(MENAFN- Gulf Times) The legislation that will pave the way for elections to be held in a timely manner in Pakistan has finally been signed into law after an unexplained week-long delay.
The constitutional amendment bill that makes provisions for fresh delimitation of constituencies on the basis of provisional census results was passed by the National Assembly on November 16, and cleared by the Senate on December 19.
Its passage was, by no means, an easy one, and came after a bitter stand-off between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which was finally resolved after Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi convened a breakfast meeting of parliamentary leaders.
The hold-up in presidential assent for the bill was especially conspicuous, given the speed with which the Elections Act 2017 allowing ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif to retain his position as head of the PML-N despite being disqualified was signed into law.
Throughout the week, observers speculated on the reasons behind this delay given the concerns repeatedly voiced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that a delay in the bill's passage may put off the upcoming elections.
However, a notification revealed that President Mamnoon Hussain had given his assent to the legislation on December 22, but somehow a notification to this effect took another four days to publish.
An official privy to the saga explained that as per standard procedure, the house of parliament that adopts a bill already having been passed by the other house sends a summary to the ministry of parliamentary affairs, which then forwards it summary to the prime minister, who in turn advises the president to give the final assent.
After it is signed, the file comes back to the house of parliament in question via the same route and its secretary is supposed to forwards it for publication in the official gazette.
In the case of the delimitation law, the official said, the Senate Secretariat forwarded the summary to the parliamentary affairs ministry a day after the bill was passed by the upper house and signed by chairman Raza Rabbani.
The ministry, in turn, moved a summary to the prime minister, who advised the president to give his assent.
In the meantime, President Hussain was scheduled to travel to Karachi.
The file probably travelled to Karachi and the president's signature was obtained on December 22 and the last page of the summary was sent back to the Senate Secretariat via fax.
However, officials from the upper house objected to this unorthodox method of transmission, saying that the presidential assent could not be sent by way of fax, and sought the original document, which was finally received on December 24.
The senate secretary then forwarded it for publication in the official gazette the same day, but the Printing Corporation of Pakistan took another two days to comply.
Like other stakeholders, the ECP also seemed unaware of this development, even after the notification was published in the official gazette on Tuesday (December 26), and only came to know when they received it through official channels the next day.
Article 51(5) of the Constitution provides that seats in the National Assembly (NA) shall be allocated to each province, Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and the federal capital on the basis of population, in accordance with the last officially published census.
There is a consensus among political parties that for purposes of the next general elections, the allocation of NA seats should be made on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 census, without changing the existing number of general seats (272) and women's seats (60), while retaining Fata's share (12).
According to the reallocation formula specified in the bill, seats will increase for Baluchistan (two general seats and one women's seat), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (four and one, respectively), and federal capital (one general seat), while Punjab's share will decrease (losing seven general seats and two women's seats).
Sindh, however, will maintain status quo.
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