Wednesday May 22, 2024

President attacked Constitution by not calling NA session: Rabbani

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader explained the Article 91 saying that within 21 days after the general elections

By Mumtaz Alvi
February 27, 2024
Former Senate chairman and Senator Mian Raza Rabbani. — APP/File
Former Senate chairman and Senator Mian Raza Rabbani. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Senator Mian Raza Rabbani on Monday in the Senate alleged that the Constitution was being subjected to terrorism and the latest attack was committed from the President House by not summoning National Assembly inaugural session.

“Though, there have been constitutional violations through the tenure from the President House at different times, now the blatant violation is of Article 91 of the Constitution by not summoning the National Assembly session,” he said while speaking just before the adjournment of the session on a point of public importance.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader explained the Article 91 saying that within 21 days after the general elections, the session of the National Assembly has to be summoned, but the president was refusing to do so and this was an unconstitutional step that the President of Pakistan was taking.

“And, from the floor of the House, since he [president] is a part of the Parliament, under Article 50 of the Constitution, I through you, would like to convey to him that he should not flout the Constitution and immediately summon the NA’s inaugural session so that the democratic process could again start in the country,” he said while addressing the chair. Rabbani contended that by not summoning the session, the president was not only committing violation of the Constitution, but also trying to derail the democratic system, as the prime minister had sent an advice to him under Article 48 of the Constitution, and it was time-bound and he had to act in accordance with the PM’s advice.

Responding to him, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Saifullah Abro said the president would summon the session even today, if the Election Commission of Pakistan would allocate reserved seats to the PTI, being its right. “The root cause is the Election Commission, which failed to upload Form 45 on its website within 14 days as per the Elections Act 2017 and is also denying reserved seats,” he noted.

Abro said he would have been glad if Raza Rabbani and others would also had asked the ECP to do the needful, as the party’s returned candidates joined Sunni Ittehad Council for the reserved seats.

Senator Abro asked under what law the ECP was withholding allocation of reserved seats while chief ministers of Sindh and Punjab had been elected after allocation of reserved seats, and the assemblies sessions had been called. He pointed out the session of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly would be held tomorrow and their reserved seats had not been announced yet.

He also raised the issue of blackout of his speech in the Senate during the last sitting by the state-run TV and wanted inquiry into it. He said a sessions judge in Larkana had resigned after a sitting high court judge had asked him to do something illegal. He also wanted a probe to be conducted into the issue.

Earlier, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) Senator Pir Sabir Shah advocated re-introduction of the amnesty scheme to whiten black money with a view to giving boost to the national economy.

While speaking on a motion, moved by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmad to discuss the performance of the state-owned enterprises, he contended that the black economy should be given a way. Senator Shah referred to the recovery of billions of rupees earned through corrupt means by bureaucrats and businessmen and said while the white economy was on downslide, black economy was flourishing.

Referring to the World Bank report, the PMLN lawmaker said the state-owned enterprises were the worst in Asia despite the fact that these entities together receive a huge amount of Rs458 billion annually from the national kitty.

He said the black money stashed in ‘godowns’ and houses, should be given way and allowed to be brought in mainstream, insisting, “We will have to take bitter decisions to strengthen economy.”

He also noted that the loss-making SOEs should be privatised. The mover of the motion, Senator Mushtaq said the SOEs running in losses were a threat to sovereignty of the country and pointed out that the World Bank in a report had termed Pakistan’s economy model as failed and ineffective, but regretted that a class of elites, benefitting from it, was hesitant to change it.

“This model is part of the problem and not part of the solution.” He said according to a World Bank report, tax evasion by and concessions and subsidies to the elite class cost $70.4 billion.

PML Senator Kamil Ali Agha suggested discussion on performance of each and every SOE one by one and chalk out a future course of action, whereas PTI legislator Humayun Mohmand said besides the corrupt bureaucrats, the decision makers from the political leadership backing them should also be held accountable.

Senator Danesh Kumar said the amount that was being wasted on SOEs each year was equivalent to three years budget of Balochistan, adding the SOEs which were a burden on the nation, should be closed down.

Senator Saifullah Abro said the power division had made capacity payments of Rs9,288 billion to the IPPs over the last ten years. He termed the agreements with IPPs as flawed and said the nation was paying the cost of wrong decisions taken in the past.

It was a private members day and PMLN Senator Kamran Michael’s ‘Christian Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2023’ was adopted unanimously under which the marriage age for both male and female has been fixed at 18 years.Responding to the concerns, expressed in the House by JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad, the interim minister for parliamentary affairs told the House the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had not taken any decision to exclude any specific programme, including Pakistan Studies, from university and degree programmes.

All the provisions included in the undergraduate policies have been proposed at the minimum level while autonomous universities were functioning under their respective laws, he added.

The caretaker minister explained that more maturity is being added to courses and degree programmes and that the HEC had recently mentioned the undergraduate education policy. Moreover, a concept of general courses set had been introduced on ideology of Pakistan and Pakistan Studies in the education policy for undergraduates, which have been proposed as compulsory ingredients.

He noted that students would see further improvement in this course based on prior knowledge of Pakistan Studies and these programmes were a combination of the topics of Pakistan Studies and Constitution of Pakistan.

The minister clarified the course was not a substitute for these programmes, but these two programmes included a combination of Pakistan Studies and Ideology of Pakistan, whereas the HEC was consulting relevant stakeholders regarding ideology of Pakistan and Pakistan Studies.

Under the Undergraduate Education (UGE) policy, he pointed, a two credit hours programme of Pakistan Studies will be prepared.

Earlier, the House also passed ‘The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2023’, ‘The Easements (Amendment) Bill 2023, ‘The Injured Persons (Medical Aid) (Amendment) Bill 2023, ‘The Federal Institute of Management Sciences Bill 2023, and ‘The Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Technology Bill 2023’.

The House will now meet on Tuesday morning. Separately, PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman said that President Dr Arif Alvi would have to sign the summary for convening the inaugural session of National Assembly as per article 91(2) of the Constitution and there was no room for the president to put conditions on convening the session.

“Article 91(2) provides that the National Assembly shall have to meet on the 21st day on which the general election to the assembly is held, unless sooner summoned by the president,” she said while reacting on a delay from the president to sign the summary for convening the inaugural session.

“It means explicitly that the powers of the president under Article 54(1) are restricted to a maximum of 21 days with respect to the inaugural session of the NA,” she said.

The PPP vice president said that it was regrettable that the president made the meeting subject to the decision of the reserved seats. “Dr Arif Alvi’s tenure has already been marred by controversy and even before leaving, he is abiding by the Tehreek-e-Insaf oath, not the presidential one,” she said.

She said according to Article 91(2) of the Constitution, it is mandatory to convene the meeting within 21 days after the election. “The Constitution does not make the meeting subject to any pending matter.”

Sherry said Dr Alvi has tried to create a perpetual constitutional crisis. “He should refrain from any such unconstitutional measures before leaving,” she added. In response to recent speculations circulating on different media platforms, Senator Sherry Rehman denied any truth to the rumours regarding the appointment of governors by the party.

The PPP has not started the process of the shortlisting and finalising the name of PPP nominees for post of governors in provinces as it will be conducted under the direct oversight of PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari once he assumes the Presidency, she said.