Tuesday May 24, 2022

Senate debates creation of South Punjab province

January 18, 2022
Senate debates creation of South Punjab province

ISLAMABAD: A bill seeking creation of the South Punjab province was introduced in the Senate Monday, prompting Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to declare that his party (ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) stood by its electoral promise and sought support of all parties to help realise its pledge.

It was a private members day after the two-day recess, as PMLN lawmaker Rana Mehmoodul Hassan moved a private member bill supported by PTI and PPP, but was opposed by PMLN Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who emphasized that creating new provinces will open a Pandora's box which the Federation cannot afford. He cautioned that it will not stop there and pointed out the 18th Amendment has empowered the provinces and noted that the provinces should be strengthened along with the local governments.

Rana Mehmood sought the House support while presenting the case for South Punjab province and maintained the people of South Punjab have to go miles away to fetch drinking water besides facing a number of other hardships. Leader of the Opposition in the House Yusuf Raza Gilani said the issue was important and recalled that the PPP, during its government, managed to get a bill passed from the Senate for the creation of Bahawalpur province. He emphasized they were demanding a province not a secretariat.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said in principle, Prime Minister Imran Khan was in favour of South Punjab province but there were certain problems that needed to be discussed and resolved. He asked the chair to refer the bill to the concerned committee for more deliberations and political consensus. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the bill was in line with PTI’s aspirations. However, he explained amendment in the Constitution required a two-thirds majority and emphasised that the government had already made headway towards addressing the grievances of South Punjab. He said ring fencing concept was introduced under which development allocations for South Punjab would be made according to the population and there will be no room for re-appropriation. Qureshi contended that passage of the bill will not only fulfill the desire of people of south Punjab, but also strengthen the Federation. Responding to a remark by the opposition leader, he said nothing is too late in politics, urging the PPP to commit and lend support to the government’s efforts on this count. The minister said, “If major political parties move ahead, we can find a way and we are hopeful that consensus would be evolved over the issue”.

After the House granted leave to introduce the Constitution (Amend) Bill, Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani referred the bill seeking to change criteria of making appointments or elevation of judges, acting judges and ad hoc judges in the Supreme Court and the high courts and to enhance the role of Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of Judges to the relevant standing committee. The bill, moved by former chairman Senate and PPP Senator Farooq H Naek, seeks to amend articles 175A, 181, 182, 183, 184, 195, 196, 197 and 209 of the Constitution. It seeks to make nine amendments, including making appointments or elevation in the Supreme Court on the basis of seniority among judges of five high courts. Senator Naek said that the Constitution and rules made by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan were silent on the criteria of appointing judges in the SC. “We want to enhance the role of Parliament in the appointments of judges as we understand that Parliament is supreme,” he said. The proposed legislation also seeks to bring uniformity in the retirement age of judges SC and high court judges and says that it should be 65 years for all. The bill also sought to amend Article 184 of powers of SC to take suo motu notice and gives the right of appeal against the order passed under suo motu powers. It also seeks to amend Article 209 of the Constitution and proposes a 90 day time limit for any inquiry against a judge of SC or high court. The State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs asked for evolving a consensus on the constitutional amendment bill but disagreed to some of the amendments suggested by Naek and presented the Law Division’s point of view on this count. He opposed the proposal of appointment of judges on seniority basis and enhancing the role of parliamentary committee.

PML-N Senator Afnan Ullah Khan moved the Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill, as passed by the National Assembly, and the House referred it to the standing committee concerned. The bill seeks to amend the Civil Servants Act, 1973 to put a bar on civil servant to become dual nationals. ­