NA unanimously passes 18th Amend Bill
* Bill approved by 292 votes to none
* House paves way for repeal of LFO, 17th Amend, Article 58(2b), renaming of NWFP, abolishment of concurrent list
By Irfan Ghauri
ISLAMABAD: The National assembly on Thursday unanimously approved the 18th Amendment Bill, deleting former military dictator Ziaul Haq’s name from the constitution, annulling Article 58(2b) of the constitution and renaming NWFP as “Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa”.
The bill, sent to the Senate for approval, would restore the powers of prime minister and chief ministers in the line with the 1973 Constitution, set right distortions introduced by military regimes and facilitate a move towards greater provincial autonomy.
The Lower House passed the bill through consensus on a motion moved by Adviser to the Prime Minister Raza Rabbani, but – as a constitutional requirement – a headcount was also conducted to determine the actual number of votes in favour and against the amendment.
Members of the House who had differed with some clauses of the bill during the second reading also voted in favour of the document in the final stage, leading to a consensus package.
“As many as 292 members have voted in favour of the motion to adopt the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2010 and none [have voted] against [the document]. Consequently, the motion is adopted and the bill is passed with the votes not less than two thirds of the total membership of the assembly,” announced the speaker.
The bill passed by the assembly includes the repeal of the 17th Amendment and the Legal Framework Order (LFO) introduced by Pervez Musharraf and the abolishment of the concurrent list.
The assembly also passed a clause on the repeal of Article 58(2b) of the constitution, barring the president from dissolving the national assembly on his/her own. The bill also abolishes a clause that barred the election of a prime minister for more than two terms.
According to the document, anybody responsible for suspending the constitution or holding it abeyance would be charged with high treason.
The bill also renamed NWFP as “Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa”, while the House also passed an amendment to Article 153 of the constitution, providing for the reconstitution of the Council of Common Interests with the prime minister as its chairman. It has also been made obligatory for the council to meet at least once in 90 days to resolve contentious issues between federating units.
The House also adopted an amendment to the constitution to change the procedure for the appointment of judges to superior courts. Under the provision, judges would now be nominated by a judicial commission headed by the chief justice of Pakistan, while the final approval for appointments would be given by a parliamentary committee of members of the Senate and the National Assembly.
The House also passed an amendment in Article 213 of the constitution, providing that the prime minister – in consultation with the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly – would forward three names for appointment to the office of the chief election commissioner for five years to a parliamentary committee for confirmation of the final appointee.
Under Clause 90 of the amendment, the powers to appoint services chiefs has been delegated to the prime minister, while the authority earlier rested with the president. However, the president would remain the supreme commander of the armed forces.
Under Clause 71, a high court for Islamabad has been proposed, in addition to the establishment of benches of the Peshawar High Court in Mingora and the Balochistan High Court in Turbat.
The 18th Amendment also envisages greater autonomy for provinces through the diversion of resources. Provinces would be allowed to explore natural resources, establish power generation units and earn royalty on natural resources.
The amendment is expected to also sail through the Senate today (Friday).