ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, despite having a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, on Thursday failed to get “The Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Bill, 2016” passed due to lack of quorum in the house.

The government bill provides for the constitution of a powerful commission for investigation into Panama Papers issue as well as other issues. According to the government, the scope of the commission will be wider and it will have all the authority to constitute special teams of experts as well as international teams to get the required information.

Opposition parties, seemingly waiting to take the government to task over its handling of the Panama Papers issue, announced to boycott the session, citing lack of quorum.

The session had to be adjourned as not more than 40 lawmakers were present during the proceeding. Opposition Leader in NA Syed Khursheed Shah accused the government of encouraging corruption by tabling the bill. “We (opposition) are even not ready to listen to the clarification of the government,” said Shah. “At a time when the government is facing corruption cases, taking bill is tantamount to encouraging corruption,” he said adding that the government should not make mockery of the constitution.

Pakistan People’s Party Naveed Qamar, on a point of order, said that the government should accept the opposition’s bill as “this controversial bill is not acceptable”. “You are too late to take advantage of the bill. It is just a joke,” he said.

Another opposition MNA from Jamaat-e-Islam Tariq Ullah said that the government intended to pass the bill only to give cover to the Panama Leaks issue. “We are also in favour of making powerful a commission but this is not the way,” he said.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker S Iqbal Qadri said that the bill was against the constitution of country. “This bill is against article-142 of the constitution,” he said. A dissenting note of Qadri on the bill said, “The commission shall consist of not more than five members. The members of the commission shall be retired judges of the Supreme Court or high court.”

The existing law related to the appointment of commission of inquiry and empowering it for the purpose is Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956.

According to the government bill, 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,” it says.

“Accordingly the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Bill, 2016, has been prepared to achieve these objectives,” says the bill.

A clause of bill “protection of action taken in good faith” says, ‘no suit or other legal proceedings shall lie against the federal government, the commission or any member therefore, or any person acting under the direction either of the federal government of the commission in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this act or of any rules or orders made there under or in respect of the publication”.