ISLAMABAD – The PIA privatisation and other controversial bills will come under discussion at a meeting of special parliamentary committee in order to evolve consensus between the government and the opposition to table it again in the joint session on April 11 (after about three weeks).
The treasury and the opposition, after holding marathon meetings, could not develop consensus to unanimously pass six bills as the government could only pass The Gas Theft and Recovery Bill, 2014 in two days.
The session summoned to discuss legislative business consumed 90 percent of time while discussing former President Pervez Musharraf’s departure from the country in its two days’ proceedings.
The house, in the absence of the prime minister who graced the house only on the first day of the session was informed to jointly discuss six bills by a special committee, comprising 10 lawmakers, including three senators.
The 10 legislators are Mushahid Hussain of PML-Q, Mir Hasil Bizenjo of National Party, Saeed Ghani and Naveed Qamar of PPP, Asad Umar of PTI, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F, Farooq Sattar of MQM, Climate Change Minister Zahid Hamid, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir of PML-N.
The committee members from the government and the opposition will hold three or four meetings to prepare its recommendations on April 7. The joint session of the parliament will again discuss the six bills with amendments on 11 April.
The joint sitting which remained in session for about 10 minutes mainly discussed the controversial matters.
A senior lawmaker shared with The Nation that even a government member has demanded job security of PIA employees if the government intends to privatise the airline. “Anti-employees steps, including retrenchment, golden handshake and cut in perks of PIA employees, should not be carried out in case of privatisation,” he expressed his concerns in the committee.
Talking to media persons, PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said the opposition parties have decided in a meeting to oppose the PIA privatisation bill. “We have demanded further time for deliberations,” he added.
Some heavyweights, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and others, did not appear in the session.
Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah, talking to newsmen after chairing a meeting of the opposition parties, said PIA bill would be opposed in its current status. Earlier, the government had faced difficulty to refer Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Privatisation Bill to the joint session due to stiff resistance from the opposition.
The government, after facing defeat in the Senate, had proposed in the National Assembly through a motion to refer Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) bill, 2016, to a joint sitting for consideration.
The opposition parties adopted a hard stance over the PIA privatization bill, expressing the fear that the government would bulldoze the bill by using numerical strength in the joint sitting, as the bill was passed by the National Assembly amid opposition from all the opposition benches.
A proposal to send the matter to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) was also floated from the Opposition but the finance minister plainly refused to do so.
The government with its existing strength in Senate (27 senators) failed to get the PIAC Bill (2015) passed from the upper house of the parliament.
Sources said the government side has changed its programme to call a joint session of the parliament last Monday as it fears defeat due to absence of some members from the treasury benches. The government has recently faced embarrassment for lack of quorum in the previous National Assembly sitting despite having over two-thirds majority.
The objective of the PIA bill, as the government says, is to ensure continued operations of the country’s airline. In order to achieve the objective, it is imperative to corporatise and convert it into a public limited company, incorporated under the Companies Ordinance, 1984. “This conversion will enable the government to revitalise the airline and develop a healthy, competitive aviation sector in Pakistan,” says the bill.
Political pundits assume the government wants to pass these bills with consensus despite having majority in the joint sitting. “The government is avoiding possible stigma which could be used by the opposition in the upcoming general elections, so efforts are underway to convince the opposition,” they viewed.