ISLAMABAD - The government Monday failed to pass a crucial amendment bill, seeking the reallocation of seats of national and provincial assemblies and delimitation of constituencies on the basis of provisional census results in the 48th National Assembly session.

To develop consensus among political parties to pass the ‘Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017’, the chair decided to prorogue the session sine die.

NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq with the consensus of other parties decided to discuss the bill with all parliamentary parties before tabling for legislation. “The matter will be discussed with parliamentary parties today (Tuesday) as a further delay is not affordable,” the speaker said.

The government has thrice failed to get the bill passed through the NA due to the lack of required strength (228 members), as, on an average, around 100 lawmakers have been showing up in the house during the last three days.

The constitutional amendment for the ‘delimitation of constituencies’ is important as the Election Commission of Pakistan has given the November 10 deadline for a new legislation so that it can have powers to begin the exercise (delimitations) to complete it by April prior to the 2018 general elections.

Leader of Opposition in NA Khursheed Shah said that his party (PPP) was not in favour of delaying the elections.

Minister for Housing and Works Akram Durrani proposed to adjourn or prorogue the house for two days to deliberate upon the issue with the parliamentary parties in the committee.

Minister for Kashmir Affairs Barjees Tahir said that the matter should be resolved amicably. PPP’s Naveed Qamar proposed that dialogue could help deal with the stalemate. “The matter needs to be resolved keeping in view rules and regulations,” he said.

PTI’s Shireen Mazari criticised the government for failing to ensure the presence of its own lawmakers. “It is the consecutive third day as treasury lawmakers have failed to ensure their full strength,” said Mazari, mentioning that the disinterest of government MNAs clearly reflected the ‘no confidence in the government’.

Jamaat-e-Islami Parliamentary Leader Tariq Ullah said the next general election should be held on time. Treasury MNA Mir Zafar Jamali also criticized the government for the absence of its members in the House. “Only two ministers are sitting in the House, please respect the parliamentary norms,” he said.

Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Sherpao said that the next general election should be held in time. “The government should, at least, ensure its own strength to pass the constitutional amendment,” he said.

Last week, political parties seemed to be united on all clauses of the constitutional amendment but later the change of mind emerged mainly from the PPP.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill states that ‘Article 51 (5) of the Constitution provides that seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each province, the FATA, and the federal capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published’.

It said there is consensus among the political parties that for the purposes of the next general election to be held in 2018 and by-elections related thereto, allocation of National Assembly seats should be made on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 census without changing the existing total number of general seats (272) and women seats (60) and retaining the share of the FATA (12).

According to the proposed reallocation, seats will increase for Balochistan (2 general seats 1 women seat), KP (4+1) and federal capital (1) while seats for the Punjab will decrease and seats for Sindh will remain the same.’ According to the bill, the total NA seats will remain 272 but there would be a change in the allocation of NA seats for the provinces.

Meanwhile, the government managed to pass ‘the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University, Islamabad (Amendment) Bill, 2017’.

The statement of object and reasons of the bill says, ‘this bill seeks to remove the anomalies in order to align the provision of this act with the HEC federal universities Ordinance, 2002 and other public sector medical universities legal framework.

Both the opposition and government kept engaged in discussion in favour and against the bill. The government passed the bill with a majority of votes. PTI MNA Dawar Kundi, on a point of order, raised the issue of a shocking incident that took place in Dera Ismail Khan where a teenage girl was forced to walk naked through the village streets. He said proper action should be taken on the issue.