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ISLAMABAD: Senate, Friday, passed five bills; four government and a private member, including The Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2021 and FATF-related The Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matters) (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

In the last sitting of the 313 Senate sessions, Federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar presented The Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matters) (Amendment) Bill 2021 that was passed by the Senate.

The bill seeks to amend the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act 1997 to improve policies and practices of NEPRA (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority).

“NEPRA has been created to introduce transparent and judicious economic regulation, based on sound commercial principles, to the electric power sector of Pakistan. NEPRA reflects the country's resolve to enter the new era as a nation committed to free enterprise and to meet its social objectives with the aim of improving the quality of life for its people and to offer them opportunities for growth and development. Accordingly, in 1997, the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act 1997 was introduced— Pakistan has been successful in attracting substantial foreign investment in the power sector, but the absence of a transparent regulator regime led investors to secure their investment through long-term contracts. Consequently, a substantial part of the sector has been carved out for long-term contract regulation and the rest of the sector has to carry whatever risk arises from changing circumstances and realities. Pakistan has had to pay dearly for the absence of an acceptable and established regulatory environment for the commercial operation of the sector. For effective and improved role of the regulator, several amendments were made in the NEPRA Act in the year 2017. For further clarity in working and efficiency of regulator, amendments are being proposed—To further improve the NEPRA Act, these amendments are being presented to forth out clarity and precision in market operation, uniform tariff, timey submissions and determination of quarterly and annual tariffs,” reads the State of Objects and Reasons of the bill.

Earlier, Federal Minister for Railways Azam Swati presented The Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matters) (Amendment) Bill 2021 on behalf of Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid.

The bill seeks to amend Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act, 2020 to improve Pakistan’s legal policies against transnational organised crime in line with Pakistan’s commitment to Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Treasury Senator Sarfaraz Bugti from Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and opposition’s Atta-ur-Rehman from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) jointly moved The Members of Parliament (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill 2021, a private-member bill that deals with perks and privileges of parliamentarians.

Interestingly, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, without referring the bill to the relevant standing committee, granted the leave to present the bill, moments after this bill was introduced in Senate. The bill was subsequently passed.

Speaking on the floor of the House, Bugti insisted that the bill did not grant any additional perks and privileges to the lawmakers and it aimed at ‘streamlining’ the provision of air tickets to the lawmakers they were already entitled to.

“Why have you moved this bill?” the chairman Senate asked Bugti but only after the bill was passed.

Saeed Hashmi from BAP raised a Point of Order that why Bugti was being asked about the bill after the bill had been passed. “Don’t teach me the rules, I know what to do,” Sanjrani replied before giving the floor to Bugti.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan moved two government bills in the Senate’s supplementary agenda. “Mr Babar Awan, your ministry provided us house business and handed this supplementary agenda at 10 pm yester night,” the chairman told the advisor.

Awan responded that it was the prerogative of the government to move any bill in the supplementary agenda and to request the House to consider it. Both the bills; The Federal Medical Teaching Institutes Bill 2021 and The National Institute of Health (Re-organisation) Bill 2021 were passed by the Senate (former through voice vote 39-35) amidst strong protest by the opposition against presentation of these bills in the supplementary agenda instead of Senate’s regular agenda.

Former chairman Senate Raza Rabbani from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) received a snub from Sanjrani for continuously raising anti-government slogans in the House and arguing with the Senate staff.

“Raza Rabbani, it’s my prerogative—go back to your seat—don’t scold Senate staff—Scold me if you have to, but don’t scold them,” Sanjrani instructed Rabbani but the latter paid no heed to the chairman’s instructions.

Barring the private member bill that requires National Assembly’s nod and then president’s final ascent in order to become a law, all the four government bills passed by Senate were already passed by National Assembly on June 10. These bills were expected to be signed into law by President Arif Alvi soon.

The Senate session has been prorogued.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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