Abbasi reaches out to PPP over delimitation bill

Senate fails to pass 24th amendment for a third time


Irfan Ghauri November 22, 2017
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. PHOTO: FILE PHOTO

ISLAMABAD: With the Senate again failing, on Wednesday, to pass a bill allowing fresh delimitation of constituencies, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approached the top leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in a bid to win its vital support to pass the legislation.

The Upper House witnessed low presence of lawmakers for a third consecutive sitting when the 24th constitutional amendment was put on the agenda.

The National Assembly had already passed the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2017 that seeks fresh delimitation of electoral constituencies ahead of the upcoming general elections on the basis of the provisional results of the 2017 population census.

Abbasi talked to Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah and expressed his desire to meet Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto or make a telephonic conversation with them, media office of the opposition leader claimed in a statement.

Sindh political, nationalist parties reject census results

The statement quoted Shah as telling the prime minister, “I cannot make any commitment and will convey your message to the party’s top leadership.” He said the government should make a request in writing with its proposals.

Meanwhile, in the 104-strong Senate, support from 69 members is required to pass an amendment to the Constitution. However, at any time during the session on Wednesday, a maximum of 68 members could turn up.

Besides the absence of members, some new reservation of the PPP on the bill seems to be there.

Leader of Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said, “There will be headway in the next few days.”

Aitzaz did not elaborate though, sources in the PPP said the party had reservations over the mechanism being adopted by the government for a third-party audit of the provisional results of the population census.

Senate fails to pass delimitation bill yet again over lack of quorum

A PPP leader claimed that the government was backtracking on its commitment to audit 5% of the census blocks. He said the PPP wanted audit from a third party without involving those who had initially conducted the house listing and population headcount exercise.

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) and the Pakistan Army were mainly involved the exercise. The PBS hired the services of officials from different government departments – mainly school teachers – as enumerators.

Realising that the passage of the amendment was linked to timely holding of the general elections, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani urged parliament to make sure that elections are held on time.

“Parliament has already missed a historical opportunity to hold across-the-board accountability. It should not loose opportunity of holding elections on time,” he remarked.

JUI-F senator Hafiz Hamdullah created rumpus when the chairman refused to give him assurance that he would be the first to speak on the issue of public importance – a segment of the house proceedings that allows members to speak on different issues once the agenda of items on order of the day are finished.

The senator tore the copies of the agenda and kept on shouting despite the chairman’s repeated warnings that action would be taken against the unruly behaviour.

The Senate chairman also reserved his ruling on the issue of trichotomy of power.

Speaking on an issue of public importance, Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP warned against the creeping Talibanisation of the tribal areas on the one hand and denial of basic medical facilities to the people there on the other.

Delimitation bill: Abbasi tasked with wooing opposition

He said recently the government asked the Doctors without Frontiers – an organisation providing medical care to people in Bajaur and Kurram agencies – to pack up without giving any reason.

“The doctors working in this organisation are not foreigners but Pakistani nationals who operate through local hospitals providing medical care in most disturbed areas, and there is no reason why they should be banned,” said Babar.

“The near siege of the tribal areas and depriving its people of fundamental rights and basic medical care will only widen the gulf between the people and security agencies,” he said.

“The siege of tribal areas is so complete that it had become a black hole where even the Human Rights Committee could not go,” he said.

Senator Babar also drew attention towards what he said creeping Talibanisation of the area. He said pamphlets, containing the Taliban-like moral code, were recently distributed among the people by a peace committee in Wana, South Waziristan, banning all socio-cultural activities in the region.

“This happened even though the military is firmly in control and a security operation of some sort is also undergoing in the area,” he said and warned against resurrection of the Taliban.

He said although the officials routinely denied the incident, the locals insisted that the pamphlets had indeed been distributed, warning of dire consequences if moral guidelines were not followed.

The PPP senator asked the government to take steps to prevent the creeping Talibanisation of tribal areas.

The House will re-convene on Friday. However, the 24th amendment bill will come on the agenda again on Monday.

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