Dawn - the Internet Edition

28 July 1999 Wednesday 14 Rabi-us-Saani 1420


National Assembly gives new lease of life to job quota

By Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD, July 27: Displaying unanimity in the ranks of treasury and combined opposition on Tuesday, the National Assembly passed the much-waited Constitutional (Sixteenth Amendment) Bill, 1999 by 162 against four votes, more than two-thirds majority, reviving the quota system in services till 2013.

The Bill was finally adopted by the process of division. When the speaker asked the members wishing to vote for yes vote to proceed to the lobbies on his right side, the MNAs belonging to both the treasury, independents and the opposition made a beeline to proceed to the lobbies.

Only one PPP MNA, Shabir Ahmed Khan Chandio, who is forced to sit on a wheel-chair owing to his physical disability, kept sitting in the house. The speaker directed the teller to come to the house and get his signature for vote.

After 45 minute-exercise, the speaker announcing the results, saying that the Bill had been adopted by 162 votes. The MQM voted against the Bill with a tally of four votes.

Earlier, the Muttahida legislators in the National Assembly put up a stout opposition to the Bill. Dr Nishat Mallick of the MQM speaking on the Bill said that the MQM, who were four people present in the house, should be given opportunity to speak out their mind on an important bill.

In 1973, he said that the government had taken the plea that the quota system was being kept in force for only ten years in view of the existence of backward areas in the country since equal education and other facilities were not available to the people of these areas for competing the people from developed areas.

However, Dr Nishat said that even after ten years no steps had been taken by the government to bring such people at par with the developed areas in terms of education.

He said distinction of urban and rural was maintained only in Sindh, while in the other three provinces, no distinction on the basis of rural and urban was made. He expressed apprehension that in the year 2013, once again another constitutional amendment would be sought to extend the period on the same grounds. MQM members Kunwar Khalid Yunus, Arif Khan advocate and Tariq Javed also opposed the Bill terming it as being against the spirit of the Constitution. The members were given two minutes to speak on the Bill. They said that the discrimination on the basis of rural and urban would create frustrations among the people and would generate feelings of alienation among them, leading to creating a new Bangladesh in the country.

PML MNA from Karachi, Ijaz Shafi, opposing the contention of the MQM legislators said that in a joint resolution adopted by the house last year on the quota system, the same MQM members had voted for revival of the quota system. Later, Mr Tariq Javed of MQM said that the two MQM MNAs, who were present in the house then, had opposed the resolution. The MQM MNAs Dr Nishat Mallick, Kunwar Khalid Yunus, Arif Khan and Tariq Javed, later moved their amendmentsin the Bill which were opposed by the minister for parliamentary affairs Yasin Khan Wattoo. The MQM members' amendment sought to add that after the first proviso the following proviso be inserted that " Provided further that the provincial allocation reserved on the basis of population shall not be further sub-divided or bifurcated by any province on anygroundor classification whatsoever, including sub-division or bifurcation on the basis of class, region or area." The MQM also came up another amendment but these were rejected by the house when put to vote by the speaker.

The votes of the combined opposition and the independents put together totalled 31, showing that out of 162 MNAs, who voted for the Bill, 31 MNAs were from the opposition and the independents. Thus the treasury could muster 131 votes. This shows that PML, on its own, cannot get an amendment in the Constitution passed unless it gets support of the opposition and independents.

The Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Bill, 1999 provided that in the Article 27 of the Constitution, Clause (1), in the first proviso for the word "twenty" the word "forty" shall be substitutedand shall be deemed always to have beenso substituted.

When the speaker put this Clause to vote, he first asked the members who wished to support it to rise from their seats. The count revealed that in all 155 members voted for the adoption of Clause 2. This was followed by the count of those who opposed the Clause 2. Only four MQM MNAs stood up tooppose it.

The speaker then put the clause to vote and asked the members supporting Clause 1 to rise from their seats. The counting of the votes showed that 162 supported it. Then the speaker asked the opponents of the Bill to rise. Only four MQM MNAs stood up. The speaker declared the Clause passed.

The prime minister did not attend the House though he had earlier presided over the PML parliamentary party meeting and was present in his chamber till the passing of the Bill.

The statement of objects and reasons of the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Bill, 1999 said that Article 27 of the Constitution provides safeguards against discrimination services. It said that in order to provide opportunity and representation to all classes of persons and areas in services, clause (1) of the said Article provides that for a period not exceeding twenty years from the commencing day of the Constitution, certain posts may be reserved for persons belonging to any class or areas. The statement said that it has been felt that since equal opportunity of education and other facilities are not yet available to all citizens of Pakistan, the period of twenty years specified in clause (1) of Article 27 be extended for forty years.