The Punjab government is currently engaged in “intense deliberations” on a draft bill for the implementation of Article 25-A of the Constitution, but is not yet ready to make it public, according to the chairman of the Punjab Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education.
A month after the 20-member Education Commission of the Punjab – set up by the provincial government to draw up legislation making free and compulsory education a right for all children aged 5 to 16 – submitted the proposed bill to the government, it has yet to be introduced in parliament or even sent to the standing committee.
MPA Chaudhry Javed Ahmed of the PML-N, who heads the standing committee and was also a part of the Education Commission, said that some issues in the legislation were still being worked out. “The draft bill needs to be comprehensive in terms of legal provisions and more time is needed to ensure this,” he said.
These legal issues concern working out a practical mechanism to include private schools in the ambit of the new law and alterations to existing legislation on education. The draft bill calls for the repeal of three acts, including the Punjab Compulsory Education Act of 1994, and amendments to at least 15 other laws, he said.
The MPA pledged that the draft bill would be made public once it was submitted to the committee so all stakeholders could have their say on it, but refused to give a timeframe for when this would happen. “I have already committed to making it public and taking on board educationists in order to reconsider any aspect that may have been left out,” Ahmed said.
The opposition PML-Q, earlier this week, submitted its own draft bill on Article 25-A to the assembly secretariat and sent out copies to reporters.
“This is the beauty of democracy everyone gets a chance to present their recommendations. We welcome the draft put forth by the PML-Q,” he said.
He said that the standing committee would consider both draft bills fairly. “It is certainly no platform to score political points, it is about getting the right legislation,” he said. “If it was only about gaining political mileage, the Punjab government would have been swift in getting its draft passed without deliberations.”
Justice (retired) Khalilur Rehman Khan, the chairman of the Education Commission of Pakistan, announced on November 27 that the body had sent the draft to the government after four months of deliberations. He recommended that it be made public for feedback from all stakeholders.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2012.