As the third parliamentary year of the Punjab assembly comes to a close, the provincial government pats itself on the back for being productive while the opposition laments about being shut out from the legislative process.
The assembly has so far passed 92 bills, which includes 75 government bills and 17 private member bills. According to members of the opposition, 26 bills were passed in violation of the assembly’s Rules of Procedure – specifically, rule 154 sub article 6. From the 26 objectionable bills, 10 bills were approved in the first year, 11 in the second year, while 5 bills were approved in the third parliamentary year. These laws were passed without any committee report as required under rule 154 which states that every bill has to be sent to the relevant standing committee.
However, sources indicate that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) resorted to bypassing the standing committees to pass the 26 objectionable bills due to a deadlock with its opposition the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Uzma Bukhari, member of the Punjab Assembly and PML-N Punjab chapter’s Information Secretary, reflecting on the impasse said that in three years the opposition was bulldozed to pass legislation. “A new tradition of passing bills urgently by suspending the rules was established. This will not happen now as we will fight the government at every forum,” a fiery Bukhari told The Express Tribune.
The two parties, as per sources, came to be at loggerheads regarding the operations of several standing committees which intensified after the non-appointment of opposition leader Hamza Shahbaz Sharif as the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). This move prompted the PML-N to resign from all standing committees of the assembly as a form of protest giving birth to the stalemate and the resultant difficulties in passing bills.
Bukhari was of the view that this tradition of not paying heed to the assembly’s rules is a bad precedent to set stating that important laws were passed without debate or a second opinion from the opposition. “Now we have a culture of the Speaker forming committees of his choice and passing whatever bill his party [Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q)] members present,” Bukhari said directing her ire towards Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi, the current Speaker of the assembly.
Read Punjab Assembly left at mercy of ordinances
Discrediting the government’s productivity claims, she inquired, “since they claim to have enacted record legislation, could they reflect on how many of those bills were ordinances?” Lamenting further about the situation, Bukhari informed, “the Local Bodies Bill has been amended 27 times and still could not be finalized. This is the first time that universities are being set up in Punjab on private member bills.” She accused that such private member bills were not in the public interest that is why they were passed without any discussion.
Legal experts were of the view that the opposition should knock on the doors of the courts to stop the implementation of the objectionable bills if indeed they had been passed without fulfilling the requirements of the assembly’s rules.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2021.