News Deadlock on 20th Amendment: talks to continue today

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Mar 5, 2010
ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition would continue discussions today on the draft of 20th Constitutional Amendment to reach consensus amid differences, Geo News reported Wednesday.

The deadlock between the government and the opposition on the amendment continued for the second consecutive day on Tuesday as no headway was made on the issue of setting up a caretaker government.

However, both sides did indicate a willingness to reach an agreement by Wednesday in order to pave the way for the passage of the amendment from both houses of parliament latest by Thursday.

The second round of talks was held at the parliament house on Tuesday in which the PPP was represented by Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Shah, Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar and Mian Raza Rabbani, while the PML-N was represented by leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

A stalemate ensued, however, on the issue of the caretaker government, with the opposition demanding that the word 'consultation' be replaced with 'consensus' between the outgoing prime minister and the opposition leader over the matter of setting up a caretaker government.

The condition of consensus between the outgoing prime minister and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly on the caretaker government is one of four conditions set by the opposition to support the 20th amendment, which would result in the restoration of suspended members of the National Assembly and the Senate.

However, the opposition and government did agree on certain issues, such as the constitution of an independent Election Commission, and fixing tenure at five years instead of two for members of the ECP as part of the 20th amendment.

According to sources, there was also agreement between the government and opposition on the procedure of removing members of the election commission.

The government has also assured that it will implement the 18th amendment in letter and spirit and there will be no deviation from it.

The only issue that now remains to be dealt with is the appointment of a neutral caretaker government before the next election, and both sides are hopeful that they would cross this bridge by Wednesday.

Sources said if both sides were in unanimous agreement, the amendment would be presented in the National Assembly for passage on Wednesday and get Senate approval on Thursday.

"We will meet on Wednesday again as the PML-N sought time for consultation with their leadership," said Syed Khursheed Shah while talking to reporters following negotiations with the PML-N here at the parliament.

Talking to the media after the meeting, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said he hoped that headway would be achieved on the 20th amendment by Wednesday. "No progress was made on the matter during negotiations Tuesday and the PML-N [simply] reiterated its stance today," he said.

Chaudhry Nisar said the legislators whose membership was suspended were not at fault because it was the Chief Election Commissioner who was actually responsible for this.

"We believe that the constitution of an independent Election Commission will benefit the purpose of the 20th amendment," he added.

He said that under the Constitution a chief election commissioner could not be granted a term extension. He said his party wanted a caretaker prime minister who enjoyed the consensus of the entire nation.

"The caretaker PM should be capable of making possible the holding of transparent elections," he said. Chaudhry Nisar also affirmed that the PML-N desired that the caretaker prime minister belong neither to the PPP nor the PML-N.