AJK assembly passes ‘controversial law’ amid opposition’s protest

Published May 28, 2021
In this file photo, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider addresses the legislative assembly. — Photo courtesy: Tariq Naqash/File
In this file photo, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider addresses the legislative assembly. — Photo courtesy: Tariq Naqash/File

MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir government on Thursday got a controversial piece of law enacted from the Legislative Assembly at the strength of its majority while claiming to have moved it on the basis of “good intent and humanitarianism”.

Three out of total 12 members of the combined opposition present in the house staged a walkout in protest against enactment of the AJK Regulation of the Service of Certain Categories of Contractual, Ad-hoc or Temporary Government Employment (Terms and Conditions) Act, 2021 while the two Jamaat-i-Islami members, who are PML-N’s ally, did not join them, even though one of them had earlier expressed reservations over the law.

The bill was said to be reminiscent of an identical piece of legislation by Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan led Muslim Conference (MC) government in 1992 whereby around 480 people were inducted as gazetted officers without any competitive exams. The law was later struck down by AJK’s superior courts.

On Wednesday, the current bill was referred by the chair to the select committee where only Sardar Hassan Ibrahim, one of the two committee members from the opposition, had written a very strong dissenting note.

However, defending the bill on the floor of the house on Thursday, senior minister Chaudhry Tariq Farooq asserted that the PML-N government had addressed this nearly three decades old issue with “good intention and humanitarian basis.”

Though no figures of the beneficiaries were presented in the house, minister for law Sardar Farooq Ahmed Tahir claimed that 80pc of them were in BS-1 to BS-14 and the rest were gazetted officers, with majority of them appointed in the education department.

All ministers emphatically asserted that these persons had been employed by the previous governments and their government was not a “direct beneficiary” of this law.

However, opposition members did not buy their claim, saying that many of the beneficiaries had been appointed by the present government under a well thought out plan.

Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider urged the opposition members to support the bill on ‘humanitarian basis’.

The opposition called for withdrawal of the bill, but as there were no signs of acceptance of their demand, the trio, including Abdul Majid Khan and Deevan Mohiuddin of PTI, staged a walkout, allowing the government to claim that the bill had been passed unanimously.

Interestingly, none of the four PPP and three MC MLAs ensured their presence in the house at the time of this legislation.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2021

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