The only positive thing is that both Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (N) have never given up and sticking to the dialogue process to narrow down their differences on the procedure of appointing interim set-up for holding the next general elections.

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) taking advantage of the difficult situation the government was entrapped in, have put its foot down to get all its demands met and made part of the 20th Constitutional Amendment for extending support to the piece of legislation necessary to get the membership of some 28 Parliamentarians including two sitting Federal Ministers restored.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has smartly rolled the ball in the court of Parliamentarians by suspending the membership of some 28 Parliamentarians and not disqualifying them, leaving the matter to the Parliament to decide about their fate.

Political and legal analysts termed the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan as another demonstration of judicial restraint, as under the law the court could have disqualified all these Parliamentarians but the apex court had just suspended their membership giving another chance to the Parliament to settle the matter at the level of the Parliament by passing the 20th Constitutional Amendment.

The 28 Parliamentarians included three Senators, two of them sitting Federal Ministers, nine MNAs and the rest of the MPAs were all elected in by-polls during the period when the Election Commission of Pakistan was incomplete and after the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, no election could take place when the Election Commission of Pakistan is incomplete.

On the one hand the Supreme Court of Pakistan has provided the much needed breathing space to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, which has not enough time to slice some deal with the opposition parties to get the proposed 20th Amendment passed from the Parliament, but on the other hand the government which was already short of strength in the Parliament to meet the two-thirds majority for the passage of the proposed amendment was deprived of the support of another six MNAs in shape of their suspension under the Supreme Court of Pakistan order and now they could not vote for the proposed amendment in the National Assembly.

Hence the reliance of the ruling PPP on the support of the PML-N has increased further to attain the golden figure of 228 in the Lower House of the Parliament to get the proposed amendment to provide legal cover these 28 MPs is necessary.

The nine MNAs whose membership was suspended by the apex court included Jamshed Ahmad Disti, Ch. Asghar Ali Jaat, Ms Khawaja Aamir Yar Malik and Ch. Tassaduq Masud Khan from PPP, Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari from PML-Q, Haji Khud Bux Ragar PML-F, Sardar Shafqat Hayat Khan and Mumtaz Khan Tamman from PML-N and Mohammad Khan Kanju who won the by elections as an independent candidate.

The Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League(Nawaz) has held almost half a dozen contacts but two of these sessions could be termed as the meaningful ones wherein the senior leadership of both the parties managed to hammer out some of their differences while some are still pending where both the parties are not on the same page.

Political analysts said that the only positive thing in the negotiations so far held between the two sides was that they want to get the issues resolved and that was the reason that they were continuing with the dialogue.

In the first formal session between the government and opposition side took place on Monday(Feb. 6) at the Chamber of Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Ch. Nisar Ali Khan which remained in session for well over four hours.

PML-N came up with a smart move by roping in the negotiation process the other opposition parties’ leaders JUI-F chief Moulana Fazlur Rehman and PPP-S President Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, ostensibly to put extra pressure on PPP and at the same time to detach these opposition parties from direct dealing with the ruling alliance.

The ruling PPP had conceded to much of the demands of the opposition parties, mainly of PML-N, regarding the perks and privileges of the eight nominated members of provinces in the Election Commission of Pakistan, while the term of these members was also fixed at five years instead of two years.

The ruling PPP also agreed that they would not give extension to the incumbent Chief Election Commissioner who would be retiring in March and also agreed that the next Chief Election Commissioner would be appointed strictly in line with the criteria and procedure laid down in the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

The government side also agreed that they have no objection to the Opposition Leader’s demand that Parliamentary parties’ leaders in the National Assembly should be given powers to induct fresh names in the list of reserved seats for women at any stage of time.

They also agreed that for the satisfaction of the opposition all these demands would be made part of the 20th Constitutional Amendment Bill.

The only hurdle in the way of these negotiations was the PPP-PML-N standoff on the composition and the criteria of formation of the interim set-up to hold the next general elections, as PML-N wanted to get the word ‘consultation’ changed with ‘consensus’ in the clause where the government was made bound to have consultation with opposition on the formation of the interim set-up in the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the point government side so far resisted to incorporate in the constitution and PPP leaders including Syed Khurshid Shah who were negotiating with the PML-N side contended that word ‘consultation’ means consensus whereas the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Ch. Nisar Ali Khan was of the view that the word did not convey the meaning and referred to his experience in the appointment of Chairman National Accountability Bureau where the government had twisted the word in its favour and appointed the person of their choice as Chairman NAB without taking him into confidence.

Later when the matter was taken to the court of law the government counsel pleaded that they had consulted the Leader of Opposition and consultation did not mean approval.

The PPP side offered that for the satisfaction of the Opposition the Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani would give assurance in this connection on the floor of the National Assembly but the opposition was adamant that the government must bring all these things in black and white as they no more trust the words of the Prime Minister.

Now it was once again the test of the political leadership that how they would go about this issue at the forum of the Parliament and not let it go back to the Supreme Court of Pakistan like many other issues in the past including the much talked about NRO issue, just to establish the significance of the Parliament, which otherwise was made superfluous no other but by the Parliamentarians themselves.