Suri off the hook as govt agrees to review contentious bills

Web desk – Nov.15,2019

ISLAMABAD: A no-trust motion against the deputy speaker has been withdrawn after the government acceded to the opposition’s demand for a review of bills it said were “bulldozed” through the National Assembly a little over a week ago.

Following extensive discussions, both sides took to the assembly floor on Friday to announce steps indicating a welcome thaw in the increasingly frigid relations between the government and opposition.

Opposition to drop no-trust motion against NA deputy speaker; lawmakers vow to respect sanctity of parliament

The bills passed in the whirlwind November 7 session will now be forwarded for debate in the relevant standing committees, while the opposition will not pursue its no-confidence motion against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Qasim Khan Suri.

Addressing the assembly, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif said the decision was taken following an agreement between the government and the opposition to pursue legislation on important matters with consensus.

Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak said that meetings between the government and opposition over the past few days proved to be very effective and both sides have agreed to move forward together to ensure smooth functioning of the parliament.

He vowed that both sides would respect the sanctity of the country’s most important institution.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati said that more discussions will be held on the Medical Tribunal Ordinance, Pakistan Medical Commission Ordinance and the Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Ordinance, 2019.

Bills on these three ordinances, he said, will be brought with consensus.

Swati said both the government and opposition have agreed to withdraw the Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates Ordinance, 2019; the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Ordinance, 2019; the Legal Aid and Justice Authority Ordinance, 2019; and the Superior Courts (Court Dress and Mode of Address) Ordinance, 2019.

He said the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2019 will be referred to the relevant standing committees concerned.

November 7 session and its fallout

In the November 7 session, the lower house of parliament had passed a record number of government bills in just over an hour, amid a vehement protest by opposition lawmakers who were not allowed to speak during the entire session.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri chaired the entire sitting in the absence of the speaker, Asad Qaiser.

The government introduced a total of 15 bills, 11 of which were approved with majority vote. These bills also incorporated nine ordinances, including seven recently promulgated ones. The NA also gave 120-day extension to three ordinances.

The house passed nine bills after their presentation as ordinances. The Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business were dispensed through passage of motions for immediate consideration of the bills following which these were passed after voice voting, by skipping their mandatory three readings.

The bills that were passed included the Medical Tribunal Bill 2019, Pakistan Medical Commission Bill 2019, Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates Bill 2019, Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Bill 2019, Legal Aid and Justice Authority Bill 2019, Superior Courts (Court Dress and Mode of Address) Order (Repeal) Bill 2019, Benami Transaction (Prohibition) (Amendment) Bill 2019, National Accountability (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Bill 2019.

Two other bills passed after reports of relevant standing committees were the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority Bill 2019.  Minister of state for parliamentary laid the Recovery of Mortgage-backed Security Ordinance, 2019.

Four bills that were referred to the relevant committees after their introduction were the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019, Islamabad Capital Territory Senior Citizens Bill 2019, National Highways Safety (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

The house adopted three resolutions through voice voting to extend three ordinances for a further period of 120 days with effect from November 9, 2019.  These included the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority Ordinance 2019, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 and the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Ordinance 2019.

Opposition lawmakers described the NA proceedings as the “darkest hour in the parliament’s history” and later filed a no-confidence resolution against Suri.

The resolution was submitted by PML-N MNAs Khawaja Asif, Khurram Dastgir Khan, Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha, and Muhammad Sajjad on November 8, 2019.

“We the following members understand that the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly violated the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 2007 and lost the confidence of the majority of the House,” read the resolution.

“Thereby we moved Resolution under Article 53(7)(c) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan against Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan.”

The no-confidence move against Suri had come on the heels of his disqualification and de-seating by an election tribunal in September, which was overturned by the Supreme Court in October.

On September 27, the Balochistan High Court election tribunal had declared Suri’s election void and ordered re-election in his constituency, NA-265 (Quetta-II).

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