ISLAMABAD - The Opposition on Wednesday in the Senate questioned the legality of the entire House proceedings that led to the voting process and rejection of two FATF-related bills and argued that the bills could not be transmitted to the joint sitting of the Parliament.

On August 25th, the Opposition-dominated House had rejected the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Waqf Properties Bill, 2020 and the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020 with a voice vote after the Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani allowed the motion seeking consideration of both the bills.  

While the Opposition questioned the ‘discretionary power’ exercised by Chairman Senate to allow the motion, Sanjrani just before reading out the prorogation order in his ruling said that the entire proceedings of the House were in accordance with the rules of business and he used his discretionary powers “in the larger national interest” as allowed under the rules.

Former Chairman Senate and PPP stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani while raising the issue on a point of public concern said that the Chairman could not exercise his discretion under Rule 120 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012.

“This is because he had forgone this discretionary power by allowing a motion under Rule 263 to place both the bills on the Orders of the Day for the suspension of Rule 120.”

“Therefore, the notice period of two days (required to bring any bill on the Orders of the Day) as stipulated under Rule 120 of the Senate Rules had not been waived by the House therefore, Order No. 27 and 29 (both the bills) could not have been taken up,” he added.

Senator Rabbani said that even if, the proposition was kept aside, the House refused to give permission for the said bills to be taken into consideration. “Therefore, the procedure adopted for the second reading of the bills and their passage was in contravention of the rules and practices of the Senate.”

He further said that ,therefore, the bills have neither been rejected nor passed by the Senate, and were still pending with the house and couldn’t be transmitted back to the National Assembly or to a joint sitting of Parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution.

Rabbani called Prime Minister Imran Khan’s criticism on the Opposition for not supporting the bills necessary to fulfill requirement of the global anti-money laundering watchdog as unwarranted. “PM is perhaps unaware of the draconian provisions in the Anti- Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill.”

On the other hand, Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani in his detailed ruling over the controversy said that the two bills as passed by the National Assembly on August 24th were placed on the Orders of the Day for the Senate sitting held on August 25th.  

He said in terms of Rule 119 read with Rule 120 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, there shall be an intervening period of two working day between the receipt of notice to move that the bill be taken into consideration and the day on which the motion for consideration is set down in the Orders of the Day.

However, Rule 120 provides discretionary power to the Chairman to direct ,otherwise, and accordingly, if so directed, a motion for consideration of bill can be placed on the Order of the Day and moved without the gap of two working days.

“I was conscious of the requirements and the powers vested in the Chairman under Rule 120 of the Senate Rules, however, wanted to build larger consensus on the important legislative business, hence, decided to devolve these discretionary powers to the house,” reads the ruling.

Accordingly, prior to motions for consideration of bills, a motion under rule 263 of the Senate Rules to dispense with the requirements of rule 120 of the Senate Rules was placed on the Orders of the Day, it adds.

Sanjrani said unfortunately the spirit of devolution of his discretionary power to the house was misunderstood and an untoward situation between the treasury and opposition benches was created. More so, the leader of the house in Senate, Law Minister and Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs informed that the bills were important and urgent as these pertained to important issues directly linked with the national interest, he added.

“It is an admitted fact that mere placement of motion under rule 263 on the Orders of the Day does not affect the requirements of rule 120 vis-à-vis discretionary powers of the Chairman.”

Accordingly, being custodian of the house, in order to maintain the decorum of the House and to give fair opportunity for consideration of legislative business, contentedly linked with national interest, I withdrew my decision of devolution of discretionary powers and allowed consideration of bills, he added.

It was the Constitutional prerogative of the house either to pass or reject the bills.

The bills were rejected by the voice vote at all stages, the ruling said ,adding, that thus, both bills were rejected after due exercise of Constitutional rights by the members present.

“Neither the placement of motion under rule 263 on the Orders of the Day for dispensation of requirements of Rule 120 was improper nor was the use of discretion in the larger national interest barred by Rules and rejection of Bills was under the spirit of Constitution and Rules.”

Senate chairman concluded in his ruling that in view of the above-mentioned facts, the proceedings of the House with regard to both the bills were strictly in accordance with the requirements of Senate Rules.

Earlier, the Treasury and the Opposition members traded corruption charges against each other after the Parliamentary leader of PML-N in the House Mushahidullah Khan criticized the PTI government for creating an impression that former PM and his party leader Nawaz Sharif was not ill and had travelled abroad by befooling people. “

If it is so, take action against all responsible people including Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he said and accused the government of victimizing its political opponents.

PTI Senator Faisal Javed in his response accused the PML-N for doing politics on health. He said Nawaz Sharif had gone abroad for medical treatment but he was often seen shopping and eating out.

“They just come to the country to rule and make money through corruption,” he said.

He said all possible steps would be taken to bring Nawaz Sharif back to the country.

PML-N Senator Ghous Muhammad Khan Niazi remarked that Nawaz Sharif had gone under a procedure and asked under what procedure PTI central leader Jehangir Khan Tareen had been allowed to leave the country.