ISLAMABAD, May 29: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Tuesday approved the MQM’s Constitution amendment bill giving representation to the “disabled persons” in the parliament and deferred the party’s bill on new provinces due to lack of quorum.

The private member bill seeking amendments to Articles 50 and 59 of the Constitution for giving representation to the “disabled persons” in the National Assembly and the Senate had been moved by MNA Kishwar Zehra of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) earlier this month.

The bill suggests that there should be four reserved seats for the “disabled persons” — one from each province — both in the National Assembly and the Senate.

The “statement of objects and reasons” attached to the bill states that “it is necessary and expedient to provide for representation of disabled persons in the Senate and the National Assembly” as their “voice is not suitably raised about the problems and other social constraints being faced by them” in the parliament.

The disabled persons should be “mentally sound and shall be graduate in any discipline of education”, says the amendment suggested to the clause regarding representation in the Senate. Meanwhile, the committee headed by PPP’s Nasim Akhtar Chaudhry deferred the MQM’s controversial bill on new provinces for the next meeting due to lack of quorum and decided to invite Federal Law Minister Farooq H. Naek and PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani, who headed the parliamentary committee that had drafted the 18th, 19th and 20th constitution amendments.

MQM’s Wasim Akhtar, who had moved the bill in the National Assembly in January with two party colleagues, kept on requesting the committee members to approve the bill and send it to the assembly claiming that there was a consensus amongst almost all the mainstream political parties on the need for new provinces in the country.

Mr Akhtar said that there was a need of more provinces due to overpopulation and increased demand for delivery of social services.

However, PPP’s Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor pointed out the lack of quorum and the members suggested that since it was an important issue, it could not be discussed when a majority of the members were absent.

Through the bill, the MQM has called for creation of “Hazara” province in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and “Southern Punjab.” The bill also proposes “referendum” in southern Punjab to ascertain if one or more provinces are required. The MQM has stressed the need for the new provinces on the basis of “administrative inconvenience” and “cultural and social diversity”.

The demand for new provinces, particularly in Hazara and south Punjab areas has generated a heated debate across the country and has further divided the political parties on ethic and linguistic lines.

As the PPP wants a new south Punjab province, the PML-N has now come out with a demand for Bahawalpur province.

Similarly, the ANP, the MQM and Sindhi nationalist parties have strained relations with each other and with mainstream parties on the issue of demands for new provinces.

It may be recalled that PPP stalwart Senator Raza Rabbani had warned his party leadership against making any decision on the issue of new provinces in haste warning that it could “backlash” for the party and cause bloodshed, particularly in Sindh.

Mr Rabbani had sent a letter to the party leadership in August last year and warned the party against a possible worst scenario for the party and the country, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, if the party continued to pursue the demand for division of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa without any homework.

Mr Rabbani had, in fact, suggested to the party that the issue of the new provinces for the time being should be put on back burner due to the prevailing “fluid political situation” which is “plagued by terrorism, extremism, sectarianism and regionalism.”

He warns that “if such a movement picks up in Sindh, it will destabilise, tear the society apart and give rise to a bloody strife which the party will not be able to withstand as after supporting such a movement, there shall be no moral or political justification for the party to oppose any other movement made in this direction.”