ISLAMABAD: The government’s concern over the deliberations on the notification of the appointment of the new Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has so far kept its urgent legislative agenda on the back burner.
Earlier, the government had planned during the current week to pass the controversial electoral reforms and amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) and to appoint the two members of the Pakistan Election Commission (ECP) without extra time wasted, but could not due to other more pressing matters.
A session of the National Assembly was specifically convened to refer the NAO amendments to the joint parliamentary session, which however was not convened despite the announcement. Likewise, a meeting of the parliamentary committee on the appointment of members of the ECP, which had been called, did not take place. It was also officially announced that a summary had been sent to the president to urgently convene a joint session of parliament.
Several members of the ruling coalition were surprised by the hasty convocation of the parliamentary party before the session of the National Assembly without prior announcement. They must have rushed into the discussions.
Due to a lack of interest from members of the ruling coalition, the National Assembly continues to be struck by the lack of quorum syndrome. Not only now, but its entire last session had not dealt with any business, as even the minimum number of members required had not shown up. In fact, they don’t have any interesting business to dispose of.
However, nearly two weeks had been counted as working days of the National Assembly for the purposes of the constitutional requirement of mandatory sittings and the payment of allowances and benefits and privileges to lawmakers.
The official plan was that since opposition parties are reluctant to cooperate in approving electoral reforms and are unwilling to reach consensus, it is best not to waste more time engaging with them and bulldozing the reforms at the joint session of parliament. where the government believes it will not face any problem because of its numbers. The same approach was considered to be applied to the NAO amendments.
Likewise, the candidates recommended by Prime Minister Imran Khan as members of the ECP were to be approved by the parliamentary committee three days ago. But she, too, was not summoned for unexplained reasons. The government is able to have its recommendations approved by the forum to have a one-voice advantage.
It is always the responsibility of the ruling party to keep the parliament in order with regard to the quorum. Opposition parties usually report a lack of quorum so that the legislature cannot carry out any significant government business.
If the issue of notification had not been there or if it had been resolved quickly, these three major developments would take place in parliament or in its committee. The government seemed happy that it got what it wanted, especially the use of electronic voting machines (EVs) and electronic voting for overseas Pakistanis in the upcoming general election. In addition, its two prime candidates were reportedly inducted into the ECP as members.
However, it is now clear that all of these activities have already been challenged in superior courts or would be in the days to come. Not only would their final fate be decided by the higher magistracy, but the required clarity would also be provided on certain aspects.
On the previous occasion, the government unilaterally chose two PCE members without consulting the Leader of the Opposition. The Islamabad High Court had overturned these appointments and ensured that the required consultations took place with the participation of President Asad Qaiser.
In the present case, the speaker also made an attempt by writing a letter to the Leader of the Opposition, but this was rejected on the grounds that Asad Qaiser’s role is not mentioned in the relevant law.
After that, the prime minister wrote a letter to the opposition leader suggesting the names of the members of the Punjab ECP and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Shehbaz Sharif rejected them and made his own recommendations. The government then decided to refer these names to the parliamentary committee on the appointment of members of the ECP.