ISLAMABAD - In a hurried move, the government on Friday tabled the much controversial 24th Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Senate, aiming at the creation of Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab province, arousing the ire of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which severely opposed it.
Reacting to the bill, the PML-N said all was being done in haste without settling the major issues coming out of the creation of the new province. It said the ruling PPP wanted to disintegrate Punjab through this constitutional amendment.
Law Minister Farooq H Naek tabled the Constitution (24th Amendment) Act-2013 bill, which was not present on the order of the day and introduced through a supplementary agenda.
Senate Chairman Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari referred the bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs with the directions that it would present its report within 10 days.
The statement of objects and reasons of the bill says that it is designed to create a new province of Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab out of the existing province of Punjab to meet the longstanding demand of the people of the area.
The bill says that Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab shall comprise territories of Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions and the districts of Mianwali and Bhakkar.
The bill will amend seven articles of the Constitution to pave way for the creation of new province. Amendment in Article 1 will put the word of Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab after Punjab. By amending the Article 59, the number of seats in the Senate would be increased to 127, giving 23 seats to the proposed province.
The amendment in articles 175 A and 198 will lead to the establishment of high court in the new province and for the abolishment of Lahore High Court benches in Multan and Bahawalpur. If passed by parliament, a commission, comprising of chief justices of four high courts, will be constituted for the appointment of the chief justice and judges in Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjabhigh court.
Criticising the bill, Senate Opposition Leader Ishaq Dar said that the chair should not give the time frame to the Senate Law Committee to present its report as the committee would have to deliberate on a number of issues left unattended by the Parliamentary Commission on Creation of New Provinces in Punjab.
He said that the commission had not addressed the issues ranging from water, assets, revenue and liabilities arising out of the creation of new province.
PML-N Senator Zafar Ali Shah, quoting rules of procedure of conduct and business of the house, said that the bill could not be introduced in the house as it was not present on Friday's agenda.
The law minister replied that the bill had been referred to the committee and no legislator objected to the matter of the procedure at that time.
The PML-N staged a walkout against the introduction of the bill and the Senate Secretariat's reluctance to bring the PCNS (Parliamentary Committee on National Security) report on missing persons on the agenda.
PPP Senator and Chairman Parliamentary Committee on National Security Mian Raza Rabbani staged a protest walkout over the Senate Secretariat's failure to present report on missing persons. He, on a point of order, said that PCNS passed unanimous recommendations on the issue of missing persons few weeks ago and those recommendations were sent to the prime minister as well as Senate Secretariat. Rabbani said: "But Senate Secretariat is not willing to lay the report on the floor of the house and giving illogical reasons for delay.”
He said the secretariat could not stop the presentation of this report on the floor of the house. "This is the flouting of the rules and the Senate Secretariat cannot stifle the committee's report," he said before staging walkout. Endorsing the views of Rabbani, Senator Dar said the committee was constituted as a result of the joint sitting of the Parliament so its report should be brought to the house.
"The copies of the committee's report have yet not been sent to its members," he remarked. The report should be made part of the house proceedings, he said before staging a walkout. The chairman said he would examine the issue raised by Rabbani as there was no purpose to put the report on hold.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl also walked out over the imposition of governor rule in Balochistan and Senate Secretariat's unwillingness to introduce the PCNS report on missing persons.