NA passed Constitution amendment bill becomes redundant after tribal election

July 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A constitution amendment bill, which was hurriedly unanimously passed by the National Assembly in May but was pending disposal in the Senate has become redundant.The proposed 26th...

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ISLAMABAD: A constitution amendment bill, which was hurriedly unanimously passed by the National Assembly in May but was pending disposal in the Senate has become redundant.

The proposed 26th amendment provided for increase in the number seats of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assembly from the merged tribal areas and extension of time from one year to 18 months to hold election for them.

“The hasty approval of the amendment from the National Assembly has turned out to be an exercise in futility,” a parliamentary official told The News. He said the amendment was of no use now as the election in the merged tribal area was held on Saturday according to the changed poll schedule.

“The amendment was unlikely to have a smooth sailing in the Senate because the opposition parties have their own preferences to pursue,” senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Sanaullah had remarked to The News after its passage from the National Assembly but before his arrest by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) on the charge of possessing 15 kilograms of heroin.

As the Senate sat over the amendment and showed no interest in taking action on it, his prediction proved true. “Even some parliamentary parties that had supported the amendment in the National Assembly are having a second thought not to back it in the Senate,” he had stated.

After the instant passage of the bill on May 14 in the National Assembly, it was promptly sent to the Senate where it was introduced the following day, the record showed. While different phases of the poll schedule, including the filing of nomination papers etc., announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was being implemented, the National Assembly had suddenly taken up a private member’s bill sponsored by Mohsin Dawar of the Pukhtoon Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) that all the parliamentary parties had mysteriously supported and passed within no time without any debate.

Under the previous poll schedule, the election to KP assembly seats allocated to the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) after its merger in the KP was to be held on July 2 before the expiry of one-year time fixed by the Constitution for the electoral exercise. The bill had sought to extend the one-year time by another six months to lapse in coming December. The primary objective of the bill was to get the polls postponed.

However, the ECP made it clear that it couldn’t defer the election and has to hold the exercise within the time fixed by the Constitution. “We will not go against the Constitution,” said an ECP official. “Unless the Constitution is amended, the one- year deadline will remain intact.”

Later, the KP government approached the ECP with the request to put off the election by 20 days citing law and order problem, including renewed terrorism. The ECP accepted the plea and scheduled the election for July 20.

The bill intended to revive 12 tribal areas’ seats in the National Assembly which had been brought down to six by the 25th constitutional amendment. It sought to raise the general seats from erstwhile Fata in the KP legislature from 16 to 24.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had also taken part in the voting on the 26th amendment in the National Assembly and had said there was a need to end a sense of deprivation in some provinces adding that no part of Pakistan should feel that it is not owned by Pakistan and that it has no stakes in the country.

PML-N Senior Vice President and former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, now in detention, had said that his party had always supported giving due rights to the people of tribal areas, who had suffered a lot during the war on terror and the Afghan war.

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