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ISLAMABAD: Taking an­other initiative, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has decided to hold meetings with the four provincial chief ministers to discuss with them a proposed roadmap to establish a linkage between the upper house of parliament and provincial assemblies and to ensure that the rights of the provinces are protected.

The Senate chairman “will commence a round of consultations with the provincial chief ministers this week” and for this purpose he has already written letters to them, says an official handout issued by the Senate secretariat here on Monday.

“In his letter, the Senate chairman has proposed a roadmap to create a structured linkage between the Senate and its constituents i.e. the provincial assemblies in order to ensure that the rights, privileges and provincial autonomy granted to the provinces by the Constitution of 1973 is adhered to and complied with,” it says.

“It is being proposed that the Senate will provide opportunity to the provincial chief ministers to annually address the house to share the achievements and issues and grievances being faced by the federating units or any other issue they deem appropriate to bring to the House of Federation,” Mr Rabbani informed the chief ministers in his letter.

Babar Awan told to verify his resignation on 6th

In various international jurisdictions, the provinces/territories have a right to speak in the upper chamber, the purpose being of creating a link between the federal parliament and provincial assemblies.

Through the letter, the Senate chairman has also informed the chief ministers about a proposal to set up a house committee for each province consisting of senators from the said province with the senior most among them to be its chairman. “The committee of the province will consider a matter raised by the chief minister concerned through his address or raised in writing with the Senate chairman,” he says.

Mr Rabbani has also proposed that the committee will submit a biannual report to the house, which will be sent by the Senate to the provincial assembly concerned for laying before it. “The purpose of the committees of the provinces is to break the wall of isolation between the federal parliament and the provincial assembly to ensure an integrated understanding of the issues and difficulties being faced by the provincial governments and to give expression of the same at the federal level,” he says.

Babar Awan’s resignation

The Senate secretariat on Monday issued a notice to Senator Babar Awan, asking him to appear before the chairman in his chambers on July 6 to verify his resignation from the membership of the Senate.

The office of the Senate chairman received the resignation on June 30.

This verification, says the notice, has become all the more imperative as the resignation has been received through mail.

Under rules, it is essential to inquire into that “the resign is genuine, voluntary and intended to relinquish, relieve or quit the seat and vacate it”.

Mr Awan, who had been elected senator from Punjab on the ticket of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), sent his resignation to the Senate chairman after his decision to join the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

In his hand-written resignation, Mr Awan informed the Senate chairman that he was “resigning from the House of Federation upon his own free will under Article 64(1) of the Constitution”.

However, he did not mention any reason for quitting the Senate, eight months prior to his retirement from the upper house at the end of his six-year term.

Mr Awan, whose term in the Senate is to end on March 11 next year, has to cede his Senate seat as under the historic 18th constitutional amendment, the defection clause does not allow any parliamentarian to retain his position in the previous political party if he joins a new party.

Mr Awan had announced his decision to join the PTI last month at an Iftar dinner which he had hosted at his residence for the PTI leaders, including party chairman Imran Khan. He is the first sitting member of parliament who has taken such decision at the cost of his Senate seat.

Another political significance of the development is that after the acceptance of Mr Awan’s resignation, the PPP will lose its status of being the “single largest party” in the Senate. After his resignation, both the PPP and the ruling PML-N will have 26 members each in the 104-member Senate. The PPP has been enjoying such status for eight years.

Keeping in view the party position in the Punjab Assembly, the PML-N is all set to win the by-election to be held on Mr Awan’s seat and will acquire the status of the single largest party in the Senate.

The Senate elections are due in March next year. According to Article 59 of the Constitution, the Senate comprises 104 members — 23 each from the four federating units, eight from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and four from Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2017