Govt okays 24th amendment bill

*PPP and PTI cry foul; say Panama Papers case is being heard by SC and that government wants to give right of appeal to PM in case of his conviction

  Govt okays 24th  amendment bill

ISLAMABAD: The government, for the sake of saving the skin of the prime minister in the event of his conviction in the Panama case in the Supreme Court, approved the twenty-fourth amendment Bill in the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice despite the opposition rejecting the timing of the amendment.

The committee met on Monday under the Chairmanship of MNA Bashir Virk here in the Parliament House. In the committee, the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf (PTI) opposed the timing of the twenty-fourth amendment bill because the prime minister's case is being heard by the Supreme Court and the government wants to give right of appeal to the prime minister on a suo moto notice of the apex Court.

The committee considered the Constitution (Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill 2016. MNA Naveed Qamar of the PPPP said though his party was not against the amendment but against the timing of it. He said especially when the Supreme Court was hearing the Panama case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the government wants to save the prime minister through this amendment if he was convicted in this case.

He demanded of the government not to approve the amendment till the apex court's decision on the Panama case. MNA Ayaz Soomro of PPPP said that he brought a similar type of bill in 2015 but it was shot down in the National Assembly. After that, the government was saying that they would bring the amendment regarding the matter soon.

MNA Dr Arif Alvi from PTI said that at present, the public perception is that the government wants to save the PM and there also needed to be some amendments made to it. MNA SA Iqbal Quadri of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) supported the amendment and suggested that filing application for right of appeal should be allowed within seven days and decision of appeal within 60 days.

MNA Aisha Syed of Jamaat-e-Islami opposed the amendment and said that the Supreme Court should take suo moto notice on basic and fundamental human rights and there should not be right of appeal on it.

MNAs belonging to the treasury benches Rajab Ali Baloch, Kiran Haider, Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar and Justice (retired) Ifitkhar Ahmad Cheema supported the bill. They said the amendment should not be stopped due to the Panama hearing. Another PML-N MNA Ayaz Ali Sherazi remained the silent spectator.

Federal Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid rejected the opposition criticism and said that this had nothing to do with Panama case. When Soomro's bill came up for debate on the Assembly floor, it was promised that the government would help it pass through an amendment. Most were able to see the bill for what it was, a desperate, dishonest and deceitful measure to save the skin of the beleaguered prime minister.

He said that previously there was no provision for appeal against an order of the Supreme Court in exercise of its original jurisdiction under clause (3) of Article 184 of the Constitution. This proposed amendment provided for an appeal within thirty days of an order of the Supreme Court to be heard by a Bench larger than the Bench which had passed the order under appeal.

The committee chairman announced that only one member of the panel rejected it and others were in favour of it, so the amendment bill was approved.