ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights referred to the provincial assemblies on Thursday a bill seeking an amendment to the Constitution relating to the creation of new provinces.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill moved by Senator Mohsin Khan Laghari sought the amendment to Article 1 after clause (3). The bill states: “Parliament may by law, carve out or create new provinces from existing limits of an existing province or redraw the boundaries of more than one province to create a new province subject to the will of majority of district/tehsil being affected and the provision of Article 239 (4) regarding approval by the respective provincial assembly.”
Senator Laghari told the committee that the constitutional amendment was designed to empower the parliament to create new provinces.
“This is also necessary keeping in view the commitment made by almost all political parties in their 2013 election manifestos to create new provinces,” he said, adding that the will of the people of a particular district should be sought and the decision to carve out a province should not be in the hands of the provincial assembly only.
He recalled that a shutter-down strike was observed in Mianwali when the district was shown in the proposed Southern Punjab province during the previous government.
But the special secretary law observed that carving out new federating units through law would be a dangerous precedent because the right to alter their boundaries solely rested with the provincial assemblies.
Similarly, chairman of the committee Senator Kazim Khan of PPP said it would be a direct intervention in the domain of provincial assemblies. “We need to get provincial governments’ views on the subject before discussing it in the committee,” he added.
Raja Zafarul Haq, leader of house in the Senate, said it was a very sensitive matter which needed to be tackled carefully.
The committee decided to seek opinion of the Law Division on a private member bill regarding protection against harassment of women at workplace moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar.
When the special secretary law pointed out that such a law already existed, Senator Babar said academic institutions were not covered by it and referred to the incidents of girl students’ harassment at the hands of staff of administration at the Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.
The special secretary suggested that instead of incorporating the bill into the existing law, a new one should be formulated to deal with such matters and agreed with the demand of Senator Babar that the Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment should be empowered with suo motu powers to take up such complaints.
The committee also referred the Anti-Rape Law Bill moved by Senator Sughra Imam to the Law Division for its legal opinion.
She said existing laws had so many lacunas that not a single person had been convicted for committing the offence over the past five years.
She said the amendment bill was aimed at removing the bottlenecks in the Pakistan Penal Code, CrPC and Evidence Act so that the culprits did not go scot-free.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014