PESHAWAR: A day after the lower house of Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of merging the tribal areas with the rest of the country, a session of the provincial assembly has been called for May 27 to pass the historic 31st Constitutional Amendment Act 2018.
Shaukat Yousafzai, a spokesperson for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, told The Express Tribune that a summary requesting a session of the assembly has been moved and the session would be held on Sunday.
Moreover, K-P Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser confirmed to the media on Friday that they were summoning the session to pass the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) merger bill.
“We would try to pass the bill with a two-thirds majority and would not let this historic opportunity go to waste,” Qaiser said while talking to media in the assembly where he inaugurated a new building to park vehicles.
Most of the mainstream parties represented in the provincial assembly had welcomed the passage of the bill, which received 229 votes in the National Assembly, with only one vote against.
The only party to oppose the merger was the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) which has been consistent in its stance on the topic.
Qaiser, though, said that they will urge JUI-F members in the K-P assembly to attend the sitting and vote in favour of the bill so that it can be passed with consensus.
“We have contacted the parliamentary leaders of all parties regarding the bill,” he said.
The JUI-F, which has 16 lawmakers in the assembly, is against the bill. However, all the other political parties on either the treasury benches or in the opposition are in favour including the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamat-e-Islami (JI), Awami National Party (ANP) and the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP).
The PPP had demonstrated its keenness to vote and pass the bill by directing its lawmaker and former PTI mines and minerals minister Ziaullah Afridi to withdraw his no-confidence motions against Qaiser just hours after the bill had sailed through the national assembly.
This removed a major obstacle to holding a session of the assembly since any time the session would have been called, the matter of no-confidence against the speaker would have been tabled, putting into jeopardy any other agenda item.
The house has a total 124 seats out of which 121 are presently occupied which means that excluding the JUI-F, as many as 105 members are expected to vote in favour of the bill. The bill requires 83 votes to secure a two-thirds majority.
Under the article 139 (4) of the constitution of Pakistan, this bill needs to be passed from the K-P assembly with a two-thirds majority before sending to the President for assent since it alters the limits of K-P.
The K-P assembly has three days in hand to pass the bill since its tenure will end on May 28, thus before its end it has to hold the session to pass the bill.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2018.