Opposition stages walkout from Senate to protest govt bid to run affairs through ordinancesArchive
ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Thursday staged a walkout from the house against what it called the government’s attempt to govern the country through presidential ordinances.
The issue was raised by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) parliamentary leader Sherry Rehman, who objected to the promulgation of the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018. Describing the ordinance no.1 of 2019 as a “new year gift”, she questioned its legality. She said the Elections Act had been amended through the ordinance, noting that this could have been done through a bill.
Referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks indicating that Pakistan would be governed through ordinances, she said: “We will see how the country is run through ordinances.” She advised the government not to belittle parliament like this.
Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz, however, justified promulgation of the ordinance, saying that it had been promulgated on Jan 2, when parliament was not in session. He criticised the opposition for creating issues out of non-issues.
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Mr Faraz insisted that the presidential ordinance was not an illegal and unconstitutional instrument and pointed out that it would become infructuous if it was not ratified by parliament in four months.
Soon after his brief remarks, the opposition staged a walkout from the house. The chairman, after a count, found that the house was not quorate. Quorum bells were rung for five minutes but to no avail and the proceedings were suspended for 30 minutes.
Earlier, speaking on a calling- attention notice on ‘surging of Pakistan’s total debt to an all-time high’, Sherry Rehman warned of the precarious economic situation and criticised the government for its indecision regarding crucial economic matters.
She said: “Our external and domestic debt... is piling up on a daily basis. Our domestic debt has risen by 5.5pc since June 2018 while the external debt has risen by 17pc. Now, the government has resorted to borrowing Rs400bn from Islamic banks to ease circular debt pressures.”
She stressed that the country could not be run on debts and the policy of overburdening the economy with more debts would not work.
Ms Rehman said the government was leading the economy towards a dangerous pitfall, to a point of no return. “The government’s revenues are much lower than its expenses, leading to a budget deficit. They made tall claims of ridding the country of debt and making Pakistan sovereign but that’s only possible if they can show how they met the expenses from the resources they had at their disposal. That is a budget exercise all about,” she remarked.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani sought a policy statement from the government on the US-Taliban talks.
The issue was raised by former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, who said that the American-Taliban dialogue was at an advanced stage and the Taliban had also released a statement disclosing that rough modalities for a peace deal were being worked out.
He regretted that parliament was being kept in the dark, adding that if the foreign minister was not available, someone else should give a policy statement on Friday (today) — the last day of the current session. He said it was an important issue linked with regional security.
Speaking on a point of order, Mr Rabbani said that the government through a newly promulgated Pakistan Medical and Dental Council Ordinance had withdrawn representation of both the houses of parliament in the council.
“The government has breached not only my privilege but also of the house,” he said. Even the ordinance that was promulgated on January 9, he added, had not been laid in any house of parliament despite the fact that both houses were in session. “By doing this, the government has wilfully violated Article 89 of the Constitution,” said Mr Rabbani.
He said that the opposition would move a disapproval resolution in the house if the ordinance was not laid before parliament. He said that the government was not laying this ordinance before the house because it had not been approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
“The ordinance is unconstitutional because it has not been approved by the CCI,” he said, adding that they would not allow the Constitution to be circumvented and infringed upon provincial rights.