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20th Amendment Bill unanimously approved


The federal government presented 20th Constitutional Amendment Bill in the National Assembly after its approval by the cabinet. A total of 245 MNAs took part in the first, second and third voting and all of them voted in favour of the Bill.  The Bill will now be sent to the Senate for its nod before presidential validation. Addressing the National Assembly session, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that approval of 20th amendment by the National Assembly has restored the confidence of the nation. It has been proved that the entire nation is united on national issues. He said that difference of opinion is beauty of the democratic system but there should be no clash and contradiction on national interests. He congratulated the nation and specially thanked Nisar Ali Khan, the opposition leader, for his suggestions.  The PM earlier said whenever elections were held in the past, opposition alleged rigging in polls, therefore our government wanted to ensure free and fair election in the country. He said transparent elections would be ensure under an independent election commission and appointment of caretaker PM would not be a matter of contention.   Certain powers do not want democracy to flourish in Pakistan, he said, without naming anyone. Both the treasury and the opposition members agreed on points of the bill, including appointment of the opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly. Earlier, the federal cabinet at its special meeting in Islamabad approved the 20th Amendment draft bill for the strengthening of an independent election commission and setting up of an interim government before the general elections. Briefing newsmen after the cabinet decisions‚ Information Minister  Firdous Ashiq Awan said the draft bill has been finalized after consultation with all the political parties including the opposition. She said the 20th amendment shall come into force at once and shall deem to have taken effect on April 19‚ 2010. The amendment will give one time legal cover to those members of the parliament and the provincial assemblies suspended by the Supreme Court. Firdous Ashiq Awan said under this amendment‚ a caretaker Prime Minister and cabinet will be installed before the general elections. After the dissolution of the cabinet‚ the outgoing Prime Minister and outgoing leader of the opposition on the advice of the President within three days will develop consensus on the name of the caretaker Prime Minister. If they failed to develop consensus on the name‚ the Speaker of the National Assembly will constitute an eight member committee on the fourth day. The committee will comprise four members each from the opposition and the treasury benches. If the committee also failed to evolve consensus on the interim setup‚ the matter will be referred to the Election Commission. She said the election commission will then be the final authority to send its nomination for the caretaker prime minister to the President who will notify the name. She said the same procedure will be replicated in the provinces for the nominations of caretaker chief ministers.