Government, Opposition in verbal brawl over journalist’s bill
ISLAMABAD – The National Assembly, on a private members’ day, witnessed verbal brawl between women legislators form the government and the opposition over introduction of ‘Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021’.
The lawmakers from both sides claimed ownership of the bill which is aimed at protecting rights of journalists. The arguments from both sides compelled the chair to intervene, as senior members were not shy to blame each other for plagiarism in the content of the bill. The National Assembly speaker decided to examine bills moved from both sides to reach a consensus.
PPP-P’s Nafeesa Shah, mover of the bills, presented journalist protection bill which was strongly opposed by Dr Shireen Mazari. She blamed the opposition MNA for plagiarizing content of her drafted bill. “ I personally drafted this bill, which could not be moved the other day [Monday], now without changing language an opposition member is trying to move it,” said Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, opposing the bill moved by the opposition. PPP-P’s Nafeesa Shah also strongly reacted over the statement of a government member. Shah argued that her party was struggling to pass this bill since 2012. She also got a supporting voice from PML-N member Marriyum Orangzeb. PPP-P’s Naveed Qamar was of the view that there should be consensus between the government and the opposition. Later, the members from both sides agreed on the proposal of the chair.
The four-hour long proceedings of the house, which mostly consumed time on legislation, was adjourned by the chair due to lack of required quorum. PPP-P’s Shahida Rehmani pointed out lack of quorum when not more than 20 members were present in the House.
Earlier, the government members with their numerical strength defeated the opposition on a quorum related matter.
With the onset of the proceedings, the house witnessed a debate over the performance of the civil servants. The opposition, through a call-attention notice, criticized the government for making amendments in the existing rules related to civil servants. The call-attention was related to compulsory retirement of more than 300 CSS officers in violation of Civil Servant Act 1973, causing grave concern amongst the public.
Minister for National Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood, responding to the concerns raised by the opposition, said inefficient civil servants will be sent on retirement with all financial benefits after proper scrutiny to improve performance of the civil servants.
Mehmood further said a scrutiny committee under chairmanship of Chairman Federal Public Service Commission is looking into the matter and no arbitrary action will be taken. He added that Section 13 (1) of the Civil Servant Act 1973 fully empowered the government to devise rules to evaluate performance of bureaucrats.
About concerns raised by the opposition on farm houses, Parliamentary Secretary on Interior Shaukat Ali said that allotment of farmhouses violating Capital Development Authority bylaws will be cancelled after fulfilling all codal formalities. He informed the house that only 96 out of total 621 farmhouses in Islamabad are functioning as per law.
He said 542 farmhouses are active at present, 81 have violated covered area rules, while 365 are not doing any kind of farming, which is the main objective of establishing farmhouses in the federal capital so that residents of Islamabad can get fresh vegetables, fruits and other agricultural products.
Later, the house extended the Capital Development Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 and Income Tax (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 for a further period of 120 days with effect from 19th of this month. The Houses also extended the PAF Air War College Institute Ordinance, 2021 for a further period of 120 days with effect from 20th of this month.
The opposition members introduced the bills including “The Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2021”, “The Injured Persons Compulsory Treatment Bill, 2021”, “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021” (Amendment in Article-37), “The Elections (Amendment) Bill,202l”, “The Islamabad Healthcare Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2021”, “The West Pakistan Pure Food (Amendment) Bill, 2021”, “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021” (Amendment in Article-140A), and “The Benazir Income Support Programme (Amendment) Bill, 2021”. All these bills were referred to the concerned committees.
The government and the opposition members with consensus also referred “The Maintenance and Welfare of Old Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2020” to concerned standing committee for deliberation.
Newspaper: The Nation