Ordinance deferred after opposition protest in NA
ISLAMABAD: The spirit of the 18th Amendment won the day in the National Assembly on Friday — though the letter of the law was not very helpful — to nearly kill a government move to extend the life of a key presidential ordinance on the eve of the new budget.
A government resolution sought to extend the Finance (Amendment) Ordinance 2010, which is linked to plans for the introduction of value-added tax, for a further 120 days beyond its expiration on Saturday to meet the requirement of a new constitutional provision.
But members of the opposition PML-N opposed the move on the grounds the government had not given sufficient notice and that the landmark 18th Amendment passed in April sought to discourage legislation by issuing ordinances, which must be later passed by both houses of parliament to become permanent laws.
Speaker Fehmida Mirza ruled the resolution moved by Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar in order, rejecting the argument of PML-N’s Zahid Hamid and some other lawmakers that three days’ notice was required, and put it to a voice vote, which the PPP-led ruling coalition seemed to have won.
But PML-N members continued arguing against the move even after the chair called for a second vote in response to a full-throated opposition ‘no’, which sounded louder than the coalition majority’s measured ‘ayes’.
However, despite the speaker’s ruling and its obvious majority in the house, the government agreed to defer the move apparently to avoid an opposition uproar before its third budget, which is to be unveiled on Saturday by the prime minister’s Adviser on Finance Abdul Hafeez Sheikh.
But there was no immediate official word on whether the government would move the resolution again for a vote just before the presentation of the budget or incorporate in the new finance bill the provisions of the ordinance, which seeks to harmonise taxes in inland revenue to meet a conditionality of the International Monetary Fund.
After the vote on the resolution, PML-N’s Rana Tanvir Hussain said the government move would send a “wrong signal” about the empowerment of parliament through the landmark 18th Amendment and strengthen the voices of those who called parliament rubber-stamp. His party colleague Parvez Malik said the opposition might eventually support the move if given “some time” to ponder over it.
PPP chief whip and Labour and Manpower Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah, in the meantime, went to the desks of main PML-N objectors for a word with them before proposing the compromise: “…we respect the opposition’s point of view, so we defer it”. The speaker agreed to this.
A new constitutional clause inserted by the 18th Amendment requires a National Assembly resolution for the extension of an ordinance similar to a money bill instead of the old practice of re-promulgation by the president.
In another development on the second day of the house budget session, the speaker agreed to a suggestion from Interior Minister Rehman Malik that she name an all-parties committee to recommend measures to regulate protests outside the parliament house after some members accused the Islamabad police of being brutal against teachers and lady health visitors who demonstrated there on Thursday to press their demands.
The speaker also asked Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to consider what she called a “good proposal” of PPP member Nawab Yousuf Talpur to study frequent complaints about the availability of irrigation water such as those by members from parts of Sindh and southern Punjab.