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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, on Tuesday, unanimously, decided that two constitutional amendment bills seeking the creation of new provinces in the country would be made a basis for a larger discussion on this important issue regarding the creation of new provinces, saying it does not reject the bills but they would be taken forward for further discussion.

The committee, which met with Senator Syed Ali Zafar in the chair, discussed the two bills, moved by senators belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) including Syed Muhammad Sabir Shah and Senator Rana Mahmoodul Hassan seeking the creation of South Punjab and Hazara provinces.

Zafar further said that the consultation of key leadership of all political parties and stakeholders is mandatory for this important issue.

But unfortunately, currently, the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had been dissolved, and the holding of general elections in the country is coming closer. Due to this situation, the committee thinks that more time is required for further discussion on this important matter, he said, adding that he will write a letter to the chairman Senate in this regard on behalf of the committee to gain additional time.

He said following acquiring additional time from the chairman Senate, we will make a schedule with the consensus of the committee to decide, who will be invited to its meeting.

To this, Senator Farooq H Naek proposed not to make a schedule at the moment and let the new assemblies and government be set up. Keeps the matter pending till the general elections, he said, adding we need to take decisions keeping in view the ground situation. He said in Pakistan’s constitution, amendment is necessary for the creation of new provinces.

He said that the cooperation of the government in the passage of private member bills is of utmost importance.

The chairman said that there was sufficient and important justification for the creation of new provinces. There was poor governance and lack of economic development in areas that were further from Lahore and Peshawar and this distance was also creating daily communication problems for the people, he said.

He said that while considering the creation of new provinces, it must not be based on ethnic and linguistic grounds only but should be on administrative lines and population-related parameters.

Senator Kamran Murtaza said that this is a very big issue and the current assembly and setup is unable to bear its weight; therefore, in the current issue, we need to keep it pending. We need to make a committee comprising representatives of both the houses, as well as, senior leadership, he said.

Senator Walid Iqbal said that mere pending this issue will not work; therefore, we need to take some steps for this purpose. The creation of new provinces in the country should not be limited to two provinces and we conduct a review of the whole federation and submit recommendations, he said, adding that provinces should be created on administrative lines instead of linguistic lines. He said that the more the federating units, the stronger will be the federation. The fewer the federating units, the higher the chances of disintegration of the federation, he said.

The committee expressed annoyance with the Law Ministry for failing to provide the reports from the various ministries concerned, regarding the creation of new provinces and the chairman directed the ministry to file the report within two weeks, failing which action may have to be taken against the concerned.

The committee then took up the matter of the Kishanganga Hydro Power Project dispute. Since the Law Ministry has not prepared the reply, the ministry requested the committee that the Attorney General’s Office may also be called for an in-camera briefing. The committee agreed to give time to the ministry and decided that a separate session will be held for this purpose alone.

The parliamentary body summoned the assistant commissioner, public prosecutor Punjab, and the Police Department to give an in-person briefing of the attack by lawyers on Assistant Commissioner Pir Mahal in Punjab. The committee wanted to know what progress has been made on the case and whether the assistant commissioner is satisfied with the prosecution and investigation so far.

Senators Rana Maqbool Ahmed, Samina Mumtaz Zehri, and senior officials of the Ministry of Law and Justice also attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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