Bright chances of delimitation bill passage by Senate today

ISLAMABAD – Chances of legislation on delimitation of constituencies during the upcoming Senate session starting from today (Monday) seemed bright as the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has taken some tenable measures to muster the support of other parliamentary parties including the Pakistan People’s Party.

Parliamentary sources said this time around, the ruling party seemed quite serious on getting the legislation on delimitation passed through the Upper House as it had taken steps to address the concerns of the opposition parties mainly the PPP for a one-time holding of elections on the basis of provisional census results.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif took serious notice of a delay in the passage of the legislation on the matter from Upper House of the Parliament and directed Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to remove the hiccups and address the concerns of the opposition parties and give them assurances they wanted before the passage of the bill.

The sources in the government said that the opposition parties wanted the audit of five percent blocks of census results on a random basis to allay their concerns on the validity of the 6th census results, and in this connection, a formal approval had already been given by the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

The opposition parties, mainly the PPP, said that despite the approval by the CCI the government was not moving forward to initiate the audit of five percent census blocks which has raised apprehensions about the government’s intention.

It was in this backdrop that the Prime Minister Secretariat would be moving a summary to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to carry out the audit of five percent blocks as per the approval of the CCI. This would address most of the concerns of the opposition parties including the MQM and the PPP on the validity of these results.

Furthermore, it was also decided in principle that it would be the one-time relaxation of holding the delimitation on the basis of provisional census results and after the elections, the delimitations would be redone on the basis of actual and final census results.

The parliamentary sources said that though the bill was not on the agenda list of Senate session, if the requisite members of the Upper House were available today, the Senate chairman could suspend the regular proceedings for the passage of the said piece of legislation, as by and large, the concerns of all the political parties sitting on opposition benches were fully addressed.

The government sources said that previously too, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani took extra pain to get the legislation passed from the Upper House and even extended the session for a day but all his efforts had failed as the opposition parties mainly the PPP wanted some tenable steps before the passage of the bill from the Upper House.

The same bill was passed by the National Assembly almost unanimously because no opposition parties including the PPP had opposed. But as the pledges made by the government on addressing the concerns of opposition parties regarding the census were not addressed, the same parties which had extended support to the bill in the Lower House withdrew the same when it was tabled in the Upper House.

The bill was deferred for several times as the government failed to manage the requisite strength of 69 to sail it through the Senate.

A senior PPP leader dispelled the impression of any deal with the government on the issue and said that the PPP would be getting some benefits from the government in lieu of their support to the bill.

“Actually by extending support to the said piece of legislation, the PPP would only be extending support to the continuity of system as the passage of the bill would ensure timely holding of elections,” he added.

Previously, Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq and Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice Senator Javid Abbasi had made failed attempts to woo the support of all the parliamentary parties in the Upper House on this important piece of legislation.

Lately, the Election Commission of Pakistan had given the November 30 deadline stating that any further delay in the legislation on the matter would put holding the next general election on time in the doldrums.

For the passage of the bill, a two-thirds strength in the Upper House would be required and the figure of 69 could easily be achieved if the PML-N having 27 senators would have the backing of 26 PPP senators, 10 senators from FATA, eight from MQM, five from JUI-F, six from ANP and other smaller parties like PMAP, NP and others having three each and two seats respectively.

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