Balochistan senators seek representation of GB in parliament

Published March 1, 2022
From left to right: BAP senators Ahmed Khan,  Kauda Babar, Umer Ahmedzai and Naseebullah Bazai who submitted the private members' bill to the Senate Secretariat. — Photos via Senate website
From left to right: BAP senators Ahmed Khan, Kauda Babar, Umer Ahmedzai and Naseebullah Bazai who submitted the private members' bill to the Senate Secretariat. — Photos via Senate website

ISLAMABAD: Four senators belonging to the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), an ally of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), on Monday submitted a private member’s bill to the Senate Secretariat, seeking an amendment to the Constitution to grant provisional status of province to the strategically-located Gilgit-Baltistan and providing representation to the area in both houses of parliament.

The bill, a copy of which is available with Dawn, was submitted by BAP senators Ahmed Khan, Naseebullah Bazai, Kauda Babar and Umer Ahmedzai.

Talking to Dawn, Senator Babar said all those who had submitted the bill belonged to Balochistan because of which they could feel the grievances and issues of the people of GB. They had submitted the bill as they wished to play their role in this regard, he claimed.

“We feel that it is the need of the hour to heal the people of GB,” said Mr Babar.

Replying to a question, the senator said they hoped all the parties having representation in parliament would support the bill since all heads of parties campaigning for the GB Legislative Assembly elections had promised the locals to grant them provincial status.

Four BAP lawmakers move bill for making region fifth province, giving it role in constitutional bodies

He said they would welcome the input of any party if they had any suggestion or wanted to make some changes to the bill.

Through an amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, the bill suggests inclusion of the name of GB with the provisional status of a province along with the four provinces of Pakistan.

The document also suggests an amendment to Article 51 for inclusion of three members from GB in the National Assembly, who will be elected in the next general elections. Similarly, through another amendment to Article 59, it has been proposed to include four GB representatives in the Senate, including one seat reserved for women. These senators will be elected by members of the newly-constituted provincial assembly for which elections will be held along with elections in other provinces. The present GB Legislative Assembly will stand dissolved after the next elections.

The bill further suggests formation of a commission comprising chief justices of all the provincial high courts for making “initial appointment” of a chief justice and judges to the GB High Court. The high court shall have its principal seat in Gilgit and a bench in Skardu.

The draft has also suggested inclusion of a member from GB in the Election Commission of Pakistan. Currently, besides the chief election commissioner, the ECP comprises four members, one from each province, and the bill suggests the commission have “five” members after inclusion of one from GB.

“It is a longstanding demand of the people of GB to grant them full rights as citizens of Pakistan. This constitutional amendment bill seeks to meet their demand for creating the province of GB comprising the existing administrative areas of the territory,” states the Statement of Objects and Reasons attached to the bill.

Moreover, it says, the GB Legislative Assembly has already unanimously adopted resolutions urging to grant it provincial status and provide it with representation in parliament and other constitutional bodies. “The bill seeks to achieve the above objectives,” it mentions.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, during his visit to GB in November 2020, had announced the government would provide provisional provincial status to the region.

On Feb 5, GB Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid had circulated among members of the Legislative Assembly and his cabinet a similar draft bill to seek their views.

Despite heightened political tensions in the country, the government and the opposition had almost reached a consensus on granting a provisional provincial status to GB during backdoor meetings before the elections in the region, which were held in November 2020.

Later, the issue had also come under discussion during a meeting of the country’s top political leaders with Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. After the meeting, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, who was then the railways minister, had claimed that all the parties had reached a consensus on granting provisional status of a province to GB.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2022

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