ISLAMABAD -  The PML-N government in Wednesday’s National Assembly session passed two bills, including the Public Private Partnership Authority Bill, 2017, amid trouble as the house was suspended twice due to lack of quorum.

The government side had to take over an hour to complete the required strength in the house to get passed ‘The Public Private Partnership authority bill, 2017’ and ‘The Pakistan Commission of inquiry bill 2017’.

The house with the onset of proceedings witnessed a thin presence from both sides of the aisle. Even a single minister from front rows did not turn to the house. ‘The Public Private Partnership Authority Bill, 2017’, moved by Rana Muhammad Afzal will enable the government to confer additional powers on a commission of inquiry. The ‘statement of objects and reasons’, says ‘The existing law relating to appointment of commission of inquiry and empowering them for the purpose is the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1956’. The Act has been invoked for setting up a fact-finding commission on a number of important national issues in the past. “However, on some matters, the need has been perceived for a commission with greater powers than those that can be conferred under the act. It is, therefore considered desirable that a new law be enacted enabling the government to confer additional powers on a commission of inquiry where the nature of the issue is being inquired into so requires,” says the bill.

The clause ‘Protection of action taken in good faith’, says ‘no suit or other legal proceedings shall lie against the federal government, the commission or member, thereof, or any person acting under the direction either of the federal government or intended to be done in pursuance of this act or any rules or orders made there under or in respect of the publication, by or under the authority of the federal government, or the commission, of any report, paper or proceedings’.

A clause ‘additional powers of the commission’, ‘in case specific nature of the inquiry so requires the federal government may, by notification in the official gazette, confer additional powers on the commission’.

“It has power to constitute team and seek international cooperation from foreign countries or agencies to get information, documents, evidence and record or issue letters and interrogatories with applicable international instruments,” says the clause.

The opposition lawmakers mainly from PPP and PTI raised serious objections for not giving time to speak on the bill. “This is not the way to run the house, as without listening opposition you (government) are bulldozing the bills,” said PPP’s parliamentary leader Syed Naveed Qamar.

He also opposed the chair (deputy speaker) idea to pass all the clauses in one go. “Please follow the rules...In this way, you will club the whole agenda...avoid this practice,” he added. Shah Mehmood Qureshi from PTI also supported Naveed Qamar.  Aijaz Jhakrani from PPP-P went to some extra miles and pointed out quorum. “We will not accept this monarchy, I am pointing out quorum in the house,” he said. The house remained suspended for over half an hour.

The opposition side once again pointed out quorum when the house was resumed. The government side passed both the bills on last day of the session, so the chair once again suspended the house for around twenty minutes.

Some of the government members kept passing the remarks over the absent members, causing suspension of the house due to lack of required strength.

The government side also managed to pass ‘The Pakistan commission of inquiry bill, 2017’ with almost near the required strength (86 members).

Opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah, on point of order, strongly criticised the government for not taking the parliament seriously. “This is not the way to run the federation...As you should also pay attention to Sindh, KP and Balochistan,” he said. Pakistan’s exports have been decreased during the rule of incumbent government. He criticised the government for taking record domestic and external loans. “This government should at least focus on providing employment, health and education facilities,” he said. “Crops are being affected due to shortage of irrigation water in Sindh,” he said. Shah with rest of the opposition except MQM staged walkout from the proceedings of the house in protest.

A report of the standing committee on law and justice regarding ‘The constitution (twenty-fourth amendment) bill 2016’ was also presented in the house.

The ‘statement of objects and reasons’ says at present there is no provision for appeal against an order of Supreme Court in exercise of its original jurisdiction. “Since such an order invokes a question of public importance with reference to enforcement of fundamental rights, an aggrieved party should have the right of appeal, which shall also be in conformity with the fundamental right to fair-trial and due process conferred by article 10A of the constitution,” it says.

A report of the standing committee on law and justice regarding ‘The constitution (twenty-Fifth amendment) bill, 2016’ was also presented in the house.

The ‘statement of objects and reasons’ says the federal government has increased the rate of pension admissible to the families of retired and deceased civil servants from 50 per cent to 75 percent from the 1st day of July 2010 vide finance division’s office memorandum.

It was proposed to increase the entitlement of pension of widows of the judges of Supreme Court of Pakistan High Courts from 50 percent to 75 percent by amendment of fifth schedule of the constitution.