National Assembly, Senate to vote on drug bill today
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly and Senate will be facing an extraordinary situation on Monday when the two houses will be required to vote on two bills on the same subject — the Drug Regulatory Authority Bill 2012.
According to the agenda of the two houses, the bill seeking an independent and permanent regulatory authority to address all components of drugs production and sale will be presented by Minister for National Regulations and Services Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan in the National Assembly and a different bill on the same subject by Abdul Haseeb Khan of Muttahida Qaumi Movement in the Senate as a private member’s bill.
If adopted, the bills will be required to be transmitted to the other house for approval. A bill can become an act only if passed by both the houses. Interestingly, both the bills are being tabled after their approval by the respective standing committees of the two houses.
Abdul Haseeb Khan said he was not aware which draft the government would be tabling in the National Assembly. He said there was a possibility that the government might table the draft of the bill he had moved in the Senate because Ms Awan had attended the meetings of the Senate committee and agreed to the draft approved by it.
“It would be a joke even if the government’s draft is identical to that of mine,” he said. He said it didn’t matter even if the government bill was different because after its adoption by the National Assembly it would eventually come to the Senate.
Mr Khan said simultaneous presentation of the two bills on the same subject in the two houses was perhaps unprecedented in the parliamentary history of the country. The need for establishing the drug regulatory authority was felt following the devolution of the health subject to the provinces after the 18th Amendment.
The bill moved by Senator Khan on April 30 was unanimously passed on August 30 by the Senate Committee on National Regulation and Services headed by Zafar Ali Shah of PML-N, paving the way for resolving a sensitive issue between the provinces and the federal government over control of drugs.
On the other hand, the government introduced the Drug Regulation Agency of Pakistan Ordinance 2012, promulgated by President Asif Ali Zardari in February this year, in the form of a bill also on the same day when the MQM senator had introduced his private member bill in the upper house.
Ms Awan had informed the National Assembly’s committee last month that the ordinance was going to lapse on October 15 and the bill must be passed before that to give a legal cover to the regulatory body.
During the meeting, members of the committee had said that Senator Khan wanted to present the bill as a private member and suggested that it should be presented as a government bill because they had put in a lot of efforts to finalise the draft.
Ms Awan had informed the committee that about 14,000 applications for registration of medicines had piled up and a mechanism was being formulated to clear the backlog. She also said that 64,000 Hakeems had been practising in the country and of them only 10,000 were registered.