ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said in the Senate on Friday that parliament is supreme but if ceded space for what the nation was facing today, and if parliament created a space, someone would definitely step in to fill it.
He added, “When parliament was dissolved, we accepted it, when it was suspended, we accepted it and when the same parliament was revived, we as good schoolchildren with bags resumed seats. Whatever law you passed were adopted without having gone through them. You just put a stamp on them”.
He continued but then parliament did not ratify the laws enacted during the Musharraf tenure. “I salute the parliament for doing so,” he remarked. Rabbani regretted that despite the superior courts judgments, the executive continued to flout them and promulgate ordinances and parliament remained silent on them, ratified them or passed them as bills.
Rabbani said that he tried never to compromise on his principles, the rule of law and supremacy of parliament and the Constitution. Rabbani, who had got elected chairman unopposed three years ago, and enviously commands respect of the opposition and government lawmakers, said this while making his farewell speech in the Senate on completion of his three-year term.
Duly acknowledged by the senators on both sides of the aisle for his matchless performance to massively enhance prestige and dignity of the Upper House of Parliament, he achieved what previous chairmen could not.
The veteran lawmaker also hinted at the possibility of not taking oath as member of the House again after remarks about him made by PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari that he (Rabbani) failed to check undemocratic moves by former premier Nawaz Sharif.
Rabbani, who is going to retire on March 11, said while there was a clash of civilisations in the world, in Pakistan there was a clash among the state institutions, which compelled him not to announce his ruling regarding the matter on trichotomy of power.
“I had reserved my ruling after a thorough debate on trichotomy of power in the House, spread over two sessions…and the reason why I didn’t announce my ruling is because there is a dire need of intra-institutional dialogue to bury the insinuations of clash between different state institutions", he contended.
Rabbani continued that he would certainly place the documents (ruling) which, consist of 60-70 pages, before the Senate, if he takes oath as new senator, and an indication that he is ‘perturbed’ over the statement of PPP supremo, just ahead of elections of chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate with political parties engaged in hectic efforts for maximum support for their proposed candidates. However, the automatic consensus candidate is stated to be Rabbani but Zardari has other thoughts.
Rabbani, who is known as a man of principles, also shared the details of his assets and liabilities, which he had promised on the very first day he took oath in 2015 as Senate chairman that his assets would not exceed when he would retire after completing his stint, and he proved his worth as there was no increase in assets.
“If I’m at this position today, there is a role of two women, one is my mother and the second is my political mother, late Benazir Bhutto, due to whom I’m here…I tried not to compromise on principles, rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution and parliament,” he added.
He reiterated that all the state institutions must work by staying within their constitutional ambit and that the military was under the executive but ground reality is that it is a stakeholder.
The reason why the army, a state institution, has become a stakeholder and calls the shots, he said, "We need to retrospect and see if we had made a blunder.”
The Senate chairman emphasised that it was mandatory for parliament to get deleted the Article 89 of the Constitution that was crucial for its supremacy, as all legislation should be done through parliament. He noted that he had issued a ruling and then sought an explanation from the government on an ordinance, promulgated recently, but there was no response from the other side.
He noted that the executive was also not ready to let parliament hold the government accountable and that all foreign agreements, including defence and economic, barring concerning culture, should be placed before parliament for ratification.
Rabbani pointed out that despite the Sindh High Court judgment in the Bhutta case, internal properties of parliament were being made subject matter.
About charges of horse-trading in the recent Senate elections, he recalled that the Senate had recommended to parliamentary committee on electoral reforms to put the name of a member on the ballot paper for the secret ballot of the Senate polls to give an end to horse-trading, but all the parties rejected it.
He also rejected the proposal for direct Senate elections advocated by some political parties, saying it would not be a good omen for a federation as a direct polls will pave the way for a few major political parties to bring its own men in Senate.
“Direct election to Senate will be a negation to the philosophy of 1973 Constitution’s creator…if direct elections are held, it will be like National Assembly where one or two parties will be in majority,” he warned.
Rabbani maintained that the powers of the executive should be withdrawn and all the decisions should be taken by parliament, adding all agreements whether defence or financial with foreign countries should be rectified by parliament.
“The Senate has also made recommendations that all agreements made with foreign countries should be placed before both the houses of parliament, but the government didn’t pay any heed to it…I now feel the need if parliamentary recommendations are not enough, a law should be passed,” he maintained.
He recalled that during his stint as Senate chairman, he handed down 73 rulings, and expressed the hope that the rulings pertaining to a separate secretariat for the Council of Common Interests (CCI), and National Finance Commission (NFC) and devolution needs to be pursued by the next chairman Senate.
The senators belonging to all political parties including some government ministers present in the House bid adieu to Rabbani by thumping desks and giving a standing ovation to him when he finished his farewell speech.