ISLAMABAD: Amid talks about possible delay in the general elections, the Senate on Wedne­sday unanimously passed a resolution urging the Election Commi­ssion of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure the upcoming polls “within the stipulated time under Article 224 of the Constitution and take immediate steps in this regard”.

Besides passage of the resolution, the upper house of the parliament passed 11 bills, which included the contentious bill to amend the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Ordinance 2002 and seven bills regarding the establishment of new universities and higher education institutes in the country.

There were a total of 24 university bills on the agenda, but constant protest by the opposition members over the passage of the university bills and unclear stance taken by Education Minister Rana Tanvir prompted Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to abruptly prorogue the session without taking up the remaining items on the 89-point agenda.

Timely polls

The resolution seeking holding of polls on time was tabled by Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed. Through the resolution, the house also “demanded all the state institutions provide all-out assistance to the ECP” enabling it to hold general elections on time, stating that “it is mandatory for all the state institutions of Pakistan to implement the constitutional provisions regarding holding of the elections.

Approves seven varsity bills amid opposition’s protest; senators call for declaring Sindh’s Karoonjhar Mountains a national heritage site

“Since Pakistan’s Supreme Court has also declared with clarity that after completion of the tenure of the national and provincial assemblies, holding elections under Article 224 [of the Constitution] is a duty, which cannot be flouted.”

The resolution stated the caretaker government was empowered only to carry out day-to-day activities, as it lacked power to make any policy decision under Section 230 of the Elections Act, 2017.

The Senate chairman put the resolution to vote after Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said the government had no objection to its text but suggested insertion of words “in the true letter and spirit” into it while asking the ECP to hold elections on time.

Move to ‘create doubts’

Though PPP senators supported the resolution, Senator Raza Rabbani protested tabling of the resolution without consulting all the members. Veteran PPP leader Taj Haider was of the opinion that there was no need for the Senate to pass the resolution that, according to him, would further create doubts in the minds of the people regarding delay in elections.

Mr Haider said there was no need for any delay in general elections after approval of the census, stating that the ECP could complete the process of delimitation within 15 to 20 days after recent amendments to the Elections Act. He explained this had become possible as the ECP had been empowered to carry out delimitation without caring for the boundaries of districts.

National heritage site

The Senate also passed another resolution, asking the government to declare the Karoonjhar Mountain Range in Tharparkar a national heritage site and a national park for wildlife conservation.

According to the resolution, tabled by PPP’s Keshoo Bai, Karoonjhar Mountain Range holds a special place in history, for being the site of the final battle between British forces and local fighters.

“The mountains have come to symbolise a vibrant civilisation, embodying the essence of local indigenous communities and their cultural practices, rituals, customs, folklore, and songs, spanning countless generations,” it stated according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

For the Hindu community, it added, the mountain range is held in similar reverence as the Ganga or Sindhu rivers. Every year, millions of Hindus from across Pakistan make a pilgrimage to Sardharo Dham — a complex of four temples — located at the base of the Karoonjhar Mountains, reinforcing the spiritual significance of this cherished site.

The resolution explained that beyond their cultural and spiritual importance, these mountains also played a pivotal economic role in the lives of the local populace. During the rainy season, this mountain range transforms into a hub of tourism, attracting thousands of visitors. Also, the dams built at the foothills and fed by rainwater have become a lifeline for the community, providing drinking water to humans and animals as well as for irrigation.

However, the resolution pointed out, the very essence of the Karoonjhar Mountains stands threatened by corporate interests, seeking to exploit the region’s valuable resources by hook or crook. It highlighted urgent need for protection of this invaluable ecosystem has led to a collective demand for the designation of “Karoonjhar” as a world heritage site. Such a designation would not only ensure the preservation of a culture spanning millennia but also serve as a beacon of hope for present and future generations.

Neglecting these mountains would not only disrupt the local Nagarpar­kar ecosystem, but also have global implications. To counter such risks, the resolution said, it was imperative that the Karoonjhar Mountains be declared a national heritage site and a national park for wildlife protection.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2023

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