Presidential Ordinances: A remedy for Irregularities in PDM’s Legislation under Interim Rule?

Interim Government's potential use of Presidential ordinances to rectify Legislation: Unveiling a compelling scenario

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A notification bearing reference No.F.5/3/2023-Com, dated August 23, 2023, raises a thought-provoking question that captivates the minds of those who encounter it. The essence of the notification centres around a cabinet committee within the interim government, that embarked on a unique mission to scrutinize the legislative undertakings of its predecessor. This meticulous review seeks to ascertain whether the freshly enacted legislation or amendments align with the constitutional fabric or whether they flagrantly breach established laws.

Delving further into the communication, it is revealed that in the event the committee discerns the need for amendments within the proposals from the sponsoring division, viewed through the prism of policy considerations, and if these changes garner concurrence during the Cabinet Committee for Legislative Cases (CCLC) meeting, then these revised propositions shall ascend for cabinet ratification.

The third point of the notification contemplates a scenario wherein a policy dispute emerges between the sponsoring division and the CCLC. In such instances, the divergent perspectives of both parties shall be laid before the cabinet for a final resolution. Yet, a significant silence follows this decision, leaving a captivating aura of uncertainty. Will the cabinet merely pinpoint discrepancies in the form of “recommendations,” offering a roadmap for future parliamentary amendments? Or will a resolute course be taken, channelling these discrepancies into actionable amendments via the instrument of a Presidential Ordinance?

Amidst this complex landscape, the metamorphosis of the terms of reference (TOR) governing the interim government’s jurisdiction has engendered a web of intricacies. These intricacies obscure the boundaries of domains, powers, and restrictions of the nascent interim government. Evidently, the legislative frenzy orchestrated by the PDM government during its final month in office has incurred substantial censure. Especially subject to scrutiny are the acts pertaining to the establishment of new private-sector universities, with a standout example being the “Pak-China Gwadar University Lahore Bill 2023.”

Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s bold assertion on a televised talk show, pointing to grand-scale corruption and graft schemes entwined in these university bills, has added fuel to this scrutiny. Curiously, a perusal of the legislative records unveils an intriguing facet of numerous individual parliamentarians facilitating the passage of six university bills in a single stroke.

A deeper probe reveals a startling facet of the legislative process. Among the 76 laws sanctioned by the 15th National Assembly, a staggering 36 bills received approval without traversing the path of reference to the pertinent standing committees entrusted with the subject matter’s oversight.

This intricate scenario is further enriched by the establishment of the Cabinet Committee for Disposal of Legislative Cases (CCLC), as sanctioned by the interim Prime Minister in alignment with Rule 17(2) of the Rules of Business 1973. Notably, the notification intriguingly abstains from the explicit use of “interim Prime Minister” or “interim cabinet,” opting for a more nuanced reference to “the prime minister” and “the cabinet.”

Herein lies a thought-provoking conjecture, if the Cabinet Division of Pakistan embraces the notion that the interim prime minister and cabinet assume the roles of their non-interim counterparts, a vista of possibilities unfolds. A scenario emerges where, after deliberate considerations, the prime minister and cabinet could sanction amendments to recently enacted laws. These amendments might then be introduced via Presidential Ordinances, paving the way for a harmonious six-month course illuminated by the beacon of amendments. The ultimate disposition of these amendments might then fall within the domain of the subsequent elected government.

In this intricate interplay of governance, the interim government stands to elevate its standing by curbing or invalidating the impulsive and contentious legislations enacted by the PDM government. Such a decisive stance could garner commendation from the majority of the nation’s populace, still grappling with the jolt delivered by enactments like the puzzling “Pak-China Gwadar University Lahore.” The interim government, armed with the potential to harness Presidential Ordinances, holds a unique opportunity to reshape the contours of governance and earn the trust of the nation it temporarily serves.

Shaheer Gul Khan is a final-year student of English Literature at Government College University (GCU) Lahore. Strives to create a challenging and engaging environment having editor skills in freelancing, a goal-oriented. He can be reached at Twitter @HafizShaheerGu1.