Joint session of parliament to discuss PIA future
11 April, 2016
ISLAMABAD: A joint session of parliament is being held on Monday (today) after a gap of three weeks and with a heavy legislative agenda, including a bill seeking conversion of the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC) into a limited company.
According to the session’s agenda, the special parliamentary committee will present reports on six different bills. Consensus has been reached between the government and the opposition over four of the bills.
The proposed laws are: the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) Bill 2016, Emigration (Amendment) Bill 2014, Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill 2014, Amendment in Anti-Rape Laws in Pakistan Penal Code 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 and Qanun-i-Shahadat Order 1984, Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2015, Privatisation Commission (Second Amendment) Bill 2015 and Anti-Honour Killings Laws (criminal laws amendment) Bill 2015.
Although the government and the opposition, in a meeting of the committee on Wednesday, reached consensus on the PIA bill, it is uncertain whether the bill will be passed by the joint session on the first day of its proceeding or not.
It is so because the opposition has made its vote conditional to the withdrawal of termination notices and cases against over 200 airline employees for halting its fight operation during a strike against the proposed law in February.
Senator Saeed Ghani of the PPP told reporters that the opposition was firm in its stance that initially the government should withdraw cases and notices against PIA employees, otherwise the opposition would not support the government in getting the PIA bill adopted.
However, he said, opposition leaders would meet government representatives on Monday before the joint sitting of parliament to discuss the matter.
“If the government fails to withdraw the cases and the notices, the passage of the bill can be delayed,” he said.
The other three bills on which both sides have reached consensus pertain to amendments to the Immigration Ordinance, Civil Servant Act and Privatisation Commission Ordinance.
In Wednesday’s meeting of the committee, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had agreed to include major amendments jointly suggested by the PPP and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf seeking assurance that the proposed law would not be used as a tool in future to privatise the PIA and that the government would not divest more than 49 per cent shares of the airline.
The committee agreed to approve the bill with a major amendment envisaging that control of PIA management would remain with the government.
Head of the special parliamentary committee, Zahid Hamid, said in its last meeting that religious parties had somehow showed willingness to support the anti-rape bill with some amendments, but they were not ready at all to vote for the anti-honour killing bill.
Senator Maulana Ataur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl), who is the brother of the party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said some clauses of the bills were in conflict with religious tenets. He called for referring the two drafts to the Council of Islamic Ideology to seek its opinion.
The Anti-Honour Killings Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2015 had already been passed by the Senate two years ago.
But due to the government’s failure to get the bills passed from the National Assembly with six other bills within the stipulated 90 days, it had to bring them on the agenda of the joint sitting of parliament, which had actually been planned to get the PIA bill passed.
The first bill pertains to preventing killing of women in the name of honour by making the crime non-compoundable. The other seeks to make DNA test a compulsory part of investigation procedure in rape cases.
Religious leaders insist that honour-killing could not be made a non-compoundable offence as it would close doors of compromise opened by Islamic tenets.
Defending the bills, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar said murders in the name of honour had largely gone unpunished because in most cases both the accused and the victim had the same guardian (wali) who promptly pardoned the accused. The bill, he said, sought to remove a major lacuna in the law by making honour killing a non-compoundable crime.
The PPP leader said that ideology and religious tenets were not the issue because the offence of murder had also been taken out from the category of compoundable offences in anti-terrorism and some other laws.