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May 14, 2019

Bill by PTM MNA: Enigmatic passage of constitutional amendment


May 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: How all major parliamentary players agreed without difficulty to vote for a constitutional amendment increasing the number of seats from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly is a riddle.

It became more enigmatic and puzzling in a tense political and parliamentary environment in which the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and major opposition forces--Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)--teamed up to pass this amendment when they have not been even on talking terms from day one and are strongly averse to agreeing on even an ordinary legislation. Their accord, without any hassle, on a constitutional amendment appeared amazing.

To solve the mystery, some lawmakers The News talked to said that in the first instance, the sponsor of the bill, prominent Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Mohsin Dawar accompanied by his tribal colleague Ali Wazir talked to different opposition parties to garner support for the constitutional amendment. All other Fata MPs, including Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri joined hands with them to muster support for the bill. Thus, the bill was owned by the opposition parties in the first instance.

But in the meantime, these legislators said reports came in that if the elections to the KP Assembly seats were held on July 2 as scheduled, the ruling party would get a beating. Simultaneously, indications appeared that in the prevailing situation independent candidates would sweep the polls. Therefore, it was felt that it would be better to get the elections deferred for some time through the constitutional amendment.

This is how, the lawmakers said, the interests of all the parliamentary parties and other stakeholders converged and the bill received across-the-board backing. But they said that it would not be possible to get the desired results from the tribal areas in the next polls even after the postponement of the present elections.

Interestingly, the amendment was proposed in a private member’s bill, tabled by Dawar. Generally, constitutional amendments are moved either by the government or parliamentary parties although there is no bar on individuals to do so.

“This is the first time in the history of the National Assembly that a private member’s constitutional bill has been adopted,” senior PML-N Leader Rana Sanaullah told The News when approached and apprehended that roadblocks may crop up in the Senate when the bill would be taken up there.

“We got instructions from the party to support Dawar’s amendment, and we did so unanimously,” former Speaker and noted PML-N stalwart Sardar Ayaz Sadiq told this correspondent. When the PML-N discussed the bill with the PPP, it found the latter too willing to vote for the amendment.

The MMA, which has been very touchy about any laws relating to the tribal areas, also equally willingly backed the constitutional change and voted for it.

“Have you clinched a ‘deal,’” an MP, jokingly, asked Mohsin Dawar as his amendment earned unique parliamentary sanction. The independent member from Waziristan just smiled over the query.

What has struck many is that an important bill tabled by an MP, whose party faced certain attacking questions recently about its protests and funding it received, visits by some of its members to Afghanistan, was owned by all the parliamentary parties as if they all, or some of them had asked him to move it.

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