prison irrespective of the stage of inquiry, investigation or trial.

According to the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2019, a new concept of 2 tier system has been introduced, which will reduce 30/40 years period of civil litigation to maximum of two years.

Two different civil judges will hear the case. The main case would be heard by one judge and stay and other miscellaneous applications by the other judge.

The judge conducting the trial would be able to conduct spot checks for a just adjudication of the case. For process of summons/notices to the defendants, modern devices shall be utilized for affecting service.

Multiple tiers of appeals and revision have been reduced to one Appeal to the High Court. After the passage of the bills from the National Assembly, Deputy Speaker National Assembly Qasim Khan Suri adjourned the session till today (Friday) morning.

Meanwhile, PML-N parliamentary leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif Thursday announced that the opposition was considering bringing a no-confidence motion against the deputy speaker. “We have also made an appeal to the Supreme Court to decide on the stay order granted to Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri,” he said while talking to reporters outside the Parliament House.

He was accompanied by former National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Maulana Asad Mehmood of JUI-F. Asif demanded that decisions on the eligibility of Suri and foreign funding case against the PTI should be decided as early as possible.

He said 65 votes were found suspicious in the constituency of Mr. Suri but he still held the office of deputy speaker. “The theft of votes is a breach of Parliament,” he added. Asif also slammed the government for making a mockery of legislation in the National Assembly. He said what happened in the National Assembly on Thursday was an insult to the House.

“The government wrapped up proceedings in 20-25 minutes and postponed the proceedings of the assembly," he said. He also paid tribute to the JUI-F workers at the Azadi March saying they were facing all the difficulties with courage and determination.

“The chairman CDA has been directed to look after the March participants but they are eating the participants’ food,” he alleged. To a question about the meetings of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi with Fazlur Rehman, he refused to make any comment.

Asif alleged that motorcycles were being stolen outside the ground of Azadi March. He further alleged that the government had instructed public hospitals not to treat the participants of Azadi March dharna.

He said the metro bus service was plying in Lahore but it was suspended before the Azadi March could reached there. “They could not even complete their Metro in Peshawar but closed it in Islamabad,” he added.

JUI-F legislator Maulana Asad Mehmood said a group of grabbers was ruling the country in shape of a political party and their political terrorism had reached the highest level. He said Parliament was being dishonored through wholesale promulgation of ordinances.

He said parliamentarians participating in Parliament proceedings were being denied coverage and their TV programmes were being censored. “The media is in chains and they are not allowed to convey the voice of the opposition,” he alleged.

He said it was the consensus demand of the opposition to hold fresh elections. He accused the government of creating hurdles for the Azadi March participants. "The water supply in public mosques and Internet service has been disrupted in areas close to the Azadi March," he complained.

Meanwhile, PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman dubbed the passage of 11 bills in the National Assembly a black day in the history of Parliament.

“Two controversial laws — Medical Tribunal Bill and Medical Commission Ordinance — were bulldozed in the National Assembly bypassing all the rules and standing committees,” she said in a tweet on the passage of 11 pieces of legislation in the National Assembly on Thursday.

Senator Sherry said one new ordinance was laid and three ordinances were given extension and not laid in the Senate to dodge disapproval.