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PML-N delays passage of pro-women bill

By: Tanveer Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: A pro-women legislation could not be passed in the Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) requested for more time to study the bill, despite pressing demands of lawmakers.

Despite lengthy negotiations between the PML-N and treasury benches to evolve consensus on the issue, the bill could not be brought back in the House when the chair adjourned the session for the next day.

The National Commission for Women Bill 2011 received an overwhelming response from all parties except the PML-N. However, PML-N’s move to seek the time to study the bill to propose amendments impeded its passage, despite its members’ pledges that they equally supported the bill. PML-N’s legal wizard Zahid Hamid, who moved the amendments, pointed out that there were certain basic issues that needed to be taken care of before adopting the bill. PML-N’s Tahira Orangzeb also supported her party colleague on the amendments.

Women lawmakers from a number of parties urged for the passage of the bill during Wednesday’s session since it had been in the pipeline for the past four years. Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Dr Nafisa Shah, Dr Azra Fazal and Justice (r) Fakhrunnisa Khokhar, Awami National Party’s (ANP) Bushra Gohar, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) Shehnaz Wazir Ali and Dr Atiya Inayatullah, Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Khushbakht Shujaat and Kishwar Zehra and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Asia Nasir strongly called for the passage of the bill in today’s session.

MQM’s Haider Abbas Rizvi and PML-Q’s Riaz Fatyana also threw their weight behind their colleagues, saying that since the concerned House committee had vetted the bill, there was no need to give more time to the PML-N.

The House also passed the resolutions for setting up standing committees of various new ministries, created by the federal government after the 18th constitutional amendment.

PPP’s chief whip Syed Khursheed Shah also introduced the Constitution (20th Amendment) Bill 2012 to give legal cover to by-elections, which were held under the incomplete Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the directives of the Supreme Court.

Later, PPP’s Qadir Patel urged the chair to constitute a House committee to investigate reports about Indus Airline, in which names of some NA members have also been mentioned, so that the matter could be resolved.

PPP’s Jamshed Dasti called the memo case an attack on parliament and regretted that PML-N President Nawaz Sharif had blown the matter out of proportion despite the fact that he had fallen prey to a similar conspiracy in the past.

Minority Member Dr Nelson Azeem said that like the National Commission for Women Rights, a Minority Commission should also be set up to protect the rights of minorities.

PML-N’s Raja Asad diverted the attention of the House towards the prime minister’s funding of his son’s election campaign in NA-148 Multan allegedly in the name of development projects. Asad said that this was illegal since no development work could be carried out after announcement of the election schedule. Responding to a point of order raised by MQM’s Haider Abbas Rizvi, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas Mian Manzoor Wattoo assured the House that the compensation to victims of Diamer Bhasha Dam would be made transparently, and a committee had already worked out a strategy in this regard.