Opposition sets preconditions for legislation on electoral reforms

  • Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif responds to NA speaker’s letter after joint opposition meeting

ISLAMABAD: The joint opposition in the National Assembly on Sunday proposed the formation of a Parliamentary Committee comprising members from both houses to consider and approve with consensus a complete package of electoral reforms including the Elections (Amendment) Bills 2021 passed by the lower house.

The decision was made in a meeting of the Steering Committee of the joint opposition, held at the Parliament House here.

The joint opposition maintained that any future legislation would be made in consonance with parliamentary practice and precedence to achieve the required consensus on issues of national importance.

In their response to the letter of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, who sought opposition parties’ support in parliament over bills related to electoral reforms and accountability laws, the opposition leader in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif wrote that matters of wider national interest, especially legislation with far-reaching implications for the people, should be finalised through consensus-oriented consultation.

Shehbaz told the speaker that a proper procedure should be followed during the joint sitting of the parliament, implying this will allow an “objective consideration” of the bills referred by the government.

The letter pointed out that the NA speaker formed the Committee on Legislative Business on June 23, 2021 to consider the 21 bills passed by the National Assembly on 10th June this year “without allowing the required legislative procedure”.

As per the letter, the committee in its three meetings could not even finalise the terms of reference (ToRs) for its procedural jurisdiction due to lack of support by the government members. During this period, all the bills which were to be considered by this committee either lapsed or were rejected by the Senate and were referred to the joint sitting of parliament, “thus completely negating the purpose for which the Committee on Legislative Business was formed”.

The opposition also laid down suggestions in the letter for evolving consensus over the important legislation.

A parliamentary committee composed of members from both houses of parliament should be formed by the speaker to consider and approve with consensus a complete package of electoral reforms including the ‘Elections (Amendment) Bills 2021’ passed by the National Assembly but not passed by the Senate.

“We believe the above process to be in consonance with parliamentary practice and precedence to achieve the required consensus on issues of national importance,” it added.

Earlier this week, NA Speaker Qaiser had said that the government was planning about convening the joint sitting of parliament next week by November 20 and awaiting a positive response from the opposition parties.

“A total of 28 bills will be presented for approval [during the sitting],” the speaker said while talking to the media persons on Thursday.

Qaiser said he was in contact with various opposition leaders and hoped that they would respond positively.

“As a speaker of the National Assembly, I am striving to pass legislation on which everyone can agree,” he said, adding that a meeting would be called as soon as there was a response from the opposition.

“I am in touch with (former prime minister) Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Syed Naveed Qamar and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq,” he concluded.

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