Bilawal faults his elders for turning politics into minefield

• Says Zardari, Nawaz seem to want new generation of leaders to suffer as they did
• Calls for decisions that will make things easier for next generation, including himself, Maryam
• NA passes ‘modified’ Official Secrets Act

ISLAMABAD: In his parting remarks on the floor of the current National Assembly, Foreign Minister and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari implored his father, Asif Ali Zardari, and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif to take decisions that will make politics easier for the younger generation, which he said was losing hope in the country’s future.

The foreign minister’s remarks came as hasty legislation continued on Monday, with the assembly rushing through seven new laws, including controversial changes to the Official Secrets Act, 1923.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari indirectly expressed displeasure over the policies of his elders, saying he had asked his father that they should make decisions in a way that makes politics easier, and not difficult for him and Maryam Nawaz, who is widely believed to be Nawaz Sharif’s heir apparent in national politics.

“[Asif] Zardari sahib and Mian [Nawaz Sharif] sahib should take decisions which would make politics easier for me and Maryam Sharif, instead of making it difficult,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said while delivering his farewell speech.

“It seems that our elders have decided that whatever they suffered in their 30-year-long political career, they want us to suffer in the same way over the next 30 years.”

He urged all political parties to focus on the youth which had lost trust in the politicians.

Almost 65 per cent of the country’s population was below the age of 30 and “we should not rob them of their hopes.”

Mr Bhutto-Zardari stressed the need for dialogue among all political parties and state institutions either to devise a new charter of democracy or adhere to the one signed by his mother, Benazir Bhutto, and Mr Sharif in London in May 2006.

There was a need to make other institutions a part of this dialogue to decide how they would be run. “It should be decided whether Wapda would be run by its federal minister or a chief justice of the Supreme Court.”

“We need to settle on the rules of games and decide which code of conduct we are to follow, the premise of which should not only be limited to interactions among political parties but also with institutions,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari added.

The PPP leader recalled his first stint as a member of National Assembly and the “historic” occasion when opposition and treasury members swapped seats in April last year, following the successful no-confidence motion against the then prime minister Imran Khan.

He said it was for the first time that the nation saw a prime minister being removed through a constitutional procedure.

He continued that the state institutions should function within their domains.

“History will be the judge of whether we were successful in our efforts or not,” he said while admitting the incumbent government “somehow failed” to keep institutions within their domain during their 16-month stint.

Amendments to Official Secrets Act passed

On Monday, the assembly also passed the modified Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, after its approval from the Senate a day ago.

The bill was earlier passed by the assembly. However, the Senate made some changes in the law before approving it, thus necessitating a second approval from the NA.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar told the house that the Senate has made two amendments to the law.

The government has removed two controversial clauses from the law, including one giving intelligence agencies the power to search and arrest suspects without warrants.

In the second amendment, Mr Tarrar said, the act “unintentionally” committed had been removed from the list of offences.

Earlier on Sunday, the Senate amended clause 5 of the bill, which earlier stated: “[A] person may be presumed to have been in communication with enemy or a foreign agent if he has, either within or without Pakistan visited the address of a foreign agent or consorted or associated with enemy or a foreign agent…”

Following the amendments, the word “knowingly” has been added to this clause which will now read “…if he has either within or without Pakistan ‘knowingly’ visited the address…”

Last week, the bill encountered strong opposition from both sides in the Senate and was consequently referred to the relevant standing committee of the House for further deliberation.

Along with the amendment to Official Secrets Act, the assembly also passed the National Commission for Minorities Bill, 2023; the Federal Prosecution Service Bill, 2023; the Pakistan International Airline Corporation (Conversion) (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding (Amendment) Bill, 2023] and the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology, Islamabad (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

During the brief joint sitting of the two houses, the lawmakers also passed the Trade Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Trade Dispute Resolution Bill, 2023.The National Assembly will meet again on Tuesday (today) at 5pm.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2023

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