ISLAMABAD: A day after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) voted for a pro-democracy resolution in the National Assembly, the government on Tuesday returned the favour and did not oppose MQM’s constitutional amendment bill seeking creation of new provinces in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
“The Constitution (Twentieth Amendment) Bill, 2012” for the creation of Southern Punjab and Hazara provinces was introduced by MQM’s Wasim Akhter during a private members’ day of the ongoing special session of the National Assembly convened in the wake of an apparent rift between civil and military leadership.
The move by the MQM comes despite some considerable opposition on the topic.
Senator Raza Rabbani, the architect of the 18th Amendment, had rubbished even the idea of a ‘debate’ over the issue in the lower house last week against the stance of the MQM. In addition to Rabbani, the Awami National Party (ANP) – a steadfast coalition partner of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – had said that a resolution for the creation of new provinces cannot be tabled in the National Assembly.
The government, however, not only supported the MQM but had also pledged to introduce two separate bills for Seraiki and Hazara provinces on the first day of the next session (session 38) when session 37 had concluded on January 6.
However, the government’s priorities changed in the wake of the pro-democracy resolution and the MQM moved its bill on private members’ day when as many as 12 other bills were introduced while three were dropped.
Seeking four amendments in Article 1, 51, 106 and 239 of the Constitution, MQM’s bill has climbed the ladder first as it was referred to the concerned committee of the National Assembly for further deliberations.
“The provincial boundaries are not sacrosanct and kept changing in the Indo-Pak subcontinent since 1562 on administrative grounds and for the convenience and wellbeing of people,” pleaded the bill.
“Besides administrative inconvenience, the cultural and social diversity within the ideological unity also necessitates greater harmony with a psychological bias. Hence the need of more provinces,” said the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.
It was also projected in the bill that the allocation of general seats and seats for women of the newly carved-out provinces, as provided under clause (1) of Article 51 and clause (1) of Article 106, shall be made on the basis of the population in the same proportion as it exists in the provinces of K-P and Punjab.
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) parliamentarians from the Hazara division including Sardar Shahjehan Yousaf and Farzana Mushtaq Ghani felicitated the MQM for introducing the bill.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary secretary for interior told the lower house that the government has decided to start issuing machine readable passports with 10 years validity.
Jamshed Dasti – who was recently won back by the PPP after resigning – lashed out at the level of corruption in the housing ministry.
“When courts take notice of the corruption it is termed a conspiracy against democracy… this is not the case since those who say it are actually corrupt,” Dasti said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2012.
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