ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly passed about a dozen bills on Tuesday, possibly its last private members’ day.

Interestingly, the government set a rare example by holding private members’ day during the budget session with an agenda of 130 items and passed nine bills of the opposition members and three presented by the government.

Apart from agenda items, the National Assembly also discussed the issues of loadshedding in Sindh, a recent clash in Karachi between workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, proposed merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and facilities given to suspended police officer Rao Anwar, who is facing a case of extrajudicial killing.

The house passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018, aimed at ensuring rights of transgender persons. The bill, which had already been passed by the Senate, was moved by Syed Naveed Qamar of the PPP.

Lower house of parliament also discusses loadshedding in Sindh, PPP-PTI clash in Karachi and proposed merger of Fata with KP

Under the proposed law, transgender persons will be able to register to obtain driving licence and passport. They will have the option to get their gender changed in the National Database and Registration Authority’s record.

Harassment of transgender persons will also be prohibited in and outside their homes. They will not be discriminated against by educational institutions, employers, in trade and health services, and when using public transport and buying or selling or renting property.

The bill suggested to the government to establish a safe house for transgender persons and provide them medical and educational facilities and psychological counselling. Similarly, separate rooms will be established at jails where transgender persons could be detained. In addition to all basic rights, they will be entitled to inherit property.

The government will take steps to ensure employment opportunities for transgender persons and they will have the right to vote in all national, provincial and local government elections and they will not be discriminated against in their pursuit of a public office.

The bill stated that anyone found guilty of forcing a transgender person to beg will be sentenced to six months in prison and served a fine of Rs50,000.

Acid/burn crime bill

The lower house of parliament passed a bill, introduced by Benazir Income Support Programme chairperson Marvi Memon, to provide for fair and speedy trial of heinous offences related to acid and burn violence.

After the passage of the bill — Acid and Burn Crime Bill, 2017 — Ms Memon said she had first presented the bill four years ago. “It took four years to pass the bill in the current form. I hope that the bill would be also passed by the Senate,” she added.

The house adopted all the amendments to the bill moved by PPP leader Naveed Qamar, which suggested free medical treatment, rehabilitation for acid burn victims and a process for conducting trial of the accused in the shortest possible time.

Citizenship bill

A bill seeking Pakistani citizenship for the persons (Bangladeshis and Biharis), who have been living in the country for 70 years but could not get citizenship, was also passed.

The bill, moved by leaders of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, was opposed by the PPP in the past, but this time it showed no resistance and it was passed smoothly.

The bill — Pakistan Citizenship (amendment) Act, 2018 — says: “Notwithstanding anything contained in this act or any other law for the time being in force, a person shall not be denied citizenship and any type of registration for the purpose of issuance of Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) and passport if, he was born in Pakistan and his residence is recognised/authenticated/verified by a certificate issued by any public servant enlisted in Section 21 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860.

“In Karachi, a number of persons were deprived of identity or citizenship of Pakistan due to non-availability of documentary proof of their identity. On the other hand they are residing in the country for the last several decades and these are the persons whose ancestors have made sacrifices for Pakistan.”

Prevention of cruelty to animals

The house passed a bill seeking amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890, under which a maximum of Rs500,000 fine can be imposed to the violators.

The bill says: “The act was introduced by the British rulers to provide protection to the animals from human brutality. The bill was amended thrice by the British but no reform was made in it in Pakistan and same minimal penalties and fine amount were being imposed. Therefore the bill strives to ensure stricter punishments for the protection animals.”

The house also passed some other bills related to prevention of child labour in Islamabad, protection of witnesses in criminal cases, establishment of an institute of science and technology in Bahawalpur, setting up of rehabilitation centres for disabled children through Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal and forced disappearances.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2018