ISLAMABAD - In a rare show of unity, the National Assembly yesterday unanimously passed the 26th Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2019, giving more representation to tribal districts in lower house of the parliament and KP Assembly.

Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri and member of National Assembly Mohsin Dawar moved amendments in the articles 51 and 106 of the Constitution at the floor of the house, which were later passed with two-thirds majority by members belonging to all parties first by rising from their seats and finally by roll call.

More than 280 members approved different clauses of the bill and during the roll call 288 came out in its support.

The MNAs from both sides of aisle cast 288 votes in favour of the constitutional amendment increasing seats of tribal areas in KP Assembly (from 16 to 24) and in National Assembly (from 6 to 12).

The 9th session of the National Assembly saw a rare unity for passing the 26th amendment in PTI government-era.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill moved by Mohsin Dawar, “Under the constitution, the state is responsible to protect rights of all its citizens and to give them due representation in all walks of life”.

“In order to ensure proper representation of areas of erstwhile Fata, it is necessary that the number of general seats of the National Assembly allocated for those areas should remain the same.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan, sharing his views, asked provinces to spare three percent share in National Finance Commission (NFC) to tribal districts as development funds for this area alone could not help making fast change.

“Development needs in this area cannot be resolved only by its own development funds. So all provinces need to do chipping from their funds,” he said, adding that passage of constitutional amendment will help remove the sense of deprivation. “This amendment would create an impression that nation is with them,” he said. Khan also appreciated all political parties for backing the 26th Constitution Amendment. “The areas left behind must be brought at par with other areas of the country,” he said.

Talking about separation of East Pakistan, he said, all of Pakistan should learn a lesson from this tragedy. “No one should feel that Pakistan does not own them [People of Fata area], that they do not have a stake in Pakistan,” he said. “A big accident, the separation of East Pakistan, resulted in a sense of deprivation among the people,” he said, mentioning that this sense of deprivation was dangerous as it could be exploited by enemies of Pakistan.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, soon after passage of the constitutional amendment, congratulated entire nation for unanimously adopting the bill.

PML-N’s senior lawmaker Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said there was need of sufficient funds for the area. “This is not an easy decision as money will be required to resolve multiple problems,” said Abbasi. For the first time, former prime minister said, landmark legislation was being made on a private member bill. “There was a need of consensus on an issue of national interest,” he said, mentioning that the federal and provincial governments should show commitment to bring the tribal districts at par with other parts of the country.

He was of the view that number of seats given to tribal districts will have an effect on the country’s politics.

About recent IMF deal, he said there was a need to inform the house about impact of this package.

MMA’s senior lawmaker Maulana Abdul Wasay congratulated people of the tribal districts for constitutional amendment.

Criticising the PTI government for removing security of JUI-F chief Mulana Fazlur Rahman, he said Fazl needed proper security. Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi said security of JUI-F chief was not withdrawn as it was only rationalised.

PPP-P’s Raja Pervaiz Ahraf lauded people of erstwhile Fata for big achievement. He said this move would help removing the sense of deprivation of people. He said his party had always raised voice for mainstreaming of tribal districts.

Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said that this constitutional amendment was necessary for solution of problems of the erstwhile Fata area. He also lauded Prime Minister Imran Khan for taking steps to remove sense of deprivation of tribal districts.

MQM-P’s lawmaker Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui congratulated the entire house and people of the tribal districts for passing the amendment. “Now positive changes must be brought in the area,” he said. Supporting the amendment, ANP’s Haider Khan Hoti said people of tribal areas should be given more respect and honour.

Later, Minister for Housing and Works Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema laid before the house ‘The Naya Pakistan Housing Authority Bill, 2019’ and ‘The Recovery of Mortgage-backed Securities Bill, 2019.’

Tribal districts’ seats in National Assembly increased from

6 to 12,

in KP Assembly from

16 to 24