ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice was to take up the matter of giving legal cover to parliamentary secretaries and increasing the number of seats for minorities in parliament on Wednesday.

However, the matter was not discussed as MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who had submitted the written request to amend the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2018, could not attend the meeting.

After some deliberations, the meeting chaired by MNA Riaz Fatyana recommended that the bill be placed in the next meeting for consideration.

Dr Vankwani told Dawn that he could not attend the meeting due to an engagement with another parliamentary committee and that it was therefore decided that his request will be discussed on March 14.

“Though every ministry has a parliamentary secretary and they respond during parliamentary proceedings on behalf of ministers, there is no mention of them in the Constitution,” he said.

“I have suggested an amendment in the Constitution so that parliamentary secretaries get legal cover,” he added.

Dr Vankwani said he had also suggested an amendment for increasing the number of minority seats in the National Assembly.

“The number of seats for MNAs was increased from 200 to 272 in 2002 but the seats reserved for minorities were not increased. There are only 10 seats for minorities now,” he said.

Dr Vankwani has suggested an amendment for conducting direct elections on minority seats.

“Currently, the seats are allocated to political parties as per their party position in parliament. However, I believe MNAs will perform better if they were directly elected on minority seats,” he said.

The committee was on Wednesday briefed on the budgetary proposals of the Ministry of Law and Justice relating to the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for the financial year 2019-20, as required under Rule 201(6) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007 and ongoing budget details and progress of the ministry for the financial year 2018- 19.

The committee unanimously approved the PSDP of the Ministry. It recommended that the allocation of budget may also be made in the PSDP for the construction of a federal courts complex at Quetta.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2019

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