Deadlock persists on delimitation of constituencies

ISLAMABAD: Deadlock between the government and opposition on a constitutional bill for delimitation of constituencies continued on Tuesday but there was a general consensus that the general elections should be held on time next year.

Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq chaired the meeting at the Parliament House here.

The major opposition parties stuck to their position of approval of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) prior to paving way for amending the Constitution, while the government took the position that the CCI approval was not needed to amend the Constitution.

Following the deadlock, it was decided to hold another round to reach consensus on the issue.

Major opposition parties — Pakistan People’s party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf — were on the same page wanting the CCI nod for fresh delimitation of constituencies but the government disagreed pleading that there was no need for it.

After the meeting, the government and opposition blamed each other for the deadlock.

Talking to the newsmen after the meeting, Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said efforts were made to remove the reservations of the opposition.

“The parliamentary leaders would now discuss the matter with their party heads and meet again on Wednesday (today) after receiving directions,” he said.

He said all the parties had consensus on holding the general elections on time.

PPP parliamentary leader Naveed Qamar said his party still stood by its demand of getting the Constitutional Amendment Bill approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) before bringing it to the assembly.

He said an impression was given to them that the government will take the issue to the CCI but in fact did not want to do so. 

He said the government had prorogued the National Assembly session to block the bill passed by the Senate that barred a disqualified person to head the political party.

PTI deputy parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the PTI wanted continuation of democracy and elections on time.

He said PTI Chairman Imran Khan had demanded early elections on the premise that the government was dysfunctional. He said the demand for early elections was not unconstitutional or undemocratic.

Qureshi said a question was raised in the meeting about the sudden prorogation of National Assembly session and the speaker responded that the government had prorogued it.

He claimed that a faction in the government did not want confrontation and had a separate stance on disqualification of Nawaz Sharif.

Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said deadlock still persisted, as the PPP and PTI stuck to their position of getting the CCI nod for constitutional amendment.

He asked why the Sindh government had not filed a requisition to summon the CCI meeting.

Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said the government had prorogued the National Assembly session to avoid discussion on the Senate bill that barred a disqualified person to head a political party.

He said as many as 11 seats of Punjab had reduced in the fresh delimitation, and if all the districts were added then the number of seats would be around 33.

“The treasury benches were not supporting the government on this issue, as they knew that their constituencies will be affected,” he claimed.

MQM-P parliamentary leader Dr. Farooq Sattar told newsmen that the MQM-P had made it clear in the meeting that his party will not accept the census results.

“If we have reservations about the census, how can we accept its provisional results,” he questioned.

He warned the government alone will be responsible if elections get delayed. However, he said he had proposed delimitation on the basis of number of voters instead of population figures.

He said if the Election Commission of Pakistan went to the Supreme Court on the issue then it will not be a good sign for Parliament.

Dr Farooq Sattar held the PML-N and PPP responsible for the current situation.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhary urged all political parties to forge consensus on delimitation of constituencies.

Talking to newsmen in Islamabad, he regretted that the PPP and PTI were creating hurdles in the way of delimitation, which was a constitutional requirement.