The National Assembly on Thursday passed the crucial Constitutional Amendment Bill 2017, which seeks fresh delimitation of electoral constituencies ahead of the upcoming general elections on the basis of the provisional results of the 2017 population census.
All political parties voted in favour of the amendment with the exception of MNA Jamshed Dasti, who said that he had reservations over the recent census and would approach the courts against the constitutional amendment.
The parliamentarians cast 242 votes in favour of the amendment, which required 228 to pass with a two-thirds majority in the house of 342.
Under the terms of the amendment, while the number of NA seats will remain the same, Punjab will lose out on seats as its share in Pakistan's population has fallen to 52pc in 2017 from 56pc in 1998.
Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will gain the seats lost by Punjab, while Sindh's share will remain the same.
After the vote, the NA session was adjourned till 10:30am on Friday.
Earlier in the day, the house had passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017, which it said was aimed at strengthening Khatm-i-Nabuwwat related clauses in election laws.
Hard fought consensus
Parliamentary leaders of all parties, apart from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, had earlier announced a consensus on the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2017.
The announcement was made after a meeting of parliamentary leaders by National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.
The delimitation bill will reallocate seats of all national and provincial assemblies keeping in view the latest census results.
The issue of conducting fresh delimitation of constituencies had been stuck in deadlock for several days until the Council of Common Interests (CCI) on Monday finally agreed to hold elections on the basis of the provisional results of the census on the condition that a third-party audit of one per cent of the population blocks would be conducted within three months.
The PPP had previously demanded that the amendment be approved by the CCI before being passed by the National Assembly and the Senate. Since the government did not have the required two-thirds majority in the 104-member Senate, it had to acquiesce to the PPP’s demand.
The Sindh-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM), which had reservations over the census results for the province, had raised objections over the amendment bill at the parliamentary leaders’ meeting again.
Railways Minister Saad Rafique, who was present at the meeting today suggested another CCI meeting in order to clear up the reservations the MQM had over the delimitation bill. The MQM's reservations can be discussed in the CCI and a decision can be reached in the meeting, Rafique had said.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said that the party had attempted to dispel the MQM and PPP's reservations over the bill, and although the latter had agreed, the former had yet to reach a consensus with other parliamentary leaders.
However, because it is a constitutional amendment, Qureshi had said it was necessary for all parties to agree.
MQM's Farooq Sattar appreciated the PPP's agreement with the suggestion that a third party audit be conducted of one per cent of the population blocks, but suggested that an audit of 10pc of the blocks would have been a wiser course of action.