ISLAMABAD: More than 90 percent of parliamentarians remained absent during the passage of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 showing lack of interest in the legislation that will affect around 200 million Pakistanis.
The law was passed by simple majority when only 30 members, 9% of the National Assembly strength, were present in 342-member house. The bill is being criticised by the civil society for putting curbs on freedom of expression but even opposition members failed to ensure their presence in big numbers to present their stance on the issue.
They also failed to point out quorum while one-fourth of the total strength of members was clearly not present in the house. Only 12 members of the opposition and 18 of the government were present when the bill was passed by the house.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s Shazia Marri remained vocal from the opposition benches along with Pakistan Tehrike-e-Insaaf (PTI)’s Shireen Mazari and Dr Arif Alvi and Muttahida Qoumi Movement (MQMs)’s Ali Raza Aabdi. Minister of State for Information and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman was responding from the government side. Riaz Pirzada and Zahid Hamid were the only two other cabinet members to be present in the house.
“It was the government bill so treasury benches had to ensure presence of their members but it failed miserably in its job,” PPP’s Shazia Marri said while talking to The News on the issue.
“We could have easily delayed the passage of bill by pointing out the quorum but were committed to parliamentary business so we did not hamper the proceedings,” she said adding that opposition showed good gesture.
Marri said the bill has been improved a lot after incorporating her proposed amendments but still she was not fully satisfied with the approved legislation. “There are many provisions in the law that could be misused in future. So we will keep an eye on its implementation if it is passed by the Senate,” she said adding that the bill is need of the hour but there must be necessary safeguards to ensure freedom of expression.
The experts of parliamentary business lamented the lack of members’ interest in important legislation. “We have been demanding that at least quorum must be ensured while passing a bill which means at least 86 members should be present in the house,” says Muddassir Rizvi who is head of projects at Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen).
He said there is flaw in parliamentary rules of business which allows the house to pass a bill even if two of the three members present in the house vote in favour. “The rules only require majority of member present in the house to pass a bill,” he added.
Courtesy: The News