ISLAMABAD: As the National Assembly passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2020, with a simple majority, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan was all praises for the opposition on Tuesday.
Speaking to the media minutes after the legislation was approved in the Lower House, the prime minister’s aide said: “The lower house passing the bills is illustrative of the fact that when it comes to national interest and safety, all political parties are ready to set aside their interests and stand with the government.
“Today, I salute all political parties and the role that they have played [in passing the bills in the National Assembly], especially the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
“They [PPP] withdrew their proposed amendments to the bills in the greater national interest and stood with the national cause,” she said.
“Today is also an eye-opener for the enemies of the state. Whenever the country has needed its political leadership, they have stood by the country and acted in the greater national interest.
“I am hopeful that this show of unity from the Parliament will also be demonstrated on other matters related to the national interest.
“It is time we sit together and brainstorm on developing a strategy for defining and protecting our national interest,” she stressed, adding that the “wave of unity demonstrated today should continue going forward”.
Awan was of the view that the most important issue facing the country currently was national security.
“You can see what is happening in the region,” she said in an apparent reference to a rise in tensions after the US assassination of top Iranian Gen Qasem Soleimani.
“In such a scenario, if there is instability or uncertainty in institutions responsible for national security and their leadership […], it ultimately sends a message to Pakistan’s enemies about your weakness and vulnerability. This serves to perpetuate the propaganda of your enemies.
“Today the parliament has sent a message to the enemies of the state by unanimously passing these bills.”
Senator Fasial Javed, who spoke on the occasion, called for a move towards a “constructive opposition” in the country.
“When the government goes astray, guide it. But when they are headed in the right direction, support it,” he said in his message to opposition parties.
Referencing the Zainab Alert Bill, 2019, the senator said: “Certain pieces of legislation, which are in the greater public interest, are dragged through committees. The opposition should make an active effort to not let bills concerning the well-being of people drag on in committees.”
Later, speaking to reporters, Federal Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the bills will now be tabled in the Senate after which it will be presented to the Senate’s defense committee.
“It will be passed in the Senate tomorrow and become the law.”
Chaudhry said following the passage of these bills, the government will begin talks with the opposition regarding amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
He said some talks had already taken place, adding that Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser will lead the process of consultations.
Following this, the appointments to the Election Commission of Pakistan will be looked at, he added.
“These are the three important issues regarding which the government and opposition are in contact currently,” he said, adding that there was a “mechanism” in place regarding these key bills.