Government has a mere two-vote majority, with 221 lawmakers of Senate and National Assembly, against opposition’s 219
President Arif Alvi has summoned a joint session of Parliament today (Wednesday) at 12 p.m., with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government appearing confident it can pass over two-dozen bills following assurances of support by allied parties.
“When a sportsman steps into a playing field, he always believes in winning,” Prime Minister Imran Khan told journalists in Parliament House on Tuesday of his expectations from the joint sitting. In the past week, Khan has personally met lawmakers from within his own party as well as those of coalition partners Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PMLQ) and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and sought to allay their concerns over some controversial bills, including electoral reforms.
On Tuesday, the MQM said that it had agreed to support the government in exchange for the fulfilment of its demands. Information Technology Minister Aminul Haque of the MQM said the Hyderabad University Bill, 2021—aimed at establishing a federal university in Hyderabad—and the Amendment in Census Bill, 2021—to demarcate constituencies in Karachi—have both been included in the joint sitting at his party’s behest. He also claimed that the government had assured it that “transparency” of the vote would be ensured.
Similarly, the PMLQ has said that it has agreed to support the PTI in exchange for promises that it would be included in all decision-making in future.
The support of coalition partners is essential for the government to achieve success in the joint session, as its combined strength in the joint sitting has a mere two-vote majority; even one ally choosing to abstain or vote against the government could tip the balance in favor of the opposition. According to party position, there are 219 opposition members in the 440-member Parliament compared to 221 treasury members.
In the Lower House, the ruling coalition has a 17-vote majority, while in the Upper House, the opposition leads by 15 votes. At least four members of the opposition, per local media, have already conveyed their inability to attend the joint session, further raising the government’s hopes of securing an easy win today.
The government had, last week, abruptly cancelled a joint session of Parliament called for Nov. 11 after opposition members defeated the government twice in the National Assembly during voting on two motions for the admission of bills. At the time, the government had claimed it wanted to develop consensus with the opposition and its allies, especially on the use of EVMs in general elections, which both the PMLQ and MQM had voiced objections to.
“The government has addressed the reservations of the coalition partners, and we will now carry out the pending legislations in the house with their support,” Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain told media on Tuesday night, adding that the government was still willing to work with the opposition—after the passage of the pending bills in the joint sitting.
Meanwhile, the opposition maintains that it will resist the government’s attempts to “bulldoze” bills through Parliament. On Monday, multi-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement, issued a statement stressing that it was preparing a strategy to contest “controversial” laws before the Supreme Court. It has also vowed, with the support of the Pakistan Peoples Party, to attempt to defeat the coalition government in Parliament.
The National Assembly Secretariat has issued a 50-point agenda for the joint sitting, including 29 bills and a reference against the decision of the Council of Common Interests regarding Census-2017.