Govt struggles to bring all on board

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The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday struggled to lobby support for the proposed 22nd Constitutional Amendment from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) as it considers bringing the anti-horse-trading bill to parliament on Monday for approval.

On the other hand, the government appears to have shown flexibility to the demands of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for formation of a judicial commission to probe alleged rigging in the 2013 General Elections, which could pave the way for the return of former cricketer Imran Khan’s party to parliament in the next few days.

On Saturday, the PPP formally informed the government that it would not support the proposed constitutional amendment. The amendment aims to curb horse-trading in the Senate polls, which are scheduled for March 5, by changing the voting procedure from ‘secret ballot’ to ‘open ballot’.

Talking to reporters, former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said that the PPP had informed the government that it would not endorse the constitutional amendment.

“The PTI should explain why it is backing the government for the amendment. Two different laws cannot be made for the same matter. When the people cast their votes by secret ballot then why should legislators voice their will through open ballot?” He added that “the people” will not accept any amendment aimed at securing personal gains.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and PTI have thrown their weight behind the government while the PPP and JUI-F have resisted the government-proposed draft legislation. The PPP is insisting that instead of bringing a constitutional amendment, the government should instead consult with other political parties to prevent horse-trading.

Also on Saturday, a two-member government delegation comprising Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid called on JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman and tried to talk him into supporting the constitutional amendment.

Addressing reporters after the meeting, Fazl said that he hasn’t recovered from the 21st Amendment and another amendment is being sprung upon him. He said that he cannot be part of further lawmaking.

The JUI-F chief said that he has strong reservations on the amendment even though his party is an ally of the government.

Fazl said that he believed that the PTI was supporting the proposed amendment as it wanted to return to parliament.

Addressing reporters after Fazl, Information Minister Rashid said that the JUI-F chief’s reservations would be communicated to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

He said that Fazl’s services for strengthening democracy and democratic norms was commendable and widely acknowledged by all democratic forces and the PM would not make any decision without taking him and other political leaders into confidence.

Rashid said there was no difference among political parties on ending horse-trading. “There can be differences on the way of achieving the task but all are in favour of cleansing the political system,” he added.

Commenting on Fazl’s opposition to the proposed legislation, PTI spokeswoman Shireen Mazari said that the JUI-F chief would never support the 22nd Amendment as an end to ‘money matters’ in Senate elections as it would also mean ‘game over’ for the Maulana.

Slamming Fazl’s statement, Mazari said that the JUI-F leader’s ‘moralities’ didn’t stop him from joining an allegedly rigged government but would stop him from supporting an amendment that curbs horse-trading in parliament.

Meanwhile, MQM chief Altaf Hussain has written a letter to the SC chief justice urging him for a befitting role of the Supreme Court to break the current political imbroglio.

In a statement issued from the party’s London Secretariat, he expressed dismay over the current political situation and called upon the apex court to intercede.

Altaf Hussain asserted, “As the Supreme Court is the guardian of the Constitution, I hereby call upon Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Nasirul Mulk and his learned companion Judges to suo moto, invoking article 184(3) of the Constitution, issue directions under articles 187, 189 and 190 of the Constitution whereby a proper methodology for the Senate Elections is declared and if necessary, a commission be appointed under order 32 of the Supreme Court Rules, whereby members of the Armed Forces, select Parliamentarians, lawyers, technocrats and others known in diversified fields, are appointed as members of the commission so as to resolve the present crisis.”

GOVT AND PTI INCH CLOSER:

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has handed over the government’s response to the opposition jirga’s letter regarding rapprochement with the PTI over the election rigging probe.

Talking to reporters after meeting Dar, PPP’s Rehman Malik and Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq said that the two sides appeared to be reaching closer to an agreement as the government has shown willingness in forming the proposed judicial commission – the modalities of which were being discussed now.

Sirajul Haq said that he was confident that the PTI would soon return to the National Assembly to play its role in national politics.