ISLAMABAD: Throwing a spanner in the works, an opposition lawmaker on Thursday blocked the passage of bills seeking to establish more universities in the country.
Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali pointed out a lack of quorum in the National Assembly, compelling Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf to abruptly adjourn the sitting till Friday morning (today), abandoning the remaining legislative business that the government had brought through a supplementary agenda.
Chitrali, the lone Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) member, pointed out lack of quorum, for which the presence of minimum 25 per cent members (86 in the 342-member house) is required.
He did so in protest after he was slammed by the movers as well as the speaker for opposing multiple bills envisioning the creation of yet more universities in the country.
Before having a war of words with members on the issue, the JI MNA had already blocked passage of a bill calling for the establishment of the Federal Prosecution Service in Islamabad, due to a personal grievance.
The speaker, who had already deferred a number of agenda items — including Question Hour — due to the absence of the ministers, had no other option but to hold the bill.
But before this, the government had managed to get approval for eight bills, including one seeking to establish an Institute of Gujrat, moved by PML-N MNA Armaghan Subhani. Most of these bills were introduced in the same sitting and the government sought their approval by suspending a number of assembly rules.
The drama started when the speaker started taking up legislative business through a supplementary agenda, which has become routine over the past week or two, including more bills to set up new universities.
At this, Mr Chitrali drew the attention of the house towards widespread criticism in the media over the hasty passage of the university bills. He said it was being alleged that the MNAs were taking money from those who had made education into a business and exploiting the students as “mafias.”
The speaker also defended the movers of the bills and said that he had already issued a ruling that setting up these newuniversities would be subject to the completion of codal formalities and approval of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
However, even Education Minister Rana Tanvir Hussain, who entered the house just as Maulana Chitrali was having a verbal clash other members, confronted the speaker on the issue.
The minister said that approving the bills meant approving their charters, after which the universities got authority to issue degrees.
He cited some examples, stating that the universities started classes soon after approval of the charters without permission of the HEC and some of them even issued degrees, which were later not attested by the HEC, causing problems for thousands of students.