Rabbani terms transfer of regulatory bodies unconstitutional
ISLAMABAD: The government agreed in the Senate on Monday to include 14 senators in the NA speaker-led parliamentary committee on whether or not to give extension to the military courts, as lawmakers agitated on the House being left out while deliberating upon the key national issue.
Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani also aired his concern on the matter. The government came under fire from the PPP senator for not accepting earlier the presence of Daesh or Islamic State in Pakistan and questioned why a crackdown was launched against terrorists after the string of deadliest attacks and not before that.
In his 17-page ruling, Rabbani ruled that the prime minister could not transfer a regulatory authority from one ministry to another without prior approval from Council of Common Interests (CCI), terming it a violation of the Constitution and that the prime minister had exceeded his powers.
He had reserved the ruling after the House held debate on the transfer of five regulatory bodies to their line ministries through an executive order last year. Rabbani said: “The powers of the prime minister under sub-rule (3), rule 3, Rules of Business 1973, remain in force on matters which are exclusively the business of federal government i.e. federal legislative list, part-I, Constitution 1973.”
He declared that any attempt to bypass the CCI in taking such policy decisions was a constitutional violation affecting the rights of the federating units hence against the spirit of participatory federalism and the scheme of the Constitution.
The position of the CCI, he added, has clearly been defined in the case of Federation of Pakistan vs United Sugar Mills, PLD 1997 SC at 394, that states: “Again in one significant respect the Federal executive authority has been obliged abridged under the Constitution and has been entrusted to a newly created Institution called CCI. It is a body quite apart from federal executive.”
Rabbani said that the step taken by the prime minister was unconstitutional as he had exceeded his powers, adding that the prime minister completely ignored the CCI, as no regulatory body could be brought under a line ministry without the council’s approval.
The government had taken the plea that placement of five regulatory bodies under the administrative control of line ministries without taking the matter to the CCI.
Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid said that the regulatory authorities had been handed over to the ministries concerned under the rules and the constitutional powers of the government and the decision was in line with judgements of courts.
But, through different court verdicts and the position taken by the opposition leader in Senate, Aitzaz Ahsan, who is a renowned lawyer, Rabbani said that after anything which is in the federal legislative list (part-II), cannot be done by the prime minister without approval from the CCI.
Minister for Finance Muhammad Ishaq Dar, a close aide of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, informed the House that it was an informal consultative process to evolve consensus on the question of giving further extension to military courts, for which the NA Speaker had taken the lead.
“If it had been a parliamentary committee, a National Assembly would have passed a motion. But contrary to it, it was an informal consultative process and now we will include the list of 14 senators consisting of parliamentary leaders,” he assured the senators.
Dar reiterated that there was clear evidence that Afghan soil was used for Lahore and Sehwan Sharif terror attacks in connivance with the spy agencies of another neigbouring country.
The minister pointed out that in wake of these attacks, the prime minister had ‘directed and authorised the armed forces and law enforcement agencies’ to eliminate the enemy wherever they are with the full force of the state.
Dar said, “We want to send a message of unity and consensus on the matter”. Dar said that he would talk to Speaker National Assembly to invite senators representing respective political parties in the Senate to the meeting.
Rabbani said that a list of parliamentary leaders in the Senate had been sent to the minister for law, which will also be sent to Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar. He added these senators will attend the February 23 meeting on receiving invitation.
“We have handed over a list of 76 most wanted terrorists to Afghanistan, and the draft of military courts will be discussed on February 22, and the idea is we have to take this menace of terrorism head on,” he declared.
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said that the government had no idea how to deal with the militancy, as it had no full-time foreign minister to present the country’s point of view in a more vibrant manner before the world.
She questioned the crackdown on militant hideouts within hours of the terrorists attack on Sehwan Sharif, saying if the law enforcing agencies were aware, why was no action taken before the deadly attacks that took several precious lives.
The former ambassador also claimed that in response to Pakistan’s demand of handing over 76 terrorist, Afghanistan had also sent a list of 85 terrorists, adding the closure of borders with Afghanistan was no solution to the problems.
“We have been doing this since long, and when I was ambassador we used to exchange such lists every month. The conviction through military courts was hardly 4 percent and there is a need to take effective measures to root out the menace,” she pointed out.
She also came down hard on the government for not accepting the presence of Daesh in the country, saying we were told every time that there is no footprint of Daesh and the recent claim by the militant outfit shows the rulers incompetence.
“Tell us where is our national security heading? There is no foreign minister to talk to Afghanistan while the parliament committee on national security exists nowhere to ensure parliamentary oversight,” she lamented.
Senator Mushahidullah Khan, the parliamentary leader of ruling the party hit back to say a party whose leader had no courage to visit the Sehwan Sharif in wake of tragedy, must stop talking tall.
“If you were so brave and everything was alright when your party was in power, why Zardari is hiding and why the body parts of the Sehwan Sharif victims were thrown in the garbage,” he asserted.
Meanwhile, the senators severely criticised the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and called for devolving it to the provinces as the education was a provincial subject after the 18th constitutional amendment.
Speaking on a deferred motion by Senator Azam Khan Swati of PTI, the senators stressed the need to make it a more vibrant organisation as the current set has had nothing g except verifying the certificate, while completely the main task to promote the higher education in the country.
Rabbani said that billion of rupees were pumped into the HEC by a dictator and it must be audited at one stage, as its performance has been appalling. He said that some elements are bent not to delve it to the provinces.
State Minister for Education Muhammad Balighur Rehman said that the government continues to fund HEC’s scholarship programmes to promote the higher education in the country.
He said as a result of these steps, the output and quality of our research has improved significantly and being acknowledged worldwide, adding standard of education is improving in the universities where special quality assurance cells have also been established.
Rabbani ‘snubbed’ the state minister after he said that the HEC could not be devolved to provinces, as it will create complications, adding if we handed it over to the provinces, they may start rejecting the degrees of each others’ universities.
“If it is so, why don’t you bring a constitutional amendment and make the education as a federal as some people are still reluctant to devolve it to province despite devolution,” Rabbani regretted.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2017, envisaging amendments in Article 63, 177 and 193 and the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2017, seeking amendment in Article 130, were introduced in the Senate despite opposition by the government.
The bills were moved by PPP Senators Babar Awan and Saeed Ghani. The chair referred the bills to the standing committees concerned.
The House also passed The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill 2016. The bill moved by Saleem Mandviwalla makes provisions for prohibition of corporal punishment against children.
The Senate adopted a resolution condemning the barbaric bomb blast in Parachinar, Kurram Agency, in which more than 22 people died and 63 others injured.
Through another resolution moved by Azam Khan Swati, the House recommended that quota reserved for the provinces of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan in appointments in government departments be implemented through a constitutional amendment.
Through another resolution moved by Kalsoom Parveen, the House recommended that compensation package announced by the government for the heirs of martyrs of terrorist attacks in Civil Hospital and Police Training Centre, Quetta should be paid immediately. In yet another resolution moved by Chaudhry Tanvir Khan, the House recommended the government should take immediate steps for establishment of a federal food authority to control sale of substandard food items in Islamabad.
Baligh-ur-Rehman said that the government was already in the process of establishing Islamabad Food Authority to ensure strict action against those selling substandard items in the capital. “An Act is in final stage and an authority will soon be established through an act of Parliament,” he added.