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National Assembly passes ‘2 offices bill’

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    National Assembly passes ‘2 offices bill’

    Three Cheers

    ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA), excluding the opposition, on Thursday passed a bill allowing President General Pervez Musharraf to simultaneously hold the offices of both president and chief of army staff (COAS) beyond December 31.

    Shouting anti-Musharraf slogans and accusing government members of betraying the Constitution, the opposition rejected the 2 offices bill and moved a no-trust motion against NA Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain.

    Opposition members besieged the speakers podium, tore copies of the bill and threw the shreds of paper at him. They also tried to break his mike to stop him from announcing the bills passage. Some opposition members used abusive language against the speaker.

    Shouting No Musharraf No and Go Speaker Go and demanding the death penalty for all those abrogating the Constitution, the opposition members asserted that the house proceedings were unconstitutional and illegal. After submitting the no-trust motion signed by 106 members, they said the speaker could not chair the proceedings. They added that the deputy speaker should conduct the house. The NA speaker dismissed their arguments and continued the proceedings.

    Opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPP-P) parliamentary leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim did not attend the proceedings.

    Heated debate on the bill from both treasury and opposition members was in progress when Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Sher Afgan Niazi asked the speaker to cut the debate short and hold a vote to pass The President to Hold Another Office Bill.

    Interestingly, the minister made the request soon after Pakistan Muslim League (PML) President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain arrived in the house. The government had already stated that Mr Musharrafs occupation of the top civil and military offices was imperative for the continuity of economic and political reforms and to fight terrorism. The speaker informed the opposition members that he was bound by the rules to act upon the ministers request. The speaker completed the second and third readings of the bill. After seeking the majoritys opinion, the bill was declared passed.

    The bill will now be sent to the Senate, which is scheduled to meet on October 27. If it is passed by the Senate, the bill will be sent to the president for his assent, after which it will become a law.

    Standing near the speakers podium, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Deputy Secretary General Liaqat Baloch accused the National Assembly speaker of violating the rules and conducting proceedings with partiality.

    MMA Deputy Parliamentary leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmad termed constitutionalist Sharifuddin Pirzada as Tara Masih of all times and accused him of providing constitutional and legal cover to all of Pakistans military dictators. Referring to the 17th Amendment, he said the religious alliance provided safe passage for General Musharraf. He added that the MMA wanted to save the armed forces and the nation.

    At the outset of the proceedings the government failed to maintain quorum in the house. The proceedings remained suspended for half an hour. Participating in the debate, PPPP Secretary General Raja Pervez Ashraf said that treasury members had no idea how dangerous the consequences of the bill could be.