Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
Home »Documents » Laws » Senate passes OGRA (Amend) Bill, 2015 & NCA (Amend) Bill, 2016
The Upper House of Parliament on Monday passed "The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Amendment bill) Bill, 2015" and "The National Counterterrorism Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2016." The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Amendment bill) Bill 2015 was moved by Senator Sassui Palijo of PPPP. The major amendments in the bill included that the authority shall consist of four members, one each from the four provinces to be appointed by the federal government in consultation with the concerned provincial government.

Every member should have a minimum experience of twenty years in relevant field. The amendment bill also proposed that the chairperson of the authority shall be appointed amongst the members for the period of one year on rotation basis. Palijo said that after the 18th Amendment, it was overdue to go for such legislation, as resources of the provinces were being regulated by Ogra, but they had no representation in it. She added this piece of legislation would fill the vacuum effectively.

The National Counterterrorism Authority (Amendment) Bill moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar was unanimously passed by the House, making it obligatory for NACTA's executive committee to meet at least once in three months to oversee implementation on the National Action Plan (NAP) to root out terrorism and extremism from Pakistan. The authority has two principal bodies namely the board, headed by the prime minister, for policy guidelines and the executive committee, led by the interior minister, for the implementation on policies.

The amendment also makes it mandatory for the executive committee to meet and oversee policy implementation involving all stakeholders in all the provinces. It is pertinent that the existing law does not stipulate when and how frequently the executive committee of the authority must meet.

Speaking on the bill, Senator Babar said that with the board of governors, headed by the Prime Minister, had not met even once during the past over two years while the executive committee was not even mandated to meet regularly due to which fight against militancy has been gravely undermined. The first sitting of the fresh session echoed with voices of concern over violation of human rights.

This, he believed, had also attracted the adverse attention of the Qazi Faez Isa-led Commission in its much-talked about report. The committee of the authority comprises relevant secretaries of federal government and provincial chief secretaries, home secretaries and additional IGs as members. It must be required to meet at least once every three months to oversee the implementation on National Action Plan, he said.

The government did not oppose the amendment which was passed unanimously.

In a unique development of its nature, a piece of legislation, namely The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2016 was moved in the House and referred to the House committee concerned for deliberations and report, as the government did not oppose it.

The proposed law consists of eight chapters. PPPP's Senator Zaheer-ud-Din Babar Awan moved the bill, which aims at protection the most marginalised communities of transgender in Pakistan. Explaining objects and reasons of the bill, Babar said that the communities faced a number of problems, ranging from exclusion to discrimination, lack of education facilities, unemployment, lack of medical facilities etc.

He noted that notwithstanding the protection guarantees by the Constitution under Articles 14, 15 and 38, the transgender communities continued to face sheer discrimination in every sphere of life. The proposed law will give transgender community the right to be identified as such with the provisions of this act: as person recognised as transgender shall have a right to self-perceived gender identity: the person may make an application to the district magistrate for issuing of a certificate of identity as a transgender person, in such form and manner and accompanied with such documents, as may be required.

And in case of a child, such application shall be furnished by a parent or guardian of such child. On the receipt of the application, the magistrate shall refer such application to the district screening committee to be formed by the government for the purpose of recognition of transgender persons.

The committee shall consist of chief medical officer, district social welfare officer, a psychologist or a psychiatrist, a representative of a transgender community and a government officer, nominated by that government. A transgender person shall be issued a certificate on the basis of recommendations of the committee and the person shall be recorded in all official documents in accordance with that certificate. The certificate shall confer rights and be a proof of recognition of his identity as a transgender.

He will apply to the magistrate for a revised certificate in case of any change in his gender. The proposed law deals with all key issues, the communities keep facing in Pakistan. Under it, the government shall take steps to secure full and effective participation of transgender persons and their inclusion in the society.

And there shall be no discrimination against any transgender person in any matter relating to employment, including but not limited to, recruitment, promotion and other related issues. The House also unanimously passed the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2016, introduced by PPPP Senator Sherry Rehman. The bill ensures that barring women from exercising their right to vote is now a criminal offence. "Now no jirga can prevent women from voting in the name of custom, tradition or fear," declared the Senator.

Although Law Minister Zahid Hamid did not oppose it as such yet he requested that she might present her draft bill before the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms, which has already tabled a comprehensive document in both Houses and sought comments and feedback.

However, she insisted that her bill might be adopted, as she feared at a larger forum (committee), where all parties are represented, this might be compromised. Speaking on the bill, she said, "Adoption of this bill is a positive step forward. Despite the fact that a woman's right to vote is constitutionally protected, they have faced multiple difficulties in exercising this fundamental right. This bill will ensure that every woman's vote counts."

Senator Rehman said, "This blatant violation of a woman's constitutional right has been prevalent across the country. It is high time that the State criminalises such practices. We must work further to challenge the legitimacy of an election where women are restricted from voting.

This will push leaders to take it upon themselves to guarantee that such practices are completely eradicated." Numerous reports reveal that in Pakistan, women voters have been restricted by tribal elders from exercising their right to vote citing 'custom' and 'culture' as their reasons. For instance, although there were over 4,000 women who are registered to vote in Dhurnal, not one of them went to cast her vote in 2015.

A similar scenario was reported in Bhalwal and Dholar as well. A panchayat (local assembly) has reportedly barred women from voting in Sandral Ghagh Kalan. In Buner, women were not allowed to vote at 11 polling stations in 2013. In other cases, women were prohibited from voting as a result of political connivance, this was allegedly the case in Hangu and parts of Malakand in 2015.

"Citing custom and culture as an excuse to stop women from voting is unconstitutional as well. Every citizen of Pakistan has the right to vote and they should have the freedom to exercise this right without any constraints," the senator pointed out. "Making women a part of the election process will only strengthen our democracy. This will also give them a voice and raise their stakes in society," she hoped.

MQM Senator Mian Muhammad Attique Shiekh's bill 'The Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016' was not opposed by the government and referred to the committee concerned for deliberation. He claimed acts of terrorist did not kill as much people as road mishaps and said the bill's importance was massively enhanced also in the context of CPEC.

Meanwhile, eight senators of the Human Rights Committee requisitioned a meeting of the committee to discuss the recent incident of torture of child maid Tayyaba, the disappearance of four social media activists the other day, the follow-up in the murder of Multan-based human rights defender Rashid Rehman and the case of 28 persons missing from Malakand internment centre sometime back.

The requisitioned notice submitted in the secretariat was signed by Senators Aitzaz Ahsan, Farhatullah Babar, Dr Babar Awan, Samina Abid, Nisar Muhammad Khan, Mohsin Leghari, Mir Kabeer Ahmed Shahi and Sehar Kamran. Talking to the media persons, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that initially 35 persons went missing from an internment centre in Malakand out of which only 7 were traced. The case of the remaining 28 missing persons is of great significance as it holds the potential of addressing the core issue in the enforced disappearances.

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