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NA passes bills to set up 24 varsities in single sitting

ISLAMABAD: Continuing its streak of hasty legislation, the National Assembly on Thursday passed 28 private member’s bills — 24 of them seeking establishment of private universities in different parts of the country — without quorum as Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf allowed lawmakers to move motions for the passage of the bills, even on behalf of those members who were absent from proceedings.

Apart from 28 private member’s bills, the lower house also witnessed passage of a government bill and introduction of four other proposed legislations through a supplementary agenda on private member’s day.

Of the 24 bills for the new universities, 16 had been introduced by the members in the same sitting, and the speaker put them for a vote after the house through motions allowed him to do so without referring them to committees concerned.

However, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs Saad Waseem said all these universities would be established after completion of the codal formalities and approval of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). He said the government “appreciates the love of the members for the education” and, therefore, it had decided not to oppose these legislations.

Amendment sets six months to decide appeals against death penalty; Bureau of Aircraft Safety Investigations to probe air crashes

PTI dissident and PAC chief Noor Alam Khan, however, protested over the hasty legislation in the absence of ministers and the members.

Speaking in the National Assembly on Jan 17, Education Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain had also opposed the tradition of tabling bills in parliament to get charters of new private universities without getting HEC’s input, stating that instead of encouraging mushroom growth of educational institutions, focus should be on improving the quality of education.

CrPC amended

The lower house of the parliament also approved a bill seeking to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1898, providing a time span of six months to the courts to make a decision on the appeals of prisoners on death row.

The private member’s bill had been moved by Javed Hasnain of the PML-N and it was supported by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar.

The law minister said it had been observed that the convicted persons on murder charges were acquitted after spending many years in death cells by the courts, but there was no compensation for them for the period they spent in the death cells.

Air safety investigation

The National Assembly also passed Pakistan Air Safety Investigation Bill, 2023, “to provide for better investigation of accidents and other incidents arising out of navigation of aircraft.”

Under the law, the federal government will constitute a Bureau of Aircraft Safety Investigations to hold inves-tigations of the air crashes or other accidents or incidents related to the aircraft safety.

“Presently, air safety investigations are carried out by a unit of the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority, which has also been entrusted regulatory functions. This situation is undesirable in the interest of fairness and objectivity,” reads the Statement of Objects and Reasons attached to the bill, which was tabled by Saad Waseem on behalf of Aviation Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique.

“At the same time, Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) require a separate institutional arrangement for the provision of air safety investigation services. This act has been designed to achieve this purpose,” it added.

The parliamentary secretary also introduced four bills, including the Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the National Commission for Human Development (Amendment) Bill, 2023; the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology, Islamabad (Amendment) Bill, 2023; and the Pakistan Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill, 2023.

The National Assembly will now meet on Monday evening.