PML-N made four demands, government accepts three


The government-opposition talks for support on the 20th Constitutional Amendment Bill made headway on Friday as the government accepted three out of four conditions set by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for important legislation aimed at providing legal cover to the by-elections held for 23 National Assembly and provincial assembly seats from April 2010 to 2011.
A source told Pakistan Today that the second round of talks was held here at Parliament House between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the PML-N, in which the latter presented its four conditions for supporting the bill. “The PML-N put forth its four conditions including appointment of an independent chief election commissioner, installing a caretaker government with consensus of the opposition leader in the National Assembly, empowering the political parties to fill reserved seats for women and transfer of EOBI, Worker’s Welfare Fund and Sheikh Zayed Hospital from the Centre to the province,” said the source.
The source said the government team accepted three demands out of the four but sought some time for consultation with all stakeholders on the demand for a caretaker regime to hold general elections. The government team comprised Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah, Senator Raza Rabbani and Water and Power Minister Naveed Qamar, while the opposition team was led by National Assembly Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and comprised Senator Ishaq Dar and Zahid Hamid.
“Nisar informed the government team that in order to ensure fair, free and transparent elections, it was mandatory to fully empower the chief election commissioner and the commission should be provided all necessary constitutional cover besides increasing the term of its members from two years to five years,” said the source, adding that some necessary legislation was necessary in the 18th Amendment to remove ambiguities about a caretaker setup. The government team said it could not decide on a caretaker setup by itself and could only be given permission by the prime minister and president, the source added.
Later, Nisar told a group of reporter at his chambers in Parliament House that the government team had responded positively. “The government side has said that the demand about caretaker setup could not be made a part of the constitution, however, the prime minister can give assurance on the floor of the house that caretakers could be appointed in consultation with the opposition leader,” Nisar added. He said the government team had been conveyed that the opposition had no faith in verbal assurances by the prime minister as it had a very bitter experience with the appointment of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, as the premier had termed writing a letter to the opposition leader ‘consultation’.