National Assembly approves landmark ‘jirga’ bill



  • Bill aims at swift resolution of disputes out of court
  • Government takes NA into confidence on CPEC investments

Following days of political wrangling in the National Assembly, the treasury and opposition benches on Friday appeared in total harmony and accord as the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and its bitter opposition, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) joined hands to pass a treasury bill.

Both the parties approved a landmark piece of legislation to allow Panchayat or ‘public mediation’ between parties for out of court settlement of meager and minor issues.

Titled “The Alternate Dispute Resolution Bill 2017”, the bill aims arbitration and mediation through ‘Panchayats’ for effective out of court resolution of disputes.

Briefing the House over the objectives of the bill, Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid hoped that the successful implementation of ‘Panchayat system’ would be implemented in the whole country.

He also termed the bill important and historic and according to the manifesto of PML-N. He said the system will be applicable to 23 types of cases.

“There is a huge backlog of cases in both subordinate and superior courts of the country so it is necessary to find simpler and faster alternates which can supplement the traditional legal system,” reads the bill.

The bill aims at alternate dispute resolution (ADR) through a process in which parties resort to method of resolving the dispute other than by adjudication by courts and includes arbitration, mediation, conciliation, neutral evaluation and dispute resolution through ‘Panchayat’.

Zahid Hamid said the purpose of the bill is to give legal cover to ‘Panchayat’ or ‘Jirga’ system in the country.

In a rare gesture of reconciliation, the minister also lauded PTI MNA Arif Alvi for introducing amendments in the bill.

Dr Shireen Mazari, however, argued that there was a need for proper representation of women in the bill. She said that there is nothing for the protection of women in this bill and this flaw needs to be resolved.

Dr Nafisa Shah of PPP also said that jirgas and panchayats have been used to kill women in name of honour and there was a need for women representation in the system proposed in the bill. She said that the matters of divorce, family disputes and other related matters needed to be resolved through the pancahayats and for the very purpose, woman representation in the bill is necessary.

CCI report

Meanwhile, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada laid before the House annual report of the Council of Common Interests for the year 2015-16.

The House was informed that all arrangements have been made to conduct new population and housing census from 15th of next month. Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan told the House during question hour that the process will begin at the same time across the country.

He said provincial governments have appointed their representatives as focal persons for census activities and 14.5 billion rupees have been allocated for census operation.

Answering a question, Rana Afzal said there is no need to seek new loans from the International Monetary Fund since the country has stable economic conditions.

He pointed out that there are over 57 billion dollars total foreign debt. He said when the present government took over the debt was two to three percent more than the limit described in Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act, and it was 63 percent of the GDP. He said the present government has brought it well under 63 percent. He said country’s GDP has now been improved and its payback capacity has increased.

CPEC investment details

Responding to a question, Rana Afzal told the House that out of 46 billion dollars of CPEC projects, 35 billion dollars are being invested by private investors in energy sector. He said Pakistan will buy electricity from these companies. He said there are about 11 billion dollars soft loan, with an interest rate of about two percent, which is meant for infrastructure. He said these loans will be spent on roads and railway projects.

Replying to a question, he said tax collection has increased by 62 percent during the last three years. He said transparency is being brought into property transactions by adopting latest technologies and principles.

On a supplementary question that some departments covering the National Assembly’s budget sessions have not received honorarium announced by the finance minister, the speaker directed the parliamentary secretary to ensure payment of the honorarium to the concerned departments.

To a question, Parliamentary Secretary for Interior Muhammad Afzal Khan Dhandla told the House that FIA has launched a country-wide crackdown on human smugglers and traffickers and arrested 3,009 criminals since November 2015.

Minister for State and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch informed the House that rehabilitation and reconstruction work is being carried out in FATA at a cost of 80 billion rupees which will be completed by next year.

He was responding to a calling-attention notice, moved by Qaisar Jamal and others, regarding non-inclusion of NA-47 in the (RRU) for rehabilitation and reconstruction works.

The minister said priority is being given to North Waziristan and South Waziristan where more destruction has been caused due to terrorism. He said frontier regions have been included in this programme and assured that reconstruction and rehabilitation work will soon begin in NA-47.