NA all set to take up legislation for vote

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq chairs meeting of parliamentary leaders

Sardar Sikander November 16, 2017
NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is all set to take up the crucial legislation on fresh delimitation of constituencies for vote today (Thursday) after parliamentary parties have reached a consensus on the issue.

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq chaired the meeting of political parties having representation in parliament on Wednesday during which it was agreed that the bill allowing the amendment would be tabled in the lower house on Thursday.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Parliamentary Leader Naveed Qamar is out of the country while Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah could not attend the meeting, as Shah had to leave for Karachi in emergency.

The parliamentary leaders meeting would take place again today (Thursday) at 2pm, two hours before the commencement of the National Assembly session.

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“All parties are on the same page on the issue,” NA speaker told the media after the meeting regarding consensus on constituencies’ delimitation.

“Khursheed Shah sahib had to take one of our colleagues, who has heart problem, to Karachi so he couldn’t be here today. We want to take everyone in the loop which is why we will meet again (on Thursday) and he (Shah) will also be here,” he said.

“We would try that the related bill lands in the National Assembly and sails through (on Thursday).”

Sadiq said the public controversy surrounding Khatm-e-Nabuwwat avowal clause would also be “settled for all times to come” after the legislation on constituencies’ delimitation and the issue would be discussed in today’s (Thursday’s) meeting.

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The speaker said the seats of the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies would not be increased and would remain the same.

“We have too little time to discuss these kinds of issues now.”

Barring the PPP, the parliamentary leaders of all mainstream political parties showed up at the huddle.

Sources privy to the meeting told The Express Tribune that the speaker urged the parliamentary leaders to ensure maximum presence of lawmakers of their respective parties in Thursday’s National Assembly session to make sure that the related bill would sail through the house and then the Senate with a two-thirds majority.

The speaker was concerned that the recent sessions of the National Assembly had to be adjourned on different occasions due to lack of quorum and stressed upon the parliamentary leaders to play active role in bringing their party lawmakers to the house during the voting stage after the related bill lands in the lower house, the insiders said.

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The political consensus on the legislation regarding constituencies’ delimitation was first reached on Monday during the meeting of the Council of Common Interests with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the chair.

After the meeting, the PM Office claimed to have averted a ‘looming constitutional crisis’ after the Centre and the provinces agreed on the proposed legislation in light of the latest headcount exercise.

The CCI had approved to carry out the needed legislation on the delimitation issue on provisional results of the population census 2017 and the final results would be issued later.

Article 51(5) of the Constitution provides that constituencies’ delimitation is to be done after the last census results are officially published.

“The seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the federal capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published,” the article reads.

The results of the population census were last published in 1998 when the headcount exercise was conducted.

It merits recalling that during the previous huddle of parliamentary leaders with the speaker, all parliamentary leaders agreed to do legislation on the constituencies’ delimitation.

However, the PPP and the PTI changed their stance and opposed the proposed legislation in the National Assembly, saying their concerns regarding the population census 2017 were not addressed by the federal government.

The tricky issue of delimitation

The PPP demanded of the prime minister to convene the CCI meeting to take up the matter, a demand that was entertained.

Sources said during the CCI meeting, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah informed the prime minister that a significant chunk of population in the province was ignored in the census, which, Shah said comprised of voters of the ruling PPP.

In addition, Shah is said to have raised the issue of delay in the release of development funds to PPP MNAs from Sindh which was brewing problems for the PPP ahead of general elections.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister took up the issue of Rs36 billion payable to the provinces by the Centre under different heads, insiders said.

In addition, Khattak also sought Abbasi’s support on the proposed merger of Fata with K-P which would result in the requirement to create 23 additional seats in the K-P Assembly from Fata, knowledgeable officials said. This requires related legislation by the provincial assembly and the Parliament.

PM Abbasi, sources said, assured the two chief ministers of his complete support on the given issues before Shah and Khattak decided to support the federal government’s proposed legislation on the constituencies’ delimitation.

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