ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing committee on Maritime Affairs opposed three bills including, the Port Qasim Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021, the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and the Gwadar Port Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
“The government will now table these bills in the Upper House, ie, Senate of Pakistan,” federal Minister for Maritime Affairs, Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, announced.
The parliamentary panel met under the chairpersonship of Senator Rubina Khalid, here on Monday.
Minister for Maritime Affairs Zaidi also attended the meeting.
The Port Qasim Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021, The Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and The Gwadar Port Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021 were considered.
According to the proposed bill, the word “federal government” in the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation Bill should be amended with “the concerned division, prime minister and minister.”
The word, federal government, should be amended in the Port Qasim Authority Bill with the concerned division. Amendment in Gwadar Port Authority Bill to replace the word, Federal Government, with the word, Prime Minister and Division
The opposition senators including Moula Bux Chandio, Nuzhat Sadiq, Naseema Ehsan, and Muhammad Akram opposed the bills.
The government members including Dost Muhammad Khan, Fida Khan, Abdul Qadir, and Danesh Kumar supported the bill.
The secretary, Maritime Affairs Committee informed the committee that only 21 sections of the Port Qasim Authority ACT, 1973 are being amended.
Further, only 13 sections of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation Ordinance 1979 are being amended and that only 25 sections of the Gwadar Port Authority Ordinance, 2002 were being amended.
A detailed discussion between the members of the committee and the ministry officials took place on whether or not such amendments can take place by law.
Senator Chandio, while relying on the judgment of the Supreme Court of the Mustafa Impex Case, commented that such an amendment violates the Supreme Court’s judgments.
The ministry briefed the committee that no constitutional change is taking place.
In addition, the ministry referred to Article 98 of the constitution, conferring functions on subordinate authorities on the recommendation of the federal government, Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) by law.
The Minister, Zaidi, while addressing the concern of the members of the committee on change in the bill in contrast to the constitution, commented that if the committee members apprehend that any change has been taken in violation of the constitution, it should be pointed out and be submitted in black and white.
The officials of the ministry further explained that the amendments in the bills are purely for operational purposes and will further improve revenue generation.
The federal cabinet has a lot of important work to do, said Qadir, adding that it is not appropriate that every issue be approved by the cabinet and even an arm license was being approved by the federal cabinet headed by the prime minister.
He recommended postponing the approval of the bills till the next meeting, so that the committee has an opportunity to consider the bill.
Chairperson sought committee members’ opinion that they should vote on the bills, or postpone the matter till the next meeting.
Amendments can be made, if approved by the Cabinet and Parliament, said ministry officials.
Members opposing the bill should state in writing what they object to the bill, said Federal Minister Zaidi, adding that members should explain in writing how this bill is unconstitutional.
He further said that a member could not oppose a bill by only saying that he/she think the bill is unconstitutional.
Fida Muhammad Khan said that they may be given a chance to consider the bill till the next meeting.
Qadir said that give them a chance till the next session, so that they could increase the number of their members to vote on the bills.
Members of the committee recommended voting on the bills.
Four out of eight committee members opposed the bill, while four members were in favour of the amendments in the bill. The casting vote was left on the chair to decide. The chairperson exercised her casting vote against the bills.
Consequently, the Bills further to amend the Port Qasim Authority Act, 1973 [The Port Qasim Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021, The Pakistan National Shipping Corporation Ordinance, 1979 (Amendment) Bill, 2021, The Gwadar Port Authority Ordinance, 2002 (Amendment Bill, 2021) were opposed by majority and did not pass by the Senate panel, stating therein that the authority should remain with the federal government and should not be devolved to the prime minister or minister’s concerned.
Conflict of interest is always there.
There is less chance of corruption/conflict of interest when decisions are made collectively by the federal government, i.e., the cabinet.
Federal Minister Ali Zaidi got angry, while saying that the bills were passed by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, the Ministry of Law and Justice, the Federal Cabinet, the National Assembly Committee and the National Assembly.
“Are these all donkeys?” said Zaidi.
The Committee members also got angry over use of obscene language by the federal minister.
What language is being used, said Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, adding that will they state in writing on every issue what they object to. “I am a donkey,” said Zaidi, and walked out of the meeting in protest, after the committee rejected the bills. Government senators participating in the meeting also walked out.
The minister took to Twitter and stated, honourable Senators of the opposition objecting to these bills had other ideas and “felt” that the amendments were not in the spirit of the constitution. I read article 98 of the constitution and requested them to give us in writing what is against the spirit of the constitution. But sadly, politics won over common sense and national interest! Government will now table these in the Upper House, ie, Senate of Pakistan!
The meeting was attended by Senator Fida Muhammad, Danesh Kumar, Nuzhat Sadiq, Senator Naseema Ehsan, Muhammad Abdul Qadir, Muhammad Akram, Dost Muhammad Khan, and Senator Chandio.
Senior officials of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, the Ministry of Law and Justice, and other attached departments were also in attendance.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021