ISLAMABAD: Amid fiery sword-crossing over a proposed new province in Punjab, the National Assembly did some rapid lawmaking on Tuesday, amending its rules to give an important role to its committees in budget-making and passing three private bills to set up as many new universities.
After arguments for and against the new province were marked by warning of dire consequences of either course, lawmakers on both sides of aisle were at peace in making an amendment to the rules of procedure to provide for, for the first time in Pakistan’s parliamentary history, a mandatory scrutiny of budgetary proposals of ministries in respect of the public sector development programme (PSDP) by the concerned standing committees of the house.
The amendment, proposed by Anush Rahman Khan of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N, deferred in the last session for a consensus on its language, was passed unanimously as was another brief amendment to the rules of procedure and conduct of business, by Yasmeen Rehman of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party requiring each standing committee to submit a report of its performance to the house after every six months.
A new sub-rule about the budget-making role requires each standing committee to “scrutinise and suggest amendments, if necessary” and recommend the respective ministry’s PSDP for the next financial year before it is sent to the finance ministry for inclusion in the federal budget for the next financial year, each ministry to submit its PSDP budgetary proposals for the next financial year to the relevant committee by Jan 31 of the preceding financial and for the committee to “make recommendations” on the same not later than March 1.
However, a proviso to the rule said that “where such recommendations are not made by 1st March, the same shall be deemed to have been endorsed by the standing committee”.
While two private bills of PPP’s Ms Rehman -- providing for the establishment of Dar-ul-Madina International University in Lahore and South Asian Strategic Stability Institute University in Islamabad -- went off smoothly, were rushed through without hurdle, her third bill providing for the establishment of what will be known as My University in Islamabad was met with objections from a veteran PPP member, Syed Zafar Ali, and a couple of PML-N members.
Mr Shah walked out of the house to protest against the attitude of Riaz Fatyana of the government-allied PML-Q, who was then chairing the house, in not allowing him and PML-N’s Ayaz Amir and Abdul Qadir Baloch to speak on the bill.
None of the PML-N members joined the walkout, though Mr Amir, after his request for floor was turned down just before the house was adjourned until 4pm on Wednesday, shouted: “This is scandal. You have made three universities today.”
Minister for Education and Training Sheik Waqas Akram had earlier said his ministry had already completed unspecified “formalities” about the bill, whose statement of objects and reasons said My University would aim to contribute to higher learning in Pakistan by “promoting innovation, research, training and learning in the fields of both social and natural sciences”.
The three bills must be passed by the Senate as well to become laws.
On what was a private members’ day, three other private bills were introduced in the house by female members from different parties and sent to relevant standing committees, including one by Ms Shaheen Ishfaq of PML-N, which seeks an amendment to the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956, to provide for a mandatory publication of reports of commission of inquiry set up to investigate important incidents.
Another bill introduced by Kishwer Zehra of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement sought an amendment to the National Database and Registration Authority Ordinance, 2000, to provide legislative cover for “appropriate safety and custody” of orphans and children of unknown parentage.
A bill introduced by PPP’s Yasmeen Rehman called itself as a code for falconry to encourage what its statement called the “traditional form of falconry” and to “protect and promote vulnerable minority embodiments of Pakistan’s cultural history”.
A virtual debate ensured after PPP’s Adbul Qadir Gilani, a son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, while speaking on a point or order, warned the PML-N opponents of a new province in south Punjab of a march to Lahore from the southern-most provincial town of Sadiqbad to press the case.
MQM’s parliamentary leader and Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Farooq Sattar described the present situation as “now or never” for the creation of a new province and warned against wasting what he saw as a consensus existing on the issue in view of the resolutions passed by the National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly.