ISLAMABAD - The government’s efforts failed on Thursday, for another time, to get passed the controversial Protection of Pakistan Bill (PPB) from the Senate committee on interior as none of its members appeared in the meeting except a treasury member.

However, it is not yet clear whether the committee members mostly from opposition benches including PPP, MQM, PML-Q and BNP-Awami did not turn up intentionally to block the bill or it happened incidentally. Senator Mukhtiar Ahmed Damrah of PPP told The Nation that he did not do this intentionally and could not attend the meeting due to his personal engagements.

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior met under the chair of JIU-F lawmaker Senator Talha Mahmood for a special session to consider the Protection of Pakistan Bill, 2014. The National Assembly has already passed the bill. However, the chair had to cancel the meeting till next week as none of the committee members appeared in the meeting except Begum Najma Hameed of PML-N. The committee has only two members from treasury benches.

For the first time, key government functionaries including Attorney General of Pakistan Aslam Butt, Special Advisor to PM Khawaja Zaheer, Secretary Interior Shahihd Ullah Khan and National Coordinator National Counter Terrorism Authority Khawaja Amir Ashraf were present in the meeting to give a detailed briefing to the committee.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid was in a hurry to get the bill passed from the committee, however, the chair remarked that the meeting could not be started due to lack of quorum. He said that committee members representing different parliamentary parties wanted detailed presentation from the government on the bill and the committee would discuss the bill clause by clause. “For the same reason, we are here to brief the committee,” said Zahid Hamid.

Zahid Hamid said that almost consensus on the bill had developed as all parties have been consulted on it. “We have contacted parliamentary parties including PPP, ANP, PTI, MQM and JUI-F after its passage from National Assembly.”

He said that the government has made amendments in the bill on the demand mostly from opposition parties and they would get it passed from NA after the Senate approves it like two other anti-terrorism bills. “We took two rounds of negotiations with JUI-F chief Moulana Fazalur Rehman before NA passed this bill,” he said adding that reservations of different parties had almost been addressed in connection with the Protection of Pakistan Bill.

The opposition parties in the Senate last week had showed their resentment that the government had handed over a set of amendments on PPB to JUI-F chief that were different from those on which it had already agreed with them.