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June 17, 2019

Increase of Fata seats in KP Assembly: Urgency shown by NA in passing amendment not witnessed in Senate

National

June 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The urgency shown in the National Assembly in unanimously approving the 26th constitutional amendment raising the number of tribal seats in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly has not been witnessed in the Senate.

After its instant passage on May 14, the National Assembly promptly transmitted the constitutional bill to the Upper House of Parliament where it was introduced the following day, parliamentary sources say adding that it is lying unattended since then.

While different phases of the poll schedule, including the filing of nomination papers etc., announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was being implemented, the National Assembly suddenly took up a private member’s bill sponsored by Mohsin Dawar that all the parliamentary parties mysteriously unanimously supported and passed.

Under the previous poll schedule, the election to KP assembly seats allocated to the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) after its merger in the KP was to be held on July 2 before the expiry of one-year time given by the Constitution. The constitutional bill was intended to extend the one-year time by another six months, which will lapse in coming December. The primary objective of the bill was to get the polls postponed for unexplained reasons.

However, the ECP made it clear that it can’t defer the election and has to hold the exercise on the given time as required by the Constitution. “We will not go against the Constitution,” said an ECP official. “Unless the Constitution is amended, the one- year deadline will remain intact.”

Parliamentary officials point out that the constitutional bill will have to be passed by the Senate in the next couple of weeks to pave the way for postponement of election in Fata by the ECP that is the fundamental purpose of the amendment. If it was not approved urgently, neither the scheduled poll can be put off nor can the Fata seats in the KP assembly be increased, they add.

A few days back, the KP government approached the ECP with the request to put off the election by 20 days citing law and order problem, including renewed terrorism. Three days ago, the ECP held deliberations on the plea and decided to hold the polling in the tribal districts on July 20 instead of July 2. The ECP was given a briefing on the state of preparations for the electoral exercise. It was informed that the KP government wanted a delay of 20 days in the election in order to improve the law and order and make administrative arrangements.

The bill revives 12 tribal seats in the National Assembly which had been brought down to six by the 25th constitutional amendment. It increases the general seats from ex-Fata in the KP legislature from 16 to 24.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had also taken part in the voting on the 26th amendment and had said there was a need to end a sense of deprivation in some provinces adding that no part of the country should feel that it is not owned by Pakistan and that it has no stakes in the country.

“This sense of deprivation is very dangerous, which can be exploited by the enemy,” he said, adding that the enemy was taking advantage of the sense of deprivation among the people of some areas. “The nation wants them to be mainstreamed and have a voice. I am happy that there is a consensus among all parties to increase their seats to mainstream them. The decision to allocate three per cent from the National Finance Commission award is necessary because of the destruction in Fata due to the war on terror. KP can never fulfil this from its budget.”

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senior Vice President and former Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi had said that his party had always supported giving due rights to the people of tribal areas, who had suffered a lot during the war on terror and the Afghan war.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader and former premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had stated that his party’s leadership had always supported the Fata reforms and added that the people of tribal areas had given numerous sacrifices for Pakistan and now all the provinces would take part in healing their wounds and development of the war-torn area.

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