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National Assembly Passes Three Bills in Contentious Session

by Newsweek Pakistan

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Two additional bills introduced in the Lower House, while two lapsed ordinances laid before it

Pakistan’s National Assembly on Monday passed three bills—The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority Bill 2020, The Public-Private Partnership Authority (Amendment) Bill 2020, and The Pakistan Single Window Bill 2020—during a session marred by protests from the opposition

Adviser to the P.M. on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan tabled the ordinances shortly after Question Hour, but was met with derision from opposition lawmakers, who demanded the floor to debate the government’s notification of an increase in prices of fuel products—the fifth time in the past two months.

However, Speaker Asad Qaiser refused to give the floor to the opposition, and started reading the CPEC Authority Bill for clause-by-clause approval, provoking the opposition, who started shouting slogans against the government and tearing up copies of the bills and agendas.

As the opposition’s protest grew in belligerence, the speaker put the bills before the House for a voice vote after clubbing their clauses, instead of securing approval clause-by-clause. Awan presented the CPEC Authority Bill 2020 and the Public Private Partnership Authority (Amendment) Bill 2020, while parliamentary secretary for finance Zain Qureshi presented the Pakistan Single Window Bill 2020, which was also passed within minutes.

The CPEC Authority Ordinance was promulgated by President Arif Alvi in October 2019. The government succeeded in getting it a 120-day extension after its original 90-day limit expired. The ordinance fully lapsed on May 31, 2020 following the government’s failure to get it passed from either House of Parliament. The government reintroduced the ordinance in the National Assembly in the form of bill in October last year.

The bill envisages a CPEC Authority to coordinate, evaluate and monitor all CPEC-related activities across the country. In the performance of its functions, the authority can seek the assistance of any office, authority or agency working under the government or a representative designated by the provinces and territories. Controversially, the bill grants the CPEC Authority legal immunity, barring any challenges to its decisions in any court of law.

The Public Private Partnership Authority (Amendment) Bill 2020, meanwhile, seeks to establish a regulatory framework to execute public-private partnerships and promote domestic and foreign private investment in development projects. The Pakistan Single Window Bill 2020 seeks an autonomous body to simplify cross-border trade, reduce the cost of doing business, and facilitate trade at both national and international levels.

New legislation

In addition to the two bills, Awan also laid the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance 2020 and the Federal Medical Teaching Institutes, Ordinances 2020 before the House. The National Metrology Institute of Pakistan Bill 2021 and the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board (Amendment) Bill 2021 were also introduced.

At the session’s end, Awan moved a motion seeking general debate on the presidential address to the joint sitting of Parliament on Aug. 20, 2020. Parliamentary Secretary for Commerce Aliya Hamza Malik opened the debate with a harangue against the opposition, largely targeting the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). She was still speaking when the speaker abruptly adjourned the sitting until Tuesday evening (today).

Question Hour

During Question Hour, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, through a written reply, said Rs. 11,250,487,205 had been collected in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dam Fund till Nov. 17, 2020. He clarified that none of this amount had been withdrawn from the account.

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