ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed ‘The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2017’ to provide legal cover to delimitation of seats on the basis of the provisional census results. The house also gave the nod to ‘The Election (Amendment) Elections Bill 2017’, seeking restoration of the Khatm-e-Nabuwat [finality of Prophet-hood] clause to its original form.
A total of 242 votes were cast in favour of the ‘Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2017’ and only one lawmaker, Jamshed Dasti, opposed it. As it was a constitutional amendment, it needed a minimum of228 votes in the house of 342 members.
The constitutional amendment will pave way for holding timely general election the next year.
The amendment was brought as the final results of the census are due in April next year and making delimitation on the basis of final results might have caused delay in the elections.
Earlier two main opposition parties, the PPP-P and the MQM-Pakistan, had reservations over this constitutional amendment. But these reservations were addressed by the government.
In a meeting held in the chamber of the NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, the MQM-Pakistan was assured that re-verification would be made of five per cent of the census blocks. After this assurance, the MQM-P decided to cast its vote in favour of the constitutional amendment.
A few days ago, reservations of the PPP-P were also removed by taking the matter of delimitation to the meeting of the Council of Common Interest (CCI).
Before voting on the constitutional amendment, the PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his party wants holding of timely election for the continuity of democracy. “Our party has limited seats in the house and it is responsibility of the government to meet the required numbers,” he added.
The PPP-P’s Naveed Qamar said it was a strange situation as the Constitution demanded that delimitation should be made on the final published results of the census. He also asked as to why there was a delay in this process when elections were to be held after every five years.
He said his party still had reservations over conducting delimitation on the basis of provisional census results. However, the government has given sanctity to hold delimitation on the basis of provisional Census results by calling a meeting of the CCI over the matter, he added.
“Despite having reservations our party has supported this bill. However, the NFC Award will be made on the final results of the census,” he added.
The MQM-Pakistan’s Dr Farooq Sattar thanked the political parties and the premier for addressing grievances of his party. He said his party was demanding re-verification of 10 per cent blocks of the census but the CCI had agreed on the one per cent.
He said the PTI, the PPP-P and the ruling PML-N assured that one per cent of the re-verification would be enhanced to five per cent in the next meeting of the CCI. “After these assurances we announced to support the bill,” he added.
The JUI-F and Jamaat-e-Islami also announced to support the constitutional amendment for holding timely election next year. Dasti when given the floor said he would approach the Supreme Court against the bill.
After delimitation on the basis of provisional census results, Balochistan will witness increase of three seats, the K-P five seats and Islamabad one more seat. Punjab will lose nine seats while Sindh and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) will retain their seats in the National Assembly.
Election (Amendment) Elections Bill
The National Assembly also passed ‘The Election (Amendment) Elections Bill 2017’ which seeks to incorporate and reaffirm the provisions of Articles 7-B and 7-C of the General Elections Order, 2002 through the addition of a new section 48-A in the Election Act, 2017.
Both the bills were presented before the assembly by Law Minister Zahid Hamid. These bills will now be sent to the Senate for approval. Speaking on the occasion, Hamid said status of Qadiani or Lahori group would continue to be that of non-Muslims.
He said if a person gets himself or herself enrolled as Muslim in the voters’ list and another person challenges this before the revising authority, then he or she is required to sign a declaration, avowing finality of the Prophet-hood of Muhammad (pbuh).
“If a person refuses to sign that declaration then he shall be deemed as non-Muslim and his vote will be expunged from the list for Muslim voters and be included in list for non-Muslims,” he added.
After tabling the bill pertaining to restoration of the Khatam-e-Nabuwat clause, Hamid rebutted allegations levelled against him and said he was a true lover of the Prophet (pbuh). “My family and I are ready to sacrifice our lives for sanctity of Khtam-e-Nauwat,” he added.
On this occasion Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said there was no need to give an explanation to everywhere. “We have complete faith on the Khatm-e-Nabuwat,” he stated. However, Sheikh Rasheed responded to his remarks and said every person gave explanation on his own behalf.
Sahibzada Tariqullah of JI talked about the ongoing protest sit-in in Islamabad and said: “A few people have made the Islamabad hostage and despite lapse of nine to ten days the government has not engaged them in dialogue.”
Responding to it, Ahsan Iqbal said he had personally held dialogues with these protestors. He said these protestors were demanding resignation of the law minister and their demand could not be fulfilled.
“Due to this protest, life of the citizens in the twin cities has become miserable. There are some persons in this sit-in who are conspirators and they want bloodshed to create anarchy in the country. We are also ready for taking extreme step but we don’t want violence,” he said.
Parliamentary committee meeting
After failure to develop consensus on the proposed accountability commission bill, a parliamentary committee has decided to hold voting on it in a bid to end persisting stalemate.
The next meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Accountability Laws scheduled on Friday (today) will decide through a vote whether to replace existing accountability mechanism with the government’s proposed national accountability commission or to refine and improve existing laws.
Once decided, each and every proposal of various parliamentary parties would be decided in the same fashion, through vote, rather consensus.
(With additional input from Danish Hussain in Islamabad).