Government puts off Thursday’s joint parliament session

The Parliament House in Islamabad. — Twitter/NAofPakistan

President Arif Alvi Wednesday issued a notification revoking the order for Thursday’s joint session of the parliament.

A meeting of the federal Cabinet had called the session on Thursday at 11pm to pass the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance (Amendment) Bill and electoral reforms bill among other legislation items, while finalising the sessions agenda on Tuesday.

“In exercise of powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 54 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, I hereby withdraw the order issued to summon the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in joint sitting on Thursday, the 11th November, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Parliament House, Islamabad. Consequently, the summoning/prorogation orders issued thereof stand rescinded,” read President Alvi’s new order.

Government puts off Thursdays joint parliament session

The announcement for the deferral of the joint session had already been made earlier in the day by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry.

Taking to Twitter, Chaudhry said that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser would hold talks with the Opposition over electoral reforms.

“Electoral reforms issue is about the future of the country and we, with the best of intentions, are trying to create a consensus on the matter. In this regard, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser has been asked to consult the Opposition once again so that a unanimous electoral reform bill could be presented,” Chaudhry wrote.

The minister said the session has been postponed, hoping that the Opposition would consider the government’s proposal seriously and work towards making a unanimously agreed-upon plan of action.

“In case this does not happen, we will still not step back from electoral reforms,” he added.

The information minister made no mention of when the parliamentary session would instead be called.

Qaiser, in his own statement on Twitter, said that he met the prime minister and the two had a detailed conversation on the joint session. “On the prime minister’s directives, I will soon contact the Opposition parties so that their reservations can be addressed and a consensus can be reached on matters of national interest,” he said.

The speaker said that the government wishes to take all parties on board when it comes to legislation and all possible efforts will be made in this regard. “We hope the Opposition will support the government in bringing about the reforms that are necessary for the betterment of the country,” he said.

Qaiser said that the joint session will be called again “soon”.

Right before the announcement, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed lawmakers of the government and its allies, stressing the need for introducing electoral reforms.

The prime minister told the lawmakers that the voting in the joint parliamentary session should be considered jihad, as it was not for his personal benefit, it was for the country.

Opposition lashes out at government

Responding to the postponement, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif said that it means the government stands “defeated” when it comes to the “black laws” it meant to introduce.

“After a lack of confidence displayed by the government’s own members and allies, Imran Niazi must step down,” he said.

Shahbaz added that by putting off the session, the prime minister had upheld his “tradition of a U-turn”.

The Opposition leader said that suddenly calling a session and then putting it off just as quickly makes the government’s “lack of seriousness” apparent.

“A serious exercise such as legislation has been turned into a child’s game,” he said.

Shahbaz said that the government’s defeat in the National Assembly a day earlier had forced it to call of the session. “Those who made tall claims to defeat us in the battlefield have now turned tail and run,” he added.

Responding to the postponement, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz said just now, the “rejected” prime minister had asked the lawmakers to consider voting in the parliamentary session a jihad.

“So can the nation ask why was the was the ‘jihad’ abruptly postponed? Although the nation is well-aware of [what is happening], but still, there was a need to ask [this question],” she said.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb asked censured Fawad and said that instead of running away, he should admit the truth and accept that the government did not have the required numbers to get the bills passed.

The PML-N spokesperson claimed that not only the allies, but the government’s own lawmakers were not ready to back the legislation.

Aurangzeb asked why did the government remember to hold negotiations with the Opposition after calling the joint session.

Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, referring to PM Imran Khan, said the “captain ran away”.

“Yet another victory for the united opposition in parliament today. Government ran away from joint sessions when they saw they would be defeated yet again. Kaptaan bhag gaya,” he wrote.

PPP Central Information Secretary Shazia Marri said the government had postponed the joint session as it could see its defeat. “Running away from the joint session of the parliament shows that the government is confused.”

The PPP leader said PM Imran Khan had “lost” his importance in the parliament, as he did not have the support from all the government lawmakers.

“PTI lawmakers are frustrated with the government. And now, Imran Khan can neither face the nation nor can he face the people who represent them.”

PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah, while speaking to the media, said that no Opposition member had contacted the speaker to ask him to postpone the session.

“The speaker is making false statements in this regard,” he said.

“The truth is, that the government allies and their own members have expressed a lack of confidence,” Shah added.

The PPP leader claimed receiving reports that 10-12 PTI members have refused to participate in the joint session and that among the allies, MQM had “run away” and the PML-Q had “refused to back them”.

He said the Opposition is ready to hold talks with anyone when it comes to what is in the interest of the country.

Shah said that the Opposition had already predicted that the government “will not call a joint session of the parliament now”. His remarks appeared to refer to the government’s defeat and the Opposition’s victory in the National Assembly a day earlier during voting on a bill.

He said that legislation was being done for “favoured individuals” and that the Opposition had demanded that a session be called for “serious” law making.

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