The opposition challenges the counting of votes, boycotts the procedures
Five other bills, including two for the PMDC, also passed
ISLAMABAD: Parliament on Wednesday marked an important day when the government managed to approve eight key bills, including three related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and two others to replace the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) with the Commission Pakistan Medical Center (PMC) amid riots in the House and boycott by the opposition.
The bills were passed in a joint parliamentary session that President Dr Arif Alvi had called for to approve FATF-related bills, which were rejected in the opposition-dominated Senate.
A good number of lawmakers appeared in the National Assembly hall and the first bill was approved by a majority of 10 votes as the number of treasury members was found at the count while 200 members of the opposition were said to be 190.
However, the opposition not only challenged the count made by NA staff but also opposed the move by Dr Babar Awan, who introduced the bill, to be an adviser to the prime minister. Opposition lawmakers were of the opinion that an adviser to the Prime Minister could not be counted as a member of the NA and had no right to submit any bill to the House under the Constitution.
While raising objection, Pakistan People’s Party senator Raza Rabbani said councilors did not have the power to move bills in the assembly according to a court ruling. Law Minister Farogh Naseem, however, said the trial cited by Senator Rabbani had to do with the prime minister’s special aides. There is no law against councilors who pass bills in the National Assembly, he insisted before admitting they could not vote.
Opposition members staged a strong protest, gathered loud speakers and tore down the bill in addition to boycotting the joint session proceedings. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari wanted to speak on the House floor, but President Asad Qaisar did not allow it after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Deputy Chairman and Foreign Minister Shah Shahmmood Qureshi said: If Bilawal does not has proposed any changes to a bill, then how can he be allowed to speak.
The three FATF-related bills approved in the joint session were namely Anti-Money Laundering (second amendment) Bill-2020, Anti-Terrorism Act (third amendment) Bill-2020 and Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill-2020 for proper management and administration of the Waqf properties. The other five bills were entitled Pakistan Medical Commission Act 2019, Islamabad Capital Disability Rights Act (ICT) -2020, Law on Surveillance and Mapping (amendment) Bill-2020, Supreme Court of Islamabad (amendment) Bill-2019 and Medical Act of the Tribunal-2019
In the Bill-2020 Anti-Money Laundering (amendment), clauses 8 and 9 were removed and introduced into the Bill-2020 Anti-Terrorism Act (amendment) introduced by PTI legislator Faheem Khan. The inserted clauses said: The investigating officer may, with the permission of the court, within sixty days from such a permit, use techniques including covert operations, interception of communications, computer system evaluation and controlled distribution of the investigation of the offenses. money laundering, related offenses and terrorist financing. The aforementioned period of sixty days may be extended to another period of sixty days by the court for a written request. The court may grant an extension if it is met based on the situation or the reasons given in the written request. The provisions of this subsection shall be supplementary and not excluded by any other applicable law.
The joint session was scheduled for 4 p.m., but President Asad Qaiser began the proceedings at 5:13 a.m. after the arrival of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who witnessed the entire four-hour proceedings.
Mr Khan closely monitored the passage of bills and often gave instructions to his adviser Babar Awan and other members who were submitting bills.
The opposition began the protest after treasury members pressured an independent member of Sindh Ali Nawaz Shah to stand up and vote in favor of the first bill while some members of the opposition asked him to take his seat. The legislator finally decided to leave the Chamber.
As soon as the session started, the Prime Minister’s Advisor for Parliamentary Affairs Dr. Awan presented the Draft Property Law of the Capital Territory of the Capital Islamabad (ICT), which was initially approved by a majority vote, but the NA Speaker requested a vote count members to rise from their seats after the opposition shouted in protest. The bill was passed with 200 members voting in favor and 190 against.
A clause reading with each clause was done with each clause approved by the Chamber. However, through a vote by vote, members also rejected some changes to certain clauses. The devastation continued as members of the opposition chanted slogans during the voting process.
Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ghani, who introduced changes to several clauses, accused the NA Chairman of passing the legislation illegally and complained that the chairman did not allow him to speak on his behalf.
As the amendments were being introduced, other members of the opposition also insisted that they be allowed to speak, but NA Speaker Qaiser insisted that only those lawmakers who wanted to move the changes should address parliament. The Speaker then asked the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs to read the rules regarding addressing parliament during the voting process. Dr Awan referring to Rule 130 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly said that only lawmakers seeking changes to bills can speak during a vote count.
Amid the confusion, PTI lawmaker Maleeka Bokhari introduced changes to several clauses in the Anti-Money Laundering Bill (Second Amendment), all of which were approved, while the opposition staged a departure. Dr Awan then introduced the Anti-Money Laundering Bill (Second Amendment), which was passed by a unanimous vote without any objection.
The Deputy Prime Minister also presented the Draft Law of the Supreme Court of Islamabad (Amendment), 2019 at Home, which was approved without any objection. Another bill on the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities in society, which was introduced by Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, was also approved. The session was also chaired by Senate President Sadiq Sanjrani for some time.
Earlier in the day, the opposition-dominated Senate rejected the Anti-Terrorism Bill (Third Amendment), 2020. As many as 34 opposition lawmakers voted against the bill, which was backed by 31 members from treasury banks.
The Chamber, however, adopted another draft law related to the FATF, namely the Draft Law on Cooperative Societies (Amendment), 2020.
In the morning, the NA session was held but it was adjourned when one of the PML-N members noted the lack of a quorum.
Published in Agim, 17 September, 2020
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