NA passes bill granting more seats for tribal districts in assemblies

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Staff Report

Islamabad

The National Assembly on Monday unanimously approved the 26th Constitution Amendment Bill seeking an increase in the number of seats for the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) in the NA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.

Two hundred and eighty eight voted in favour of the Constitution Amendment, while none against it

The bill moved by Mohsin Dawar an independent lawmaker from the tribal areas. Under this amendment the seats of tribal districts in National Assembly have been increased to 12 from six while their seats in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been increased to 24 from 16.

With the passage of this bill, residents of ex-Fata will be represented in the provincial assembly for the first time since their merger with KP was enabled via the 25th Constitutional Amendment Bill passed on May 31, 2018, which was the last day of the PML-N government.

After remaining at loggerheads for months, the treasury and the opposition members jointly voted on the bill Monday, after the Lower House went into session following a two-day recess.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the Lower House, expressed his appreciation over the consensus between all parties on recommendations for the bill.

“A big accident, the separation of East Pakistan, led to a sense of deprivation among the people,” he said.

“All of Pakistan should learn a lesson from that. No one should feel that Pakistan does not own them, that they do not have a stake in Pakistan,” the prime minister asserted.

“This sense of deprivation is dangerous as it can be exploited by Pakistan’s enemies and it is being exploited,” he cautioned. “Development should always be inclusive. Areas that are left behind should also be brought up,” he stated.

Prime Minister said the entire country should contribute to the development of tribal districts in order to address their sense of deprivation.

He asked the provinces to give 3 per cent share from the NFC for this purpose as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone cannot meet the development needs of tribal districts. the prime minister said “The economic situation is bad and their [provinces’] funds are not at the level that they should be, but I think it [sharing funds with ex-Fata] is necessary because the kind of destruction caused in Fata ─ due to the war against terrorism, the damage done there ─ KP could never cover that damage from its own development fund.”

As the prime minister concluded his speech, Speaker Asad Qaiser called for a vote on the bill, and then on different sections of the bill.

The Speaker congratulated the entire nation on the unanimous passage of the amendment.

Minister for Housing and Works Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema laid before the House “The Naya Pakistan Housing Authority Bill, 2019 and “The Recovery of Mortgage-backed Securities Bill, 2019.”

The session opened with the introduction by Makhdoom Samiul Hassan Gillani of a Constitution Amendment Bill seeking the creation of a province for South Punjab.

The bill was supported by the PPP, while PML-N members stood on their seats to register their opposition to the bill. It was finally approved due to an abundance of opinions.

The House also adopted a motion authorising the NA speaker to form a special committee comprising treasury and opposition members to examine the amendment bill.

Former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, in his address to the NA, praised former head of the Fata Reforms Committee, Sartaj Aziz, who he said had worked day and night to prepare a report and create consensus on issues, laying the groundwork for the passage of the bill.

“We need to have consensus on issues facing the country,” Abbasi said, pointing out that the government could not provide the people of ex-Fata their rights without adequate funds.

Abbasi also noted that there was consensus on the government’s decision to provide Rs100 billion in funds to the people of ex-Fata for 10 years to stimulate development in the area.

The former prime minister said that the modalities for funding should be determined to ensure that the people of ex-Fata are given equal rights and resources compared to other Pakistani citizens.

Abbasi pointed out that after the spread of terrorism and subsequent counter-terror operations, there was hardly any population in the area when the census was conducted.

Allocation of resources to provinces and allocation of seats in the National Assembly are both dependent on the population.

Abbasi stated that the number of seats given to the tribal districts will have an effect on the country’s politics.