Opposition parties on Monday declared the Income Tax Ordinance and Nepra Ordinance unconstitutional and urged the National Assembly speaker to withdraw the ordinances.
The opposition also demanded that the government withdraw proposed legislation that seeks greater autonomy for the central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
Speaking at a point of order, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal said the PTI government is compromising on the sovereignty of the country as it wants to turn the SBP into a subsidiary of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “We will, however, not allow this,” he said.
He said the country could only be run properly by complying with the Constitution. “According to Article 73, whenever a government introduces a new tax after the adoption of a finance bill or makes any amendments, it has to get the nod of the parliament by introducing it as a money bill.
“However, the government has imposed new taxes of Rs700b by introducing ordinances which is a violation of the Constitution,” the former planning minister said.
Iqbal said even the president and the prime minister don’t have the authority to amend the tax system. It is only the parliament, he said, that can impose taxes and make amendments in tax structure.
The PML-N leader urged NA Speaker Asad Qaiser to immediately withdraw the ordinances, stating that the speaker is the custodian of the house and he must protect the constitutional limits.
Responding to the objections, Hammad Azhar – who on Monday replaced Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as the federal minister for finance – said the past governments including that of the PML-N had been introducing new taxes through the Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs).
He said if an ordinance can’t be promulgated on financial matters then the SROs should also be inadmissible. “If we accept this argument [of Ahsan Iqbal] then all the SROs will become void,” he said, adding that such a move would create a constitutional crisis.
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Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan said the government could issue ordinances on financial matters in the light of Article 89 read with Article 73.The speaker read Article 89 with Article 73 and gave the ruling that government can promulgate ordinances on financial matters.
Iqbal objected to the ruling and said the PML-N could challenge it in the court. However, former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who belongs to the PPP, noted that it would be improper to drag other state institutions in the parliamentary matters.
PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq, who also served as the NA speaker from 2013 till 2018, proposed that that speaker stop implementation of the ruling and should rather come to a conclusion after consulting with the legal experts from the treasury and opposition benches.
The speakers agreed to the proposal and announced that a committee comprising adviser to the prime minister on parliamentary affairs, the federal law minister, the Attorney General for Pakistan as well as legal minds from the opposition will take up the matter in three days.
JUI-F lawmaker Akram Khan Durrani raised the issue of mysterious murder of four children in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The speaker asked Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar to submit a report on the incident.
A PPP lawmaker, Syed Agha Rafiullah, pointed out the lack of quorum and after a headcount the speaker had to adjourn the proceedings till Thursday 4pm.