Senate approves KP-Fata merger bill

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ISLAMABAD: The Senate approved on Friday the constitutional amendment bill on the merger of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

During the session, 71 lawmakers voted in favour of nine clauses of the constitutional amendment bill while five were against them.

Besides, 28 lawmakers were absent from the House during the session.

The bill titled Thirty-First Amendment Act, 2018 was presented by Minister for Law and Justice Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk, while the session is being headed by Senate Chairperson Sadiq Sanjrani.

The National Assembly on Thursday passed the constitutional amendment bill with over two- thirds majority paving the way for the merger.

National Assembly passes KP-FATA merger bill

Two hundred and twenty-nine members parliamentarians voted in favour of the constitution amendment while one voted against it. The bill was opposed by government-allied parties Jamiat-e-ulema-Islam (JUI-F) and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).

The amendment will bring an end to colonial-era laws governing the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), extending the writ of Pakistani courts to its districts and increasing development assistance to its residents.

Moreover, the KP assembly has summoned a session at 2pm on Sunday to mull over merger strategy. However, JUI-F have announced to surround the provincial assembly to protest passage of bill.

‘Bill passed with national consensus’

“Today this house has approved a historic bill, which will have very positive effects for Pakistan. I thank the opposition for their support,” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told legislators after the vote.

“We need to provide (FATA residents) with all those facilities which are available to the people in the rest of Pakistan,” he added.

PM Abbasi also said that a committee worked for over two years and presented a report that had led to the constitution of the FATA implementation committee.

“The committee report was assessed by civil and military leadership including the army chief,” he said, adding that the bill was approved with a consensus of the government and opposition members.

“I am thankful especially to Khursheed Shah, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and Farooq Sattar,” he said.

Voting

As NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq had earlier called for voting on the clauses of the bill, 229 lawmakers voted in favour of the first clause while 11 opposed it. Meanwhile, the second clause was favoured by 229 lawmakers and opposed by three.

According to Geo News, there was an error in one of the clauses in the bill which was then amended by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Zahid Hamid and approved.

“The seats for women in KP and Punjab Assembly have increased from 9 seats to 10,” Hamid explained while making the change.

Amendments in number of seats

It also seeks to amend the clause-1 of Article-51 which defines the number of seats in the National Assembly as 342.

The draft bill seeks to reduce the number of seats from 342 to 326 and also replaces the table which gives the seats division between provinces and federal capital, given in clause-3 with a new one with total 326 seats.

It adds a new clause called “3A” after the clause 3 to give legal cover to the representatives who will be elected from Fata in General Elections 2018. They will continue as member of the National Assembly till its dissolution and thereafter this clause shall stand omitted.

It removes the word “Federally Administered Tribal Areas” from clause-5 under which seats of the National Assembly are allocated on population bases.

The bill also seeks changes in Article-59 which deals with Senate.

It reduces the number of Senate members from 104 to 96. It omits sub-clause(b) of clause-1 of Article-59 which gives eight members to Fata thus Fata members will be deleted.

It also deletes sub-clause (b) of clause-3 of the same article which states that four of the senators elected from Fata shall retire after three years and four after the next three years.

Under amendment to Article 106 of the Constitution, new clauses 1-A and 1-B are inserted, which deal with number of seats of Fata in KP Assembly. Out of total 21 seats, 16 seats will be for general, four for women and one for minorities.

However, elections to the aforesaid seats shall be held within one year after General Election 2018. Article 246 which deals with tribal areas and clause C which defines and names the federally administered tribal areas are omitted.

Furthermore, a new clause, D, is inserted which states that the laws applicable in these areas will remain applicable until repealed or changed by competent authority.

Meanwhile, the bill also seeks to omit Article 247 of the Constitution.

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