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In a rare show of unity between the government and the opposition, the Upper House of the Parliament on Monday unanimously passed the Islamabad Community Integration Bill, 2019, a private member bill moved by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Maqbool Ahmad.
The House unanimously passed another private member bill 'The Post Office Bill, 2019,' moved by treasury benches' Senator Khushbakht Shujat from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
During the Senate proceedings on Monday, Rana Maqbool presented his bill. Ahead of the voting on the bill, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, presiding over the session, asked if there is opposition to the bill. Interior Minister Ijaz Shah responded by saying, "This is a good bill that has been drafted with good intentions of the mover. I am not really opposed to this bill but I think this bill, if it becomes a law, would result in overlapping with local government institutions. In my opinion, this bill is a mere repetition of the local government system. We really don't need this bill when we already have local bodies."
In response, Maqbool, the bill's mover, contradicted the interior minister's stance that the bill was a mere repetition of local government system already in place. "This bill is all about community participation and involvement for the resolution of their problems. Yes, we have local government systems in our country, but, in reality, our local bodies are good for nothing. They have nothing more than a ceremonial role and stand way far from resolving the problems of the public. This bill provides best solutions to the resolution of public problems with the active involvement of committee system," he said.
Barrister Javed Abbasi from PML-N seconded Maqbool. "This bill is a significant headway towards the resolution of public problems at the local level. I fail to understand why the interior minister has concerns about the bill. This bill demands nothing from the government; neither funds nor resources whatsoever. It ensures reliance on public contributions at the local level coupled with active community participation to strengthen the local communities in the federal capital."
Leader of the Opposition in Senate Raja Zafar-ul-Haq also voiced his support for the bill and suggested that the bill be passed.
At voting stage, no one from the treasury benches including the interior minister opposed the bill leading to the bill's smooth passage from the Senate.
The bill would now require National Assembly's nod before being required to be signed into law by the President of Pakistan.
The Islamabad Community Integration Bill, 2019, envisages the establishment of 'Rifahi Committees' (welfare committees) and Rifahi Sub-committees for the resolution of public problems at local level in the jurisdiction of Islamabad Capital territory (ICT). Each Rifahi Committee would cater for every 2,000 houses, comprising 20 members each, in an area and each Rifahi Sub-committee would cater for every 100 houses, comprising 10 members each.
Moreover, 'The Post Office Bill, 2019,' aims to "consolidate the law relating to the postal services in accordance with the demands and requirements of the modern times and to bring the services of Pakistan Post at par with international courier and logistics service providers and create a fruitful environment of market competitiveness."
Two private member bills; The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019 moved by Javed Abbasi and The Islamabad Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2018 moved by Mohsin Aziz from the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were deferred till next week.
PML-N's Lieutenant General Abdul Qayyum (retd) moved The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeking amendments to the Articles 213 and 215.
The bill has been referred to the relevant Senate standing committee. The bill seeks to ensure that the matter regarding the appointment of chief election commissioner and members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is referred to the Supreme Court if deadlock persists between the government and opposition in the related parliamentary committee. The house will meet again today (Tuesday) at 3:30pm.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020