MUZAFFARABAD: The PML-N dominated joint sitting of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly and the AJK Council on Friday approved amendments to the AJK Constitution abolishing the council’s administrative and financial powers and reducing it to an advisory body.
The opposition walked out in protest before the bill was put to a vote by Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir.
The process had started on Monday, when the 13th constitutional amendment bill was tabled by the government in the Legislative Assembly amid objections by the opposition that under section 33 of AJK’s interim constitution, no amendment could be made in sections 31, 33 and 56 without the prior approval of the government of Pakistan.
On its part, the AJK government was hopeful of getting the requisite approval from the federal cabinet by Tuesday, which was why it had summoned the joint sitting for Wednesday.
However, the issue was shelved by the federal cabinet in Tuesday’s meeting, due to which the joint sitting on Wednesday barely lasted half an hour, during which the bill was referred to the committee on bills.
An undeterred AJK government pinned its hope on the next federal cabinet meeting on Thursday - the last day of the PML-N government, but the agenda for the meeting had no mention of constitutional reforms in AJK.
Sources claimed it was because of a last moment intervention by Nawaz Sharif that the issue was placed before the federal cabinet as an ex-agenda item and subsequently approved.
On Friday, the joint sitting was scheduled to meet at 2p.m. but it started at 5:45p.m. as the government kept persuading the opposition to not only attend the session but also vote for the bill to get it approved unanimously, but to no avail.
After the law minister, Haji Javed Akhtar, tabled the report of the committee on bills suggesting some minor changes, the opposition maintained that it had serious reservations about the bill because it not been taken on board in the process for amendments.
The opposition then staged a walkout, and in its absence the 35 present PML-N members passed the bill.
The house also approved a resolution moved by Chaudhry Muhammad Saeed, minister for spots, youth and culture, whereby gratitude was expressed to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Nawaz Sharif for approving constitutional reforms in AJK in accordance with the recommendation of the National Security Committee.
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2018