The National Assembly on Monday passed the 26th Constitutional Amendment Bill and formalised an increase in the number of seats for the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) in the National Assembly and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
Introduced by lawmaker Mohsin Dawar last Thursday, the bill was passed with 278 votes and after comments from representatives of all parties.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended the day’s proceedings and lauded the National Assembly for the show of unity.
“I am very happy that the entire House has supported this constitutional amendment. This [bill] will give the people of the erstwhile tribal areas that they are important to us and their voice will always be heard in Pakistan,” said PM Imran.
“I urge all provinces to give three per cent from their NFC share for the development of the erstwhile Fata areas. I know it’s a difficult task given the current economic situation but it is essential because the damages incurred due to the war on terror have been immense.”
The prime minister said such moves were essential to ensure there was no feeling of alienation anywhere in Pakistan. “East Pakistan was separated because the people felt a lack of inclusion and representation. No one today should feel that they are not valued in Pakistan and that we do not see them as our own. This feeling has been and is being exploited by our enemies,” said PM Imran.
“We must now ensure that our development efforts are inclusive; areas that lag behind must be brought to the same level as the rest of the country. No region or people should feel they are not part of Pakistan. This bill tells the people of the tribal areas that they are as Pakistani as us all,” asserted the premier.
With the passage of the bill, ex-Fata districts would have nine seats in the National Assembly which were reduced to six after the merger of Fata into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while their share in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly would stand at 20 with an increase of four seats.
Prior to the passage of the bill, another constitutional amendment bill pertaining to the formation of a South Punjab province was also presented in the National Assembly.
The bill was moved by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) legislator Makhdoom Syed Sami-ul-Hassan Gillani. The assembly also adopted a motion authorising the speaker to constitute a special committee of treasury and opposition members to examine the amendment bill.
Addressing the assembly after the bill was presented, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said creation of the South Punjab province was a promise made by PTI to the people of Pakistan.
He said the ruling party would do all in its power to fulfill its promise and would seek the support of all stakeholders to ensure that the bill was passed. “We have done it previously and we again invite the Pakistan People’s Party to sit down with use for discussions. We will do all that is required to ensure that the people of South Punjab are given their due rights,” said Qureshi.