ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Commerce on Thursday approved Trade Organisations (amendment) Bill 2021, with majority vote, meant to increase the tenure of office bearers of FPCCI and other chambers to two years from existing one year along with equal representation.

The Committee presided over by Senator Zeshan Khanzada discussed the pros and cons of the proposed Bill introduced by Senator Fauzia Arshad in Senate on September 27, 2021.

With the adoption of this Bill, Punjab and Sindh, which are given two terms being key players in business and industry, will be deprived of one term each as each province and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) comprising Islamabad, AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan will be given one tenure of two years; the term of each province will come after eight years.

Haji Ghulam Ali, Vice President, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, incumbent President FPCCI Mian Naseer Hyatt Maggo, KCCI representative, Javed Bilwani, representative of LCCI and President Quetta Chamber, who hails from Businessmen Panel (BMP) supported the proposed Bill with the request that it should be applicable from the existing term of incumbent office bearers.

However, the representative of Sarhard Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Shahbaz and Zafar Bakhtawari, who represented Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), both hailing from United Business Group (UGB) opposed the Bill, arguing that with this amendment real businessmen will not take any interest in chambers politics and only those who are in politics full time will contest elections. They maintained that the Committee should seek comments of all Chambers across the country prior to approving it.

Shahbaz also raised the issue of election of Mian Naseer Hyatt Maggo and said that Director General Trade Organizations is sitting on UBG appeal.

Most of the Punjab based chambers that opposed the amendments in National Assembly Standing Committee were not represented in the Senate Committee.

During discussion on two-year term, the representative of Law Ministry clarified that constitutionally, the next term will commence after the next elections as was done in the case of FATA merger. However, BMP representatives including Haji Ghulam Ali, who is also a former Senator, argued that applicability of new law should start from the incumbency of Maggo.

Additional Secretary Commerce (Trade Policy), Dr Ahmed Mujtaba Memon stated that Commerce Ministry was also preparing amendments in Trade Organisations rules which would be presented to the Committee including two-year terms.

The Chairman Committee was informed that though both of its representatives of Sarhad and Islamabad Chambers opposed the bill, but according to the information provided by president FPCCI, the executive members of both these chambers had already unanimously supported this amendment at an executive committee meeting of the federation which was held in September 2020.

After detailed discussion, the Committee approved the Bill with a majority of 5-1. Those who supported amendment in Tarde Organisations’ Bill were Senator Saleem Mandviwala, Senator Palwasha Muhamad Zai Khan, Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Abdul Qadir and Deputy Chairman Senate, Mirza Muhammad Afridi. However, Senator Nuzhat Sadiq of PML(N) opposed the Bill and suggested that other chambers should also be heard before the adoption of amendments.

“More Associations on the matter should be taken onboard for taking their insight on the proposed Bill,” she added. —MUSHTAQ GHUMMAN