Pak govt to push for key constitutional amendment

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 16:02

Lahore: Amidst a deadlock between the ruling
Pakistan People`s Party and main opposition PML-N over a
constitutional amendment to give legal cover to recent
bypolls, the government has decided to get the legislation
passed even without a lack of consensus between the two.

"Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has returned from a
two-day visit to Qatar and we will get the bill passed with a
two-thirds majority in Parliament if no consensus is reached
with the PML-N," a senior PPP leader, who did not want to be
named, said.

The 20th constitutional amendment seeks to validate more
than two dozen bypolls that were held under an Election
Commission which was incomplete due to non-appointment of some
members.

The Supreme Court has suspended the membership of 28
members of Parliament and provincial assemblies, mostly
belonging to the PPP and PML-N, who were elected in these
bypolls.

The court`s order affected three federal ministers,
including Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Petroleum
Minister Asim Hussain.

Former premier Nawaz Sharif`s PML-N party has linked its
acceptance of the constitutional amendment to changes to
ensure the independence of the Election Commission and
guarantees about the independence of the caretaker set-up that
will oversee the next general election.

"We are ready to extend the tenure of four members of the
Election Commission to five years, like that of the Chief
Election Commissioner, but we need to evolve consensus on the
independence of the caretaker set-up," the PPP leader said.

PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who is Leader of
Opposition in the National Assembly or lower house of
Parliament, said matters might become very difficult for the
ruling coalition following the suspension of some of its
lawmakers in both houses of parliament.

Federal Minister Khurshid Shah, who is leading the PPP
team that is holding talks with the PML-N on the
constitutional amendment, said the government had accepted
most of demands of the opposition, which should now show
flexibility.

He said that on the caretaker set-up, "we need to listen
to other parties apart from the PML-N".

Shah said the ruling coalition had a two-thirds majority
in both the 342-seat National Assembly and the 100-seat
Senate, which is required to pass a constitutional amendment,
but would prefer forging consensus with the opposition as was
done to pass the 18th and 19th constitutional amendments.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 16:02

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