Punjab Assembly – Unification Bloc to skip Money Bill vote

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The Unification Bloc is likely to boycott the Punjab Assembly on June 22, when there is due to be a vote on the 2011-12 budget, to avoid getting into legal trouble. The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) believes it can pass the bill with a simple majority of the members attending the assembly on that day.

According to Articles 70, 115 and 116 the Constitution, the Money Bill including the finance bill containing the annual budget needs to be passed by a majority present in the house at the time.

The bill is then sent to the governor for his/her consent, after which it becomes an Act.

The PML-N has 171 members in the house out of a total of 371 members. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has the support of 108 members including two independents, while the PML-Quaid (PML-Q) claims that it has the support of 42 members. The Unification Bloc, which is made up of dissident PML-Q MPAs, has around 39 members who back the provincial government.

Senior PML-N and Unification Bloc members believe that since the combined opposition of the PML-Q and PPP has the support of 150 members, minus the Unification Bloc, the PML-N with its 171 members has a certain majority in the house.

However, if the Unification Bloc members attend the session on June 22 and are forced to vote against the money bill under the defection clause (Article 63A), bringing the total potential opposition vote to 189, the budget could be defeated. Therefore, they have decided that the Bloc members should remain absent on the day.

PML-Q Parliamentary Leader Chaudhry Zaheeruddin Khan had earlier filed a reference against nine Unification Bloc members with the Election Commission seeking disqualification.

He said that if the Bloc voted for the money bill, he would refer their case to the presiding officer and chief election commissioner.

The sources said that the PML-N felt that it would be best to keep the Unification Bloc members from any further legal complications by skipping the session. Mian Ata Maneka, a senior Bloc member, told The Express Tribune that the group was considering their options and had yet to make a final decision. He said that an absolute majority of 186 members was only required when electing a chief minister and when giving him a vote of confidence.

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