ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s latest remarks that the government can run the legislative business through presidential ordinances have stirred another controversy, with the opposition parties questioning the practicality of the idea.
The opposition leaders allege that the prime minister’s statement showed that he had no knowledge about the Constitution of the country which, after the 18th Amendment, has curtailed the government’s arbitrary powers to use ordinances as an alternative to legislation outside the parliament.
The prime minister had stated that although the PTI and its allies lacked majority in the Senate to pass legislation smoothly, they would not go for any settlement with the opposition parties to take their support and would make legislation through ordinances, according to media.
In the interview, the prime minister had highlighted salient features of the legal reforms which the government wanted to enforce to facilitate early disposal of cases and inheritance rights of women and widows.
When asked as to how the government would ensure legal reforms without having the support of the opposition, which had a majority in the Senate, PM Khan said legislation would be done through presidential ordinances, adding that the option of entering into a settlement with the opposition meant that corruption cases against their leaders should be closed and he would never go for it.
Under Article 89(1) of the Constitution, “the President may, except when the (Senate or) National Assembly is in session, if satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action, make and promulgate an ordinance as the circumstances may require”.
It says that an ordinance promulgated under this Article shall be laid before the National Assembly or the Senate, whichever goes into session first and “shall stand repealed at the expiration of 120 days from its promulgation or, if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving” it is passed by any house of parliament “upon the passing of that resolution”.
Under the Constitution, an ordinance can only be re-promulgated once as it says that “either House may by a resolution extend it for a further period of 120 days and it shall stand repealed at the expiration of the extended period, or if before the expiration of that period a resolution disapproving it is passed by a House, upon the passing of that resolution”.
The opposition leaders are of the opinion that Mr Khan cannot even do legislation through ordinances without the support of the opposition.
Contempt of parliament
Senior leader of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Ahsan Iqbal termed the prime minister’s remarks “disrespect and contempt of parliament and its role in law-making”.
Mr Iqbal was of the opinion that the provision of legislation through ordinances was meant only for emergency situation and it could not be adopted for minor and routine legislations.
“(PM) Imran Khan has once again demonstrated that he does not have any understanding as to how parliament functions,” he said, adding that Mr Khan should know that legislation through ordinances was always considered to be “bad legislation”.
Similarly, former Senate chairman and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwart Raza Rabbani also expressed his displeasure over the prime minister’s remarks, saying that it exposed Mr Khan’s complete ignorance about legislative work.
Talking to media, Mr Rabbani regretted that parliament had not passed any act since the formation of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government after the July 25 elections and the present rulers had already made parliament redundant.
The PPP leader recalled that as Senate chairman he had given a very detailed ruling on the issue of legislation through ordinances. Besides, he added, there were a number of such rulings from the superior courts of the country. He said an ordinance was not only required to be laid before parliament, the government was also bound to give reason for the delay of each day in laying it in parliament.
Mr Rabbani said the government had not taken parliament into confidence on a number of major developments which showed that the rulers had no respect for parliament.
“It should be realised that in the scheme of trichotomy of power, parliament is the mother of all institutions and making such an institution dysfunctional will have disastrous effect on the institutional structure of the state,” warned Mr Rabbani.
The PPP leader alleged that through a deliberate intent, “a systematic campaign is being carried out to demonise and bring into ridicule the offices of the Senate chairman and the NA speaker”.
When contacted, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry clarified that the prime minister had made the remarks in the context of emergency situations and he was talking in the perspective of “emergency legislations”. He said Mr Khan had been a member of the assembly for the third time and he was well aware of the constitutional provisions regarding legislation.
Mr Chaudhry alleged that the opposition parties were non-serious as far as legislative work was concerned and they were only interested in getting themselves clear from corruption cases.