- A day of happy surprises
On Monday the National Assembly unanimously passed the 26th Amendment Bill in an atmosphere marked by bonhomie. The Prime Minister addressed a peaceful House and lauded the National Assembly for its display of unity. The House was full and the Bill was passed by 288 votes to none. The Amendment has a historic importance for the people of the erstwhile FATA, which has been amalgamated into KP. It enhances the current allocation of the general seats made on the basis of provisional results of the population census 2017. In the National Assembly the region’s representation has been doubled from six to 12 while in the KP Assembly it has been enhanced from 16 to 24. This will send a good message to the region while strengthening the system as more representation would not only enhance not only its say but also the region’s stake in the system.
Problems still remain. The current allocation of the general seats was made on the basis of provisional results of a census that did not include internally-displaced population. The representation of the region will therefore have to be enhanced after the next census.
In April a special Senate committee held a meeting with PTM leadership. The committee promised to serve as a bridge to address the group’s grievances thorough a consultative process. The subsequent delay made PTM leader Manzur Pashteen express dismay. A more realistic Mohsin Dawar, who was the moving spirit behind the Amendment, has thanked the country’s political leadership and said this will kindle hope among the masses of ex-FATA. He recognized however that there is still a long way to go to win equality for the people of the region but remains hopeful.
The National Assembly has proved it can bring dissidents into the mainstream by removing their genuine grievances through legislation. Parliament is in fact is the right forum to deal with complex social issues. In parliamentary committees dissidents can argue on equal level without anyone resorting to threats. In the National Assembly they can stage protests and still be brought back by the Treasury benches. Recourse to threats or actual use of force against non-violent dissidents who abide by the Constitution can force them to resort to extra-parliamentary means. Repression turns dissidents into separatists, as has been amply shown in Balochistan.