PESHAWAR: The government passed a bill without debate from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Wednesday that declared all mines and minerals in the erstwhile Fata as the property of the government amid protest by the opposition.
Using its absolute majority in the house, the treasury didn’t allow the opposition to debate the law, which was introduced and passed immediately by applying Rule 82 of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Procedure and Conduct of Business Rules, 1988.
The opposition members protested declaring the government’s move undemocratic.
They said the ruling party bulldozed legislation by ‘misusing’ its majority in the house.
The opposition members tore copies of the agenda to pieces and shouted slogans against the government.
“This is unprecedented to introduce and pass a bill without allowing members to read it,” said Sardar Hussain Babak of the Awami National Party.
Mines and minerals minister Dr Amjad Ali Khan introduced the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minerals Sector Governance (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and moved a resolution for the passage of the law.
Opposition flays govt over legislation without debate
The opposition slammed the treasury’s move and asked Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani to allow them to hold debate on the bill.
Law and parliamentary affairs minister Sultan Mohammad Khan through a point of order said the proposed amendment didn’t require debate. He asked the chair to apply Rule 82(a) of the assembly business rules to take the bill into consideration.
He said the passage of the bill was essential to end disputes among tribes over the ownership of mines.
Minister Amjad Ali Khan said a detailed consultation was held with stakeholders in merged districts and they had been taken into confidence.
He said the legislation would bring an end to disputes among local tribes.
Opposition MPAs Inayatullah Khan and Sardar Hussain Babak asked the speaker to give time to members to go through the bill.
They said the government should not misuse its majority and should let MPAs, especially from merged districts, express their viewpoint on the bill.
However, the chair ignored the opposition’s concerns and gave the floor to the minister concerned to take the bill into consideration stage.
The opposition encircled the speaker’s dais and started protest, but in vain.
Section 6 (2A) of the law says notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law, or in any order or decree of Court or other authority, or in any rule of custom or usage, or in any contract, instrument, deed or other document, all mines and minerals shall be and shall always be deemed to have been the property of Government, and Government shall have all powers necessary for the proper enjoyment of its right thereto.
Before the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ownership rights of all minerals in merged tribal districts belonged to the local tribes and the government acted as a facilitator between tribes and leaseholders.
The tribes sold mines to leaseholders in merged districts and the then political administrations issued NoC to leaseholders for mine exploration in a specific area.
Former Fata has vast deposits of gold, copper, marble, coal, soapstone, chromites, oil, gas and other minerals.
The house also passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Panahgah Bill, 2019, were also tabled.
Earlier, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal member Mahmood Khan Bhittani drew the house’s attention towards the Oct 17 firing on a passenger coach in Tank area and said 14 innocent people were killed in the attack but the police had yet to arrest the main culprit.
He said the residents had ended a protest after the police and local administration promised the arrest of culprits by Nov 5.
The lawmaker said the police had registered 21 FIRs against the man nominated in the firing case.
He alleged that the police were patronising the real culprit, while not a single person had so far been arrested.
Health minister Hisham Inamullah assured the house that the people involved in the heinous crime would be brought to justice very soon.
He said the police of Tank and Lakki Marwat districts had launched a campaign against the gang involved in kidnapping, extortion and other unlawful activities.
The house referred a privilege motion tabled by two PTI MPAs from Lower Dir district against Inspector General of Police Dr Mohammad Naeem to the relevant committee.
Also, two MPAs elected on reserved seats for women, including Aisha Bibi of the PTI from Mohmand tribal district and Baseret Khan of the Balochistan Awami Party from Khyber tribal district, took oath. The chair later prorogued the session.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties decided to move a no confidence motion in the KP Assembly against Speaker Mushtaq Ghani over his ‘partisan role’ in the house.
The decision was taken by all opposition parties during a meeting convened after the assembly’s session.
The participants also decided to demonstrate outside the Chief Minister’s House on a daily basis.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019