Senate opposition: Joint session summoned with mala fide intention

Our Correspondent
Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The joint opposition in the Senate on Tuesday accused the PTI government of summoning the joint sitting of the Parliament Wednesday with mala fide intention, without evolving a consensus on key legislation, including the proposed electoral reforms bills. Opposition legislators also alleged that after winning support of its allies, the government was ignoring the opposition. It was previously forced to postpone the joint sitting upon not having their support on controversial pieces of proposed legislation, a charge the treasury benches denied outright but insisted that the doors for legislation could not be shut.

Leader of the Opposition Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani led the opposition lawmakers’ token walkout from the House, alleging the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was planning to bulldoze all the controversial bills in the special sitting.

The government was also blamed for only gaining time by engaging them in the name of developing a consensus only to woo its allies to get the required number to smoothly sail the pending legislation through the joint sitting.

The opposition’s walkout exposed the House to a lack of quorum, compelling the chair to adjourn the House till Friday morning. Responding to the allegations, the Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem and Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said that the opposition was wasting unnecessary time in the name of negotiations at a time when the country was fast moving towards the next general election for which related legislation was key to ensuring free, fair and transparent polls.

The government had to postpone the joint sitting of Parliament, which was scheduled to meet on November 11, claiming that it wanted to develop a consensus with the opposition over the controversial bills, including the electoral reforms bills regarding use of electronic voting machines (EVM) and introduction of I-voting for overseas Pakistanis.

However, a day after the joint opposition sought a written assurance from the government for holding negotiations on the bills, Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser last Friday had written a letter to Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif for initiating talks. Qaiser also formed a committee on legislative business with consensus with representation from the government and opposition.

Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani spoke on the reservations of the opposition and said that they in response to the letter of speaker NA had showed their willingness to hold talks for the greater cause of democracy, rule of law, Constitution and for betterment of the country.

But, he continued, they (the government) are playing to the gallery. This is a mala fide intention because they were short of required numbers to get all the bills passed earlier. He said that the government only used the opposition to gain more time to hold talks with its allies that address their reservations over these bills.

PPP Parliamentary Leader Senator Sherry Rehman, speaking on the matter, said that the opposition wanted to bring a consensus on the controversial bills to give a positive message to the public. The opposition also formed the joint steering committee to devise a joint strategy and wanted to find a solution within the parliament.

She said the government had requested them to say before the media that the joint sitting was postponed on their (opposition’s) insistence. She asked, “Why the committee was announced if the government wanted to bulldoze all 21 bills (already passed by NA) and other ordinances in the joint sitting?”

Senator Sherry claimed that the government had summoned the session soon after it succeeded to convince its allies without caring for its offer of talks to the opposition. “This government is waiting for the crutches and these crutches have already been shaken, as the coalition partners of the ruling party have gone out of its hands.”

The government, she pointed out, called a joint meeting and cancelled it and made history. Now as soon as the coalition government gets its hands on it, a meeting is being called. “If you want to bulldoze the bills, then why did you form a committee on 21 bills,” she wondered.