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ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani came under fire from opposition on Friday for siding with the government over the passage of the controversial State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2022 – by just one vote.

Presided over by Sanjrani, the Senate sitting saw high drama, after the said bill, presented by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, was not referred to the Senate’s relevant committee by the chairman Senate.

Instead, he straightaway allowed voting on the bill which was already passed by National Assembly.

The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that the motion to grant leave to introduce the bill had a tie—with 43 votes each in favour and against the bill. The chairman Senate then voted in favour of moving the bill—allowing the bill to be introduced in the Senate with a margin of 44-43.

After the bill was introduced, the voice vote was again held— to determine whether or not the House wanted to pass the bill. This time, 43 votes were in favour of the bill and 42 against it—allowing the SBP (Amendment) Bill 2022 to sail through the upper house of the Parliament by the slightest margin of one vote.

The proceedings of the House turned dramatic when Parliamentary Affairs State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan requested the chair to defer for some time the scheduled presentation of SBP (Amendment) Bill 2022 on the pretext that finance minister himself, who was not present at that time in the House, would present the bill.

Ahead of IMF's 6th review, Senate approves SBP (Amendment) Bill, 2021

Later, the finance minister arrived in the House but left soon after. This attracted the opposition’s ire with senators from mainstream opposition parties having slammed the chairman Senate for allowing unusual delay in the presentation of the bill.

“This is an insult of the Parliament. This is like degrading your position. This bill has been on the Senate’s business agenda for today. The finance minister was here but this bill has not been presented,” said Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), addressing Sanjrani.

“What can I do when this government has not presented this bill?” Sanjrani asked.

“What you can do is to simply issue a direction that this bill is withdrawn from today’s business—you can issue a ruling on this issue,” Khokhar said.

PPP Parliamentary Leader in Senate Sherry Rehman lambasted the treasury benches on this issue. “Shame on you for trying to bring such a shameful piece of legislation in the Parliament,” she said.

“Today, the way this government is behaving—the way they have panicked— fearing that the bill would be rejected—it’s their defeat—we have handed them a crushing defeat—this is the victory of us, the opposition,” she said.

Another date: IMF board to now meet on February 2 for Pakistan's sixth review

“This bill is a direct threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty and national security, it will ensure that the lender of last resort is unable to take Pakistan out of any future crisis. Central banks are autonomous only to the extent they make monetary policy. It seems PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) has borrowed so much in its 3.5 years that commercial banks will become the only lenders. What will happen to the SBP, lender of last resort when crisis looms? What will happen to the government’s ability to put down sovereign guarantees in big projects? These are listed as contingent liabilities, which is debt, so the IMF (International Monetary Fund) can now overrule even these. Such terms are unheard of and totally rejected by the joint opposition,” she added.

Former chairman Senate Farooq Naek from PPP took on Sanjrani. “For God’s sake, have some sense. Your position is being questioned. Your position is being challenged. If you cannot do what is right, what are you here for?” he deplored.

He demanded of the chairman Senate to “defer this bill from Senate’s order of the day for at least a month.”

Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem said, “They (opposition) senators are not only making your (Sanjrani’s) status controversial, they are also demanding what is not permissible in the rules.”

Sanjrani responded, “This is between me and them — let them say whatever they are saying to me — that’s none of your business — you should have no concern with that.”

Raza Rabbani, another chairman Senate, also from PPP, also took the floor to share his views but his speech was immediately interrupted by the arrival of Tarin, the Finance Minister, in the House who finally introduced the bill.

The opposition demanded that the bill be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs.

However, the leader of the House said that this bill was “vital in the national interest and it should be passed today,” following which, the chairman put up the bill for voting.

Meanwhile, Senate also passed another government bill: The National Metrology Institute of Pakistan Bill 2022 which provides for the establishment of National Metrology Institute of Pakistan (NMIP) as an autonomous body but still under the administrative control of Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST).

The House was adjourned till Monday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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