The government laid the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Ordinance, 2019, before the National Assembly on Wednesday, the opening day of the winter session, despite the opposition’s protest.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Swati laid the ordinance seeking establishment of a new authority aimed at early completion of CPEC projects after the opposition members had an altercation with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a heated debate on handling of the Kashmir issue.
As soon as Mr Swati placed the ordinance, Ahsan Iqbal of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) took the floor to assail the government for, what they called, running the government through ordinances.
Mr Iqbal, who had overseen the CPEC projects as minister for planning during the previous PML-N government, termed the laying of the ordinance an ‘insult’ to the parliamentary committee as it had opposed the setting up of the authority through ordinance.
He said the members of the parliamentary committee had apprehended that the setting up of this authority could damage the CPEC projects and, therefore, they had recommended that the government should carry out normal legislation to allow a thorough discussion. He said the opposition condemned this move to lay the ordinance against the recommendations of the parliamentary panel.
Qureshi urges opposition not to ‘minimise’ govt efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue
PPP’s Naveed Qamar said the Constitution allowed promulgation of ordinances under special circumstances, but the present government had made it a regular practice of doing legislation through ordinances.
Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri said since the ordinance had been laid in the form of a bill and had been referred to the committee, the opposition could raise its objections there.
The ordinance had been promulgated by President Dr Arif Alvi in October before the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China. Last month, the government appointed retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa as chairman of the CPEC Authority.
The opposition also objected to the government’s move to table four identical bills seeking to replace the word “federal government” with “prime minister”.
Mr Qamar was of the view that by doing so, the government might be committing contempt of court as the Supreme Court, in one of its recent judgements, had interpreted the word “federal government” as representing the whole cabinet.
Responding to the objection, the parliamentary affairs minister said the parliament had powers to do whatever legislation it wanted and this power could not be given to any other institution. He claimed that the bills had been moved in the light of the apex court’s judgements.
Earlier, the house witnessed a heated debate between the opposition members and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the Kashmir issue.
Speaking on a point of order soon after the Question Hour, Ahsan Iqbal regretted that so far the government had failed to force India to lift curfew in the occupied valley. Calling for launching a “diplomatic emergency”, the PML-N leader was of the view that both the prime minister and the foreign minister should visit 15 to 20 important world capitals to highlight the misery of the Kashmiri people.
He asked the government to make efforts for convening a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) within 15 days.
Delivering an emotional speech, Mr Iqbal suggested that if the OIC could not even convene a meeting on Kashmir, “Pakistan must withdraw from this dead horse”.
Maulana Abdul Wasay of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl termed the government’s efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue a complete failure. He said Pakistan had lost its case when it handed over the matter to US President Donald Trump for mediation.
Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitral of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal asked the government to declare Jihad, promising that he would arrange 10,000 Mujahideen from Chitral for the purpose.
In his reply, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi urged the opposition not to “minimise” Pakistan’s efforts to highlight the Kashmir issue around the world. He claimed that the US president could not get a chance to mediate on the issue as India had opposed the idea. He also opposed the proposal that Pakistan should declare Jihad, saying such a move could damage the Kashmir cause and Pakistan at the international level.