The federal government has thrown a lifeline to the regional quota system for direct recruitment, proposing a 20-year extension for the system some three weeks before it is set to expire.
On Thursday, members of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet approved measures to amend Article 27(1) of the Constitution, which allocates the country’s four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas quotas in government jobs. Similar quotas are also prescribed for minorities, women and other marginal classes.
The quota system prescribed by the Constitution, however, is ‘time-barred’ and is set to expire on August 14.
“The Cabinet considered and gave its approval to the constitutional amendment in the first provision of Article 27(1)… The existing provision will be extended for another period of 20 years from August 14, 2013,” said an official handout issued after the cabinet meeting.
In the interest of national integrity and harmony, it said, adequate representation in the service of Pakistan for persons belonging to any class or area is only possible when the period for the quota system is extended.
At the same time, the cabinet gave its approval to an amendment in the Federal Employees Benevolent Fund and Group Insurance Act 1969. The amendment will remove the age limit of 70 years on the provision of the Benevolent Grant. Currently, the grant is only provided to the family members of employees who died before reaching the age of 70.
Afghan refugees allowed extension
Another crucial decision taken by the cabinet related to Afghan refugees who will now be allowed to stay in the country until 2015.
The decision was taken after Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Lt Gen (retd)Abdul Qadir Baloch gave a detailed briefing to the prime minister. After considering the issue of repatriation, the premier directed concerned authorities to extend the validity of Afghan refugees’ proof of registration cards till 2015.
He also formed a five-member committee, headed by the SAFRON minister and comprising provincial representatives. The panel will compile a comprehensive report on the ground realities for the smooth repatriation of Afghan refugees.
Six months ago, the government set up camps to gather refugees from Sindh and Punjab in an effort to make both the documentation and repatriation process smoother. Approximately 62,000 Afghan refugees returned home last year.
The first deadline for the repatriation of Afghan refugees was December 31, 2012. However, following a tripartite agreement between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the then prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf extended the deadline to June 30 this year. Later, upon UNHCR’s request, Pakistan allowed Afghan refugees to stay in the country beyond the June 30 deadline.
Trade corridor approved
The cabinet also approved negotiations with China on cooperation over a vital economic corridor project. It accorded its confirmation to the decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee in this regard.
The decisions were taken after Premier Nawaz briefed the cabinet on his trip to China. “I had a mutually beneficial, productive and result-oriented interaction with the country’s political and business leadership,” he told the ministers.
Premier Nawaz told cabinet members that China had also agreed to waive the 6% insurance charge on Chinese investment in the country as a goodwill gesture.
He disclosed that Chinese companies are expected to relocate their businesses in the economic zones along the corridor in Pakistan and both the countries have formed task forces to monitor and speed up progress in implementation of the project.
PML-N will make no move to dislodge AJK govt
Prime Minister Nawaz told cabinet members that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz would make no effort to dislodge the sitting AJK government and would not take part in any no-trust motion. He asked Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Barjis Tahir to firmly convey this decision to the PML-N leadership in AJK and ask them to abstain from any activity that could create political turmoil in the region.
The prime minister recalled that his party had taken a similar stance during the formation of governments in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2013.