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ISLAMABAD: In a rare show of unity, the Upper House of the Parliament on Monday unanimously passed a constitutional amendment bill envisaging an increase in the number of Balochistan Assembly seats from 65 to 80 to "address the deprivation of the people of Balochistan by giving them their due share of representation."

During a Senate session presided over by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, all the 71 senators present during the session, voted in favour of private member bill-The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (Amendment of Article 106).

As many as 17 senators from the political parties, both the government and opposition, including the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and others are the joint movers of the bill which seeks to increase the number of Balochistan Assembly seats from 65 to 80 by increasing the general seats from 51 to 64 and women seats from 11 to 13 while the number of non-Muslim seats would remain same (three). The bill would now land in the National Assembly seeking its nod with two-third majority. If passed, it would get the final ascent from the President of Pakistan- to be signed into law.

Later, senators from different political parties expressed strong concerns over the alleged failure of Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to take on cartelization by powerful mafias in the country.

Interestingly, the related motion discussed the role and effectiveness of CCP against cartelization in various sectors resulting in over-pricing of products was moved by Mohsion Aziz, who is from PTI, the ruling party.

Speaking on his motion, Aziz said the CCP has completely failed to take action against the highhandedness of different powerful "cartels" including those of automobile manufacturers, petroleum, cement and others who are involved in massively fleecing the public at large by profiteering but providing substandard services. "There is no one to check them and it is like cartels in Pakistan have the license to exploit the consumers while CCP is sitting as a silent spectator," he said. Aziz said the ordinance related to the CCP was promulgated in 2010. "And in the last 10 years, from 2010 to 2020, all we have seen is that the CCP imposed a tiny fine of just Rs 140 million on automobile manufacturers and Rs 6 billion on cement cartel. This is just peanuts, these cartels earn trillions of rupees by exploiting the consumers at will and the CCP has fined them just peanuts. This speaks volumes of the state of affairs the CCP is presently in."

Another treasury benches' senator Ateeq Shaikh from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) endorsed the PTI senator's viewpoint.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq said due to the failure of the organizations like CCP "Mafias have been let loose on the public."

Concluding the discussion, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan passed the buck on the previous governments for CCP's alleged incompetence. "When the representatives of different cartels and mafias would make their way to the Parliament and provincial assemblies, the results would be disastrous. This is the reason why mafias operated freely in the past," he said in an implied suggestion that several parliamentarians and members of provincial assemblies were linked to different cartels and mafias. The minister said the CCP concluded 115 inquiries since 2007, issued 717 show cause notices, 134 enforcement orders and imposed penalties of Rs 27.04 billion. "The foremost mandate of the CCP is to act against cartelization. To say that the CCP has completely failed to do its duties is not correct. The CCP officers are performing their duties with diligence and dedication under very meagre resources. But, personally I do feel that the amount of penalties imposed should have been greater than what it is (Rs 27.04 billion)," the minister said, adding that the federal government is taking steps to empower the CCP to taken on cartelization.

Meanwhile, Leader of the House Dr. Shahzad Waseem said there was no legal or constitutional obligation over special assistants to the prime minister to declare their assets but in an unprecedented move they did so.

The Senate passed a resolution moved by Mohsin Aziz recognizing the efforts and personal sacrifices of Doctors and paramedical staff fighting on the frontlines against COVID-19.

Two bills were introduced in the Senate moved by Rukhsana Zuberi from PPP and referred to relevant standing committees.

These were; The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and The Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

The House will now meet again on Wednesday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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