ISLAMABAD: The Senate discussed on Monday the creation of the South Punjab province after a bill was introduced for it, prompting Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to seek support of all parties to help achieve PTI’s electoral plegde, The News reported.
It was a private members day after the two-day recess, as PML-N lawmaker Rana Mehmoodul Hassan moved a private member bill supported by the PTI and PPP.
However, his fellow party lawmaker, PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, opposed it and emphasised that creating new provinces would open a Pandora’s box which the federation could not afford.
Cautioning that it will not stop there, he pointed out that the 18th Amendment has empowered the provinces and noted that the provinces should be strengthened along with the local governments.
Rana Mehmood sought the House’s support while presenting the case for the South Punjab province and maintained that the people of South Punjab have to go miles away to fetch drinking water besides facing a number of other hardships.
Leader of the Opposition in the House Yousaf Raza Gillani said the issue was important and recalled that the PPP, during its government, managed to get a bill passed from the Senate for the creation of the Bahawalpur province.
He emphasised they were demanding a province and not a secretariat.
At this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said in principle, Prime Minister Imran Khan was in favour of South Punjab province, but certain problems needed to be discussed and resolved.
He asked the chair to refer the bill to the concerned committee for more deliberations and political consensus.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the bill was in line with PTI’s aspirations. However, he explained that an amendment in the constitution required a two-thirds majority and emphasised that the government had already made headway towards addressing the grievances of South Punjab.
He said the ring fencing concept was introduced under which development allocations for South Punjab would be made according to the population and there will be no room for re-appropriation.
Qureshi contended that passage of the bill will not only fulfill the desire of the people of South Punjab, but also strengthen the federation.
Responding to a remark by the Opposition leader, Qureshi said it’s never too late in politics, urging the PPP to commit and lend support to the government’s efforts on this count.
The minister said: “If major political parties move ahead, we can find a way and we are hopeful that consensus would be evolved over the issue.”
Enhancing parliament’s role in appointing judges
After the house granted leave to introduce the Constitution (Amend) Bill, Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani referred the bill seeking to change criteria of making appointments or elevation of judges, acting judges and ad hoc judges in the Supreme Court and the high courts and to enhance the role of Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of Judges to the relevant standing committee.
The bill, moved by former chairman Senate and PPP Senator Farooq H Naek, seeks to amend articles 175A, 181, 182, 183, 184, 195, 196, 197 and 209 of the Constitution.
It seeks to make nine amendments, including making appointments or elevation in the Supreme Court on the basis of seniority among judges of five high courts.
Senator Naek said that the Constitution and rules made by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) were silent on the criteria of appointing judges in the SC.
“We want to enhance the role of Parliament in the appointments of judges as we understand that Parliament is supreme,” he said.
The proposed legislation also seeks to bring uniformity in the retirement age of judges SC and high court judges and says that it should be 65 years for all.
The bill also sought to amend Article 184 of powers of SC to take suo motu notice and gives the right of appeal against the order passed under suo motu powers.
It also seeks to amend Article 209 of the Constitution and proposes a 90 day time limit for any inquiry against a judge of SC or high court.
The State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs asked for evolving a consensus on the constitutional amendment bill but disagreed to some of the amendments suggested by Naek and presented the Law Division’s point of view on this count.
He opposed the proposal of appointment of judges on seniority basis and enhancing the role of parliamentary committee.
Bill seeks ban on civil servants to become dual nationals
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 put a bar on civil servant to become dual nationals.