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ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Tuesday passed an amendment to the Constitution to reallocate National Assembly seats among the federating units and allowing the election authorities revamp the boundaries of constituencies in accordance with the provisional results of this year’s population count.
Passing of the 24th Constitutional Amendment clears the hurdle for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold the coming general elections, due in July-August next year, on time. A total of 84 senators voted in in favour of the bill.
Kamil Ali Aga of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) was the only senator to vote against the bill. A constitutional amendment needed at least two-thirds — 69 in the house of 104 –to pass. The National Assembly had already passed the bill last month.
The proposed legislation will become part of the Constitution after the president’s formal assent. It remained stuck in the Senate for weeks as opposition parties – mainly the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – refuse to support it until the government addressed its reservations.
The new bill amends Article 51(5) of the Constitution, which deals with the allocation of seats in the National Assembly among the four provinces, Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
The law stipulates that these seats will be reallocated and the constituencies will be revamped once the official results of population census are officially notified. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), which conducted the census, says the data will be ready by April next year.
With elections due by mid of the next year, the ECP needed at least five months to revamp the constituencies — known as delimitation.
As a result of the latest amendment, nine of Punjab’s seats in the National Assembly would be taken away and redistributed among Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), and ICT. K-Pwill get five more seats, Balochistan will get three, and ICT will have one additional seat in the lower house of parliament.
Although PML-Q senator Agha voted against the bill, Mushahid Hussain Syed – the other PML-Q senator – turned up late. He told reporters he would have voted in favour of the bill had he made it to the hall in time. Of the eight senators from Fata, only Saleh Shah attended the session and voted for the bill.
Agha claimed that it was his party’s policy decision not to support the bill.
Leader of the House Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq assured the House that the government would fulfil the promise it made to the opposition parties regarding a -hird party audit of five per cent of census blocks.
Also on Tuesday, the house unanimously passed the Comsats University Bill, 2017. It will grant Comsats full university status. The chair did not admit three adjournment motions appearing on the agenda for being in contravention with rules.
The House took a calling attention notice regarding the issues of sugarcane growers. The Commerce minister responded to it, but the chair directed the Senate Secretariat to send notice to the relevant ministry as the ministers for national food security and commerce both shifted responsibility on each other.