Islamabad Politics Report: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Mian Raza Rabbani on Monday objected to President Mamnoon Hussain’s promulgation of four ordinances that brought into force the incumbent government’s Economic Reforms Package (ERP), arguing that the president’s bypassing of parliament on the matter rendered the ordinances “illegal”.
Rabbani, a former Senate chairman, was speaking at the first session of the upper house chaired by his successor, Sadiq Sanjrani.
During the debate, Rabbani said, “The president promulgated these four ordinances without taking the parliament into confidence. He stepped on mine as well as the entire house’s toes. It seems as if there is an ordinance factory around the parliament building.”
“According to the Supreme Court’s decision, an ordinance cannot be passed in this manner. They can only be passed after being presented to the cabinet. The Economic Advisory Council has no standing in the eyes of the law, and hence these ordinances are illegal,” he argued. Rabbani demanded that the matter be referred to the Privileges and House Committee.
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman similarly accused the federal government of “imposing” the ordinance on the parliament.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Sirajul Haq questioned the intentions behind introducing the controversial amnesty scheme, saying, “The government has brought the amnesty scheme only to convert black money into white. The scheme’s actual purpose is not to extend the tax net but to provide relief to the corrupt.”
The JI chief said that passing the ordinances right after calling parliamentary sessions on the matter was “sad”. “It shows that the government did not want the schemes debated in parliament,” he added.
The opposition later walked out in protest after recording its objections.
Finance Minister Rana Afzal disagreed with Rabbani and the opposition’s evaluation, claiming that “no laws were violated in the promulgation of the ordinances.”
The minister also clarified that the cabinet was consulted on the matter. “It is incorrect to think that the cabinet’s approval was not taken. The cabinet’s approval was obtained through circulation,” he said.
President Mamnoon Hussain on Sunday promulgated four ordinances to implement the ERP, which envisaged a “one-time” amnesty scheme to whiten undeclared assets at home and abroad, reduction in income tax rates and issuance of dollar-denominated bonds and prohibition of cash transactions in non-filer accounts.
Voluntary Declaration of Domestic Assets Ordinance 2018, Foreign Assets (Declaration and Repatriation) Ordinance 2018, Income Tax (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, and Economic Reforms (amendment) Ordinance 2018 were the ordinances that were promulgated.
Winding-up discussion on a motion moved by Leader of the Opposition Sherry Rehman regarding the healthcare system, the Minister of State for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Darshan said the federal government had devised National Health Vision Programme which would be implemented with the collaboration of provinces. He said primary and secondary health system had already been in place and there was a need to further improve it.
Dr Darshan said that the responsibility of health had been devolved to the provinces after the passage of the 18th amendment in Constitution and the federal government only had a regulatory duty to play now.
He said the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had also launched a health insurance programme to provide free healthcare facilities to the poor. “Free healthcare facilities were also being provided to registered beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Programme,” he added.
Earlier, speaking on the motion, the senators urged the government to devise a concrete strategy for the provision of healthcare facilities to the masses.
They also called for enhancing the health budget and the complete devolution of health to the provinces. The government was spending less than 2 per cent of the gross domestic product on the healthcare facilities which was needed to be enhanced, they added.
Those who spoke on the motion included mover Sherry Rehman, Muhammad Azam Swati, Mir Kabeer Shahi, Sitara Ayaz, Dr Mehar Taj, Muhammad Ali Saif, Sardar Azam Musakhel and Sikandar Mandhro.