RGST: MQM role key to govt success -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

RGST: MQM role key to govt success

ISLAMABAD: If opponents of the proposed tax laws stand by what they have been saying over the week and, instead of boycotting or abstaining, vote against the bills the government may find it impossible to carry the controversial Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) and Flood Surcharge proposals through the National Assembly.

The numerical strength of the 10 political parties, having representation in the lower house of the parliament, shows that the role of MQM will be vital for the government to get the two bills passed by the National Assembly. Similarly, the opposition will need MQM’s support to block the move.

However, if the MQM continues to stick to the stance it took in the Senate and decides to vote against the bills, the role of the PML-Q or the PML-N will be decisive because an abstention or boycott by members of any of the two parties will be of help to the government.

Political observers say that if the parties stick to their positions which they had adopted in the Senate and opponents of the bills manage to ensure 100 per cent attendance of their members during the voting process, it will impossible for the government to get the bills through the lower house.

The PPP has 128 members in the 342-member house where two seats are vacant. The ANP which supported the government in the Senate after making a U-turn on the bills has 13 MNAs. The PPP is expected to get the support of 13 of the 17 independent MNAs and one member of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-A). This takes the total votes in the favour of bills to 155.

If eight members of the JUI-F, whose stand is still unclear, also votes in favour of the bills, then the number in support of the bills will be 163, still nine short of a simple majority.

The PML-F, another ruling coalition partner with five MNAs, appears divided on the bills. A PML-F MNA from Punjab, Jahangir Tareen, has openly opposed the bills in his speech at the first public meeting of the “unified” faction of the PML, ignoring the fact that the party’s only senator from Sindh Syed Sajid Hussain Zaidi had supported the government in the upper house.

If the government manages to get the support of four MNAs of PML-F from Sindh it will have 167 votes in support of the bills – five short of simple majority.

On the other hand, the PML-N has 91 and PML-Q 50 members in the National Assembly, making a total of 141. If the JUI-F with eight members votes against the bills, besides four votes of independents and one vote each of PPP-Sherpao, PML-F (Jahangir Tareen) and the National People’s Party, the number comes to 156 — one more than the number which the government has without the support of MQM and JUI-F.

It is here that MQM’s 25 members become a decisive factor. If the party votes against the bills, the vote tally will be a decisive 181.

Political analysts believe that the situation will provide an opportunity to government’s allies, ANP, MQM and JUI-F, to put more demands before the PPP in return for their support.

Now the government has two options, either to get the MQM on its side or reach an understanding with the PML-Q for keeping its members away from the voting process like it did in the Senate. If the PML-Q members do not vote against the bills, the opposition will come down to 131.

The situation clearly shows that the strategy of MQM and PML-Q, both allies of the regime of Gen Musharraf, will play key roles in deciding the fate of bills in the National Assembly.

No Political Party No. of MNAs
1. Pakistan People’s Party 128
2. Pakistan Muslim League-N 91
3. Pakistan Muslim League-Q 50
4. Muttahida Qaumi Movement 25
5. Independents 17
6. Awami National Party 13
7. Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) 08
8. Pakistan Muslim League-F 05
9. Pakistan People’s Party (Sherpao) 01
10. Balochistan National Party (Awami) 01
11. National People’s Party 01
12. Vacant seats 02
Source: Dawn