NA prorogued, Women's bill deferred indefinitely -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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NA prorogued, Women’s bill deferred indefinitely

By Asim Yasin

ISLAMABAD: The Women Protection Bill (WPB) draft was finally deferred on Monday for an indefinite period with the prorogation of the National Assembly after its longest session of 46 days. Although the bill was on the agenda of the day, yet the government did not take it up for the National Assembly’s consideration, defering it for the time being, perhaps to create consensus. However, the opposition termed it the government’s failure for not getting the bill passed despite having a majority and even support from the opposition parties including the Pakistan People’s Party.

There was a 24-item agenda on the order of day, but just after the question hour, National Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain read out the prorogation order of the House signed by President General Pervez Musharraf. Though the government did not give any timeframe to take up the bill however it hinted that the session of the National Assembly may be called by the end of the current month or early next month to take up the bill again. However, with the prorogation of the National Assembly session, the select committee stands disbanded and a new select committee will be formed to consider a new draft of the bill with new amendments. The National Assembly session was to be prorogued on August 31, but it was extended to get the bill passed by the House. The government had also summoned the Senate session in order to pass the bill after the National Assembly’s approval. But on Monday the government in a surprise move decided to defer the bill for an indefinite period. This act of the government was termed by the supporters of the bill “an underhand deal with the MMA”.

Just a day back opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman had also asked the government to defer the bill for an indefinite period as it had become more controversial, yet the government made last ditch efforts to pass it but failed to do so. Just few days back, Pakistan Muslim League President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had included six additional amendments to the draft bill with a view to accommodating the Ulema committee proposals while indicating that the draft bill may be sent back to the committee. However, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain could not pursuade the MMA to sit in the select committee during a meeting with Qazi Hussain Ahmed, who remained firm on the MMA stance.

However, the bill created division among the opposition and even in the government ranks as its allies, the MQM and the PPP-Patriots, opposed any MMA sponsored amendments to the bill while sticking to their stance that they will support the bill drafted by the select committee of the House. While the PPPP, which fully supported the bill in line with its party manifesto, also announced to oppose the MMA-PML-Q sponsored amendments and the PML-N announced to stay away from the whole proceedings. When Minister for Law Wasi Zafar’s comment on the postponement of the bill were sought, he said the bill is very much the property of the House and it would be on the agenda of the day when the session is summoned. “The session will again be summoned by the end of this month or in the first week of October,” he added.

The MMA termed it a complete failure of the government for not getting the bill passed despite having a majority. “The government was not serious on this issue and brought the bill just to please its foreign masters and to divide the opposition,” said MMA Deputy Secretary General Liaquat Baloch. However, he claimed that the MMA stance proved right and that was the reason that the government deferred the bill. Meanwhile, the PPPP said that the government has been exposed by backing out from the bill and made parliament irrelevant. “The government was exposed not only before the people of Pakistan but also of the world and showed how serious it is on the issue of protection of women’s rights,” said PPP Deputy parliamentary leader Raja Pervez Ashraf. He said the PPPP supported the bill, but the government renegeded on its commitment by delaying the process.
Source: The News