Senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leadership is hopeful to get the joint opposition’s draft “Panama Papers (Inquiry and Trial) Bill, 2016,” passed from the Senate and the National Assembly in spite of the boycott of parliament by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The government with its 189 seats in a house of 342 seats can easily defeat any bill without seeking any assistance from its allies. The PPP needs at least 94 votes – or half the numbers of the PML-N strength – to present a strong case – that means PPP, a party with 46 seats in the assembly require an additional 48 votes.
However, without PTI’s 33 seats and one seat of Sheikh Rashid, the PPP would also have to muster support of MQM’s 24 members but they already indicated to stay neutral on this issue. Ten parties have a combined total of 25 seats (PML-F, ANP, JI, PMAP, BNP, QWP, PML-Z, NP, and APML). Even if JUI-F with 13 seats vote in favour of the draft bill, the numbers could not compel the government to give in.
Political analysts say that in view of emasculated strength in the parliament, the Opposition parties need to exert enough pressure by other means to make government to bow to their demand to adopt the draft bill. Whether opposition parties are capable to bring the PMLN government under immense pressure, it remains to be seen.
However in background discussions PPP leaders shared with the Business Recorder that the party remains focused on getting the bill passed from parliament instead of resorting to street protests against the government and has expedited its efforts for the purpose.
“We want to utilize the parliament as a forum for accountability of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children in their offshore properties disclosed in Panama Papers Leaks,” according to them. The PPP leaders are of the view that they didn’t want to give a chance to the third force to topple the Sharif government or intervene in the political process by any other means that could have been encouraged by launching mass movement.
They said that they were keeping the street movement as the last option to push the government to become accountable. They said that the government was already under pressure from the PTI’s announced October 30 Islamabad lockdown call.
The PPP along with other opposition parties and some allies of the government would push the government for passage of the Panama bill. Once the bill is passed from parliament, it would pave the way for the establishment of a powerful judicial commission to investigate the Panama papers, they said.
To a question, they said the government may suggest some amendments in the bill which may be accepted with mutual consent of all political parties. They said the PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would also hold meetings with leadership of Awami National Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Jamaat-e-Islami in the coming days to rally their support on the bill.
Bilawal called on JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman on Friday at his residence to muster his party’s support both in the National Assembly and Senate for the bill. Latter is a key ally of the government and he can help the PPP convince the ruling party to build a consensus on the bill. The opposition parties introduced the Panama bill in the Senate on September 26 and managed to get it referred to a relevant standing committee despite opposition from the government.
Naveed Chaudhry, senior leader of PPP, said that his party wants to get the Panama issue resolved through parliament and the relevant bill already presented in the Senate. He said the PPP would launch a street movement against the government by taking all opposition parties into confidence only after they failed to get the bill passed through parliament.
MQM Senator Colonel Tahir Hussain Mashhadi (Retd) told Business Recorder that both opposition parties and the government had contacted them for support on their separate bills, but his party decided to stay neutral. “Neither opposition nor the government seems to be serious in accountability of all,” he said.