Government defers ‘Shortcut bill’ to empower interim set-up

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Due to strong opposition from both allies and adversaries, the government has compelled to postpone its plan to grant the caretaker set-up “unbridled powers” as part of electoral reforms.

The plan involved passing the text approved by the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms through a shortcut method, with a last-minute addition of a contentious clause that would have expanded the caretakers’ authority to make decisions on “urgent matters.”

Additionally, an election amendment bill, previously approved by the National Assembly but not by the Senate within the required 90-day period, was included on the joint sitting’s agenda on Tuesday.

The government aimed to push through a comprehensive list of electoral reforms through an amendment in this bill, with little awareness among parliamentarians about the introduced changes.

Former Senate chairman, Raza Rabbani, raised a procedural concern, stating that according to the rules, a clear day’s notice was necessary if amendments were to be proposed for a bill on the agenda. He pointed out that there were 25 motions for legislative business awaiting consideration for bill passage.

Moreover, he noted that many bills on the agenda, with amendments to be introduced, had not provided copies to the members, emphasizing that the joint sitting should not merely serve as a rubber stamp.

Supporting Mr. Rabbani’s standpoint, JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad, PTI’s Ali Zafar, JUI-F’s Kamran Murtaza, and PML-N’s Irfan Siddiqui all endorsed his views.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who initially criticized PTI’s Ali Zafar for emphasizing the parliament’s supremacy, eventually agreed to the bill’s deferral for a day. Consequently, the NA speaker postponed the bill, allowing lawmakers time to review the amendments.