PTI, PPP back south Punjab province bill

Published January 18, 2022
This combination photo shows Leader of the Opposition in Senate Yousaf Raza Gilani (L) and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (R) during the Senate session on Monday. — Senate of Pakistan Facebook
This combination photo shows Leader of the Opposition in Senate Yousaf Raza Gilani (L) and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (R) during the Senate session on Monday. — Senate of Pakistan Facebook

ISLAMABAD: As a bill seeking creation of south Punjab province landed in the Senate on Monday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi declared that the ruling party stood by its electoral promise and sought support of all other parties to help make it a reality.

The private member bill was introduced in the House by Rana Mehmoodul Hasan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and was supported by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), but was opposed by another PML-N lawmaker.

“It is a wail of our deprivations,” Mr Hassan said while presenting the case for south Punjab province before the upper house of parliament. People residing in the southern parts of Punjab had been facing multiple hardships, he said, adding that they had to travel long distances only to fetch drinking water. He also reminded the PTI of its promise to make south Punjab a separate province within 100 days in power.

However, the PML-N lawmaker also referred to a recent protest by the Hazaras and called for carving out smaller provinces on administrative lines.

Bill seeking to change criteria for judges’ appointment tabled in Senate

Leader of the Opposition in Senate and former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani said the issue was so important that the PPP during its rule had already managed to get a bill for the creation of Bahawalpur province passed from the Senate.

However, he reminded other parties that PPP was demanding a separate province and not just a secretariat for the people of south Punjab. “We are demanding a province, not a secretariat. It is not a colonial system where limited democracy will work,” the PPP senator asserted.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said PM Imran Khan was in principle in favour of the new province but there were ‘certain problems’ that needed to be discussed and resolved.

He then requested the chair to refer the bill to the committee concerned for further deliberations and to achieve political consensus.

PML-N senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed was of the opinion that building or creating new provinces would open a Pandora’s box, which the federation could not afford at the moment.

“It will not stop here,” he reasoned.

Instead of a new province, the PML-N senator said, provinces should be strengthened along with local governments under the 18th Amendment.

Minister Qureshi said the bill to make South Punjab a separate province was in line with PTI’s aspirations and election manifesto. He said the passage of the bill would not only fulfill the desire of the people of South Punjab, but would also strengthen the federation but the amendment to the Constitution required a two third majority.

He said a ring-fencing concept had been introduced for South Punjab so that development allocations were made as per population. He said there would be no room for re-appropriation.

Responding to the remarks by ex-PM Gilani, the minister said nothing was too late in politics and asked the PPP to commit that it would support the efforts for a separate province. “If major political parties move ahead, we can find a way,” he said, expressing the hope that consensus would be achieved.

Judges’ appointment

Another important bill seeking to change criteria for making appointments or elevation of judges, acting judges and ad hoc judges in the Supreme Court and to enhance the role of parliamentary committee on appointment of judges was also introduced in the House.

Moved by PPP Senator Farooq H. Naek, the bill seeks amendments to Articles 175-A, 181, 182, 183, 184, 195, 196, 197 and 209 of the Constitution. The changes were related to making appointments or elevation in the Supreme Court on the basis of seniority among judges of the five high courts.

Mr Naek, who was also ex-chairman of Senate, while speaking about the bill said the Constitution and rules made by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan were silent on the criteria of appointments of judges in the Supreme Court. The bill proposes that appointment of acting or ad hoc judges in SC would be subject to the confirmation of the parliamentary committee. “We want to enhance the role of parliament in the appointments of judges,” he said.

The bill further seeks to amend Article 184 regarding the SC suo motu powers and to give the right of appeal against the order passed in suo motu cases.

Also, the bill proposes a 90-day time bar for decision on any inquiry initiated on the basis of any complaint against a judge of SC or high court. Seeking to bring uniformity in the retirement age of SC and high court judges, the bill also proposes it should be 65 years for all.

The state minister for parliamentary affairs disagreed to some of the proposed amendments and asked for bringing a consensus on the constitutional amendment. He opposed the move to enhance the role of parliamentary committee in judges’ appointment and also rejected the proposal for their elevation and appointments on a seniority basis. PML-N Senator Afnan Ullah Khan moved the Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill, as passed by the National Assembly, and the House referred it to the standing committee concerned.

The bill seeks to amend the Civil Servants Act, 1973 to bar induction of dual nationals in civil service.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2022

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