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Elections on time after Senate passes delimitation bill

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ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Tuesday passed the constitutional amendment to pave the way for delimitation of electoral constituencies on the basis of population census with two-thirds majority to remove the obstruction to the holding of the next general elections according to schedule.

All majority parties voted in support of the constitutional amendment except for the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), which voted against it. The voting was held through division. As many as 84 votes were cast in support of the amendment while only one vote was cast against it by PML-Q Senator Kamil Ali Agha in the house of 104 members.

A total of 82 members voted in favour of the motion to present the bill, while 82 senators voted in favour of Clause 2; none of the Clause 2; none of the lawmakers opposed it. Also, 83 senators voted in favour of preamble and title of the bill and no one opposed it.

During the stage of division, 84 senators voted for constitutional amendment, while only one vote came against it. The National Assembly had passed the bill on Nov 16, 2017 with a two-thirds majority to consider the provisional results of census 2017 to make delimitation of constituencies for upcoming general elections 2018. As many as 233 members in the National Assembly had voted in favour of it and one member had opposed it.

After the passage of the constitutional amendment from the upper house of the parliament, it would be sent for the approval of President Mamnoon Hussain to make it part of the Constitution. The amendment bill remained stuck in the Senate after its passage from the National Assembly last month, as the majority opposition party in the House, PPP, had expressed its reservations on the provisional results of the population census and demanded a third-party validation of 5 per cent blocks.

During the last week, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met parliamentary leaders of in Senate and assured them that their demand would be implemented. Following the assurance, the opposition in the Senate agreed to support the bill.

The passage of the bill will not change the 272 seats strength of the National Assembly. The bill will decrease nine National Assembly seats (seven general and two women seats) of the most populous Punjab province, and will increase five seats (four general and one women seat) of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, three seats of the largest province of Balochistan (two general, and one woman seats) and one of the federal capital.

The number of NA seats for Sindh province and FATA will remain the same. The bill allows new delimitation for the general elections 2018 on the basis of the provisional results of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017. The amendment sought in Article 51 (5) will allow re-allocating seats as per provisional census results.

The Article 51 (5) requires that the “seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each Province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Federal Capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published”.

However, this bill will allow having delimitation on the basis of provisional results of the census. Before the passage of the bill, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) Senator Hamdullah called for delaying the passage in Senate to inform the house about the reasons for the delay.

“The House should be told what were the reservations which were removed by the prime minister in a meeting with the parliamentary leaders. The decision was taken outside the house and its details should be shared with the members,” he added.

Minister for Maritime Affairs Hasil Bizanjo said the prime minister had assured the parliamentary leaders in Senate that reservations of the PPP and other opposition about the provisional results of the census would be removed. “The prime minister assured of conducting audit of 5 per cent blocks of the census,” he said.

After the passage of the amendment, leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq thanked all parliamentary leaders for supporting the bill. In the meanwhile, the Senate also passed the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology Bill, 2017.

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