ISLAMABAD - The opposition parties on Wednesday submitted a requisition to summon the Senate to discuss COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts on economy, national security and foreign policy.

The requisition was submitted with the Senate Secretariat under Articles 54 (3) and 61 of the Constitution by 34 members of all opposition parties in the Senate including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).

Under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate 2012, the Chairman Senate is bound to summon the session on the requisition submitted by at least quarter members of the total strength of the house. The house has presently 104 members.

The opposition has been demanding that the government summon the session since the outbreak of pandemic in the country. They had urged that parliamentary oversight is necessary in regards to the operation to tackle the spread of coronavirus in the country.

However, the government remained reluctant to summon the house claiming that the session can become a potential source for further spreading the virus due to the large gathering. The government has not summoned the house since it had been prorogued on March 4.

The opposition has also submitted an agenda along with requisition to be discussed in the session. It says that house would discuss the federal government’s policy on uniting the country at a time of serious emergency for Pakistan, and its implication on the democratic and constitutional governance of the federation, including the role of parliament and its ongoing efficacy in the time of crisis.

 “To coordinate clear, consistent health care responses for saving lives across the federation and international border crossings, with decisions based on transparent sharing of medical data amidst an alarming rise in the graph of COVID-19 cases,” says the proposed agenda.

It also said that the house should make clear policies on the emerging economic crisis from the impact of pandemic on Pakistan’s public finances, renegotiation of debt, the reallocation of the resources and the provision of urgent relief to the most vulnerable sections of the population.

The session would also discuss “the impact of the virus on the national security and foreign policy of the country including regional tensions and the destabilisation of South Asia by the ongoing repression of the people of Indian Held Kashmir and apartheid-like conditions faced by Indian Muslims under the Modi regime”, reads the agenda, a copy of which is available with The Nation.

Meanwhile, Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani also chaired an important meeting to oversee arrangements for the upcoming requisitioned session. The meeting prepared a strategy to take precautionary measures and keep social distancing among the members participating a session to prevent spread of the deadly virus.

According to a statement issued by the Senate Secretariat, the chairman remarked that the arrangements should be made in collaboration with the state-owned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to bring lawmakers from remote areas to participate in the session. He said that proper standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be finalised in consultation with all the parliamentary leaders and these would be implemented in letter and spirit during the session.

He also directed the departments concerned that committee rooms and all halls in the premises of Senate Secretariat should be disinfected on daily basis.