National Assembly is expected to vote on the controversial State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021 today (Thursday) while the government is likely to face stiff opposition in the Senate, where this bill is expected to be moved in the ongoing session, if passed by the NA.
An official of Finance Ministry said that voting on both the proposed SBP (Amendment Bill) 2021 and Finance Supplementary Bill 2021 is likely on Thursday and then the SBP bill would be tabled in the upper house of Parliament as its approval would be required from both the Houses, unlike the money bill which requires approval only from the National Assembly to become law.
If the SBP (Amendment) Bill 2021 reaches the Senate, it would be referred to Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs which is headed by Talha Mehmood from Jamiat Ulema-e-lslam Fazal (JUI-F).
Opposition senators in general and the Senate panel in particular are strongly opposed to the SBP (Amendment) Bill 2021. If the government manages to pass this bill from Parliament, the five-year tenure-based appointment of governor SBP, as envisioned in the bill, would not be applicable on the incumbent Governor Reza Baqir whose three-year term would end on May 5 this year. The tenure of governor SBP cannot be extended but he can be reappointed by the prime minister, sources in the Finance Ministry said. However, it is unlikely that the latter would be reappointed after the expiry of his tenure.
Background interaction with senators revealed that treasury benches are concerned that the Senate panel would reject the SBP bill. In case this bill is rejected at the committee level, the government will have no other option but to bring this bill to a joint session or promulgate a presidential ordinance which is reportedly not acceptable to the IMF (International Monetary Fund).
Be that as it may, the promulgation of the ordinance would still require parliamentary legislation eventually keeping in view that an ordinance lapses after 120 days and it can be extended for as many days only once – and lapses permanently if related parliamentary legislation is not done. Sources said that treasury benches had sought help from Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani for the passage of SBP (Amendment) Bill 2021 who was in direct contact with opposition senators for this purpose.
However, Sanjrani is unable to give attention to this after the recent death of his younger brother in a car accident and he has suspended his political activities, it is learnt.
On Tuesday, Senate Secretariat announced that chairman Senate would return to Islamabad on Wednesday evening, from his hometown of Dalbandin, Chagai. From Thursday morning, he would be available for Fateha and condolences at his residence, Senate Secretariat said.
Government’s allies including Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) had reservations over the bill but more recently they expressed willingness to support the bill after meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan, a treasury senator told Business Recorder.
This report was first published in Business Recorder on Jan 13, 2022.