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May 27, 2019

26th Amendment: Govt under ‘pressure’ not to convene Senate session

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May 27, 2019

PESHAWAR: The plan to get the 26th Constitutional Amendment Bill passed from the Senate after its unanimous passage from the National Assembly for increasing the assembly seats for ex-Fata has been shelved as an environment had been created against holding the session.

A well-placed source told The News that the government would first hold the election for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in the merged tribal districts on July 2 as already scheduled and later convene the Senate session to pass the bill.

“An unnecessary panic has been created due to the pressure on the government from certain elements not to convene the Senate session so that the 26th Amendment cannot be passed smoothly,” the source said, adding some people in the government as well as the opposition were in the know of this affair. The National Assembly recently passed 26th Constitutional Amendment Bill through a unanimous resolution as all the political parties agreed to support it. In the next stage the bill was supposed to be passed from the Senate to become a law.

The Member National Assembly from North Waziristan Mohsin Dawar, who was elected as an independent and is associated with the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), had tabled the bill to increase the number of seats for the tribal districts. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government was in favour of constitutional reforms in the former Fata and holding of election as per commitment with the people of the tribal districts. The PTI had been a vocal support of Fata’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“Everything was going in the right direction and the government itself was eager to hold election for the KP Assembly in the tribal districts as soon as possible but now it seems difficult to pass the bill from the Senate,” a source privy to the present developments in Islamabad said. He said some circles wanted the government not to convene the Senate session to avoid passing the bill.

The former Fata was provided 16 seats in the KP Assembly after its merger with the province in May 2018. After the 26th Amendment, the number of seats was increased to 24. This was widely appreciated by the people of the tribal districts.

Fata had 12 seats in the National Assembly and eight seats in the Senate. After merger in KP, the number of National Assembly seats was reduced to six while there would have been no seat of Senate for the former Fata in the next election as it is now part of the province.

Following the 26th Amendment, the tribal districts now have 24 seats in the KP Assembly instead of 16.

Also, the ex-Fata has got back its 12 National Assembly and eight Senate seats. “Some circles are concerned that the PTM could take the credit for it and sweep the forthcoming election in the tribal districts,” said the PTI source. He feared that PTI could face tough time in the election if the government didn’t convene the Senate session for passage of the 16th Constitutional Amendment Bill.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan had held public meetings in every tribal district in which a large number of people participated. PTI at the moment is very popular among the tribal people but our rivals could use it against us if the 26th Amendment Bill was not passed from the Senate,” a PTI parliamentarian in Peshawar told The News.

He said some people have been giving unnecessary attention to the PTM and its activities which the PTM’s leadership successfully exploited.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousufzai confirmed to The News that passing the 26th Amendment Bill from the Senate has been delayed.

However, he said that election in the erstwhile Fata for the provincial assembly would be held on July 2. “The party leadership has decided to present the bill in the Senate after the provincial assembly election in the merged districts. By then these districts will have their own representatives in the KP Assembly and would be in a better position to make decisions for well-being of their people,” argued Shaukat Yousufzai.

Asked about the reasons that prompted the PTI leadership to delay the passage of this important bill that has already been passed by the National Assembly, Shaukat Yousufzai said there wasn’t any major reason for it but the party leadership and the Election Commission wanted to first hold election and then present the bill in the Senate.

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