Consensus eludes parties huddle on delimitation bill

ISLAMABAD – A parliamentary committee meeting regarding a proposed amendment to the census ended indecisively on Tuesday as Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and PPP reservations over census results could not be addressed.

Leaders of parliamentary parties decided to meet again today (Wednesday) to convince the ‘dissenting’ parties.

On Monday, when the government failed to pass the ‘Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017’ on the reallocation of seats and delimitation in the National Assembly, NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq decided to discuss the bill with leaders of parliamentary parties to develop consensus among political parties before tabling it for legislation.

After the third meeting on Tuesday, the MQM-P and the PPP remained unconvinced over the issue.

Last week, both the parties had agreed to the constitutional amendment — keeping the number of seats in National Assembly unchanged and adjusting provincial quota in the lower house — before raising the last-minute objections over the draft of the bill in Monday’s session.

After questioning the census results, the MQM on Tuesday, however, hinted some way forward.

“We have proposed delimitation on the basis of the number of voters instead of the population,” MQM Parliamentary Leader Sattar told the media after the meeting of heads of parliamentary leaders here.

As per law, after the new census, the general election could not be held on the basis of old headcount.

At the last week’s meeting, all party representatives agreed to a proposal to keep the total number of seats unchanged in NA — 272 seats in total — while reducing the overall seats of Punjab by nine. Of the Punjab’s deducted seats, five will go to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three to Balochistan and one to the Islamabad Capital Territory besides keeping the seats of Sindh and Fata unchanged.

But when the draft was tabled in National Assembly on Monday, the PPP, the MQM and the PTI raised objections.

PPP leader Naveed Qamar said that his party wanted that the constitutional amendment bill should be approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) first before tabling it in the National Assembly.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has said it could not complete its pre-election task if the amendment was not carried out by Parliamentary before November 10.

All political parties, except the PTI, have been insisting to conduct the general election on time.

The PTI insists that elections under new census results would be time-consuming and in order to avoid any further delay, snap elections should be held immediately on the basis of old census results.

The final results of the census have not yet been announced, and according to the law, delimitation could not be carried out on the basis of provisional results.

Opposition Leader Khurshid Shah on Wednesday last expressed his displeasure over the abrupt postponement of the National Assembly session.

“Today, the electoral reforms bill was to be presented in NA but the session was postponed for an indefinite period without taking the House into confidence,” he had told the media.

Shah said his party believes that in the recent census, the population of Sindh had been shown three to four percent less.

The PTI has not yet elucidated its objection to the amendment law, party leaders have been demanding to address reservations of the MQM-P and the PPP before tabling the bill.

Despite all apparent hurdles, NA Speaker Sadiq expressed optimism over a breakthrough.

“We have discussed the matter thoroughly, now the parliamentary leaders would consult their party leaders and we will discuss it in Wednesday meeting again,” Sadiq told the media.

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