ISLAMABAD: The opposition will attempt to pass in the National Assembly today a bill seeking to restrict disqualified parliamentarians from heading a political party.
On October 23, the opposition-controlled Senate passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017 with a majority vote, banning disqualified persons from taking part in political activities.
The bill had been put forward by leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), among other opposition parties’ members.
The amendment in section 203 of the Elections Act 2017 seeks to reimpose a ban on disqualified persons from taking part in political activities.
Earlier, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) managed to pass the Elections Act, 2017 from the National Assembly and then the Senate to allow former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to head the PML-N once more after his disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.
Earlier electoral laws had barred disqualified persons from heading political parties.
Game of numbers
At present, the government and its allies number 213 — the PML-N has 188 members, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl 13, PML-Functional 5, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party 3, National Peoples party 2, PML-Zia 1 and National Party 1.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties’ numbers are as follows: PPP 47, PTI 33, Muttahida Qaumi Movement 24, Jamaat-e-Islami 4, Awami National Party 2, PML-Quaid 2, Balochistan National Party 1, Qaumi Watan Party 1, All Pakistan Muslim League 1 and Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan 1.
Moreover, there are 10 independents in the lower house.
Since the PML-N holds a majority in the National Assembly, it is unlikely that the bill will be passed.
If the lower house rejects the bill, the matter will go to a joint sitting of Parliament where the PML-N and its allies will still outnumber the combined opposition.
However, of late, the PML-N has been struggling to ensure the presence of its lawmakers in the National Assembly. This was seen most recently when, earlier this month, the government failed to ensure the quorum in the lower house while attempting to pass the delimitation bill.
Moreover, since Nawaz’s disqualification, the opposition parties have claimed time and again that there are fissures in the PML-N, with dozens of party lawmakers ready to jump ship.