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July 12, 2018

Constitution needs review: ex defence secy


July 12, 2018

Islamabad: The Constitution of Pakistan is not a “Heavenly Scripture” and the country needs Constitutional review to undo certain changes made in the Constitution including the existing voting system, says former Secretary Defence Lt Gen (R) Asif Yasin Malik.

However, former Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani says any attempt to review the constitution will be disastrous for the federation. In a telephonic conversation former Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Asif Yasi Malik, who has also served as corps commander, suggested many changes in the Constitution which according to him is the need of the hour. The News also contacted former Chairman Senate, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani to know what is his point of view on these suggestions related to reviewing the constitution.

According to Gen (retd) Asif Yasin Malik, the existing voting system in the country is flawed and it should be replaced by amending the constitution and compulsory voting should be made mandatory. He suggests that any party which has less than 51 percent votes cannot rule the country.

Gen (retd) Asif Yasin says abolition of certain subjects in the concurrent list was a mistake and these subjects should be revived. Similarly, he suggests that a Constitutional Court should be established which should only deal the Constitutional matters. He also advocated for the abolition of defection clause and wants the parliamentarians to have the freedom of voting against the party line if their conscience is not satisfied. The retired general believes the constitutional review is possible only through pressure groups and awareness.

Senator Mian Raza Rabbani agrees on only one suggestion of General Asif Yasin. About compulsory voting the former Chairman Senate says, Pakistan is not an authoritarian state where voting should be made compulsory. Every citizen should have the freedom to cast his/her vote or not. How can one force a citizen to vote? According to Mian Raza Rabbani, it is the people of Pakistan who should decide that who can rule the country.

The only suggestions the former chairman agreed upon is the setting up of Constitutional Court. He says there should be a separate court that should take up the cases related to Constitution. The Constitutional Reforms Committee discussed this suggestion in details, but later it was dropped due to some reasons. About reviving the concurrent list, Senator Raza Rabbani believes this will be disastrous for the federation.

Talking to The News, former Secretary Defence says, “We have a strange form of democracy. During the 2013 elections, there were around 90 million registered voters out of which almost 50 million cast their votes. The party which ruled the country for last five year obtained only about 14.4 million votes. Imagine, in a country of 200 million people, a political party with only 14.4 million votes has high-jacks the whole country by claiming itself the popular most party. The existing voting system of this democracy is flawed and it should be amended. Compulsory voting should be mandatory whereas to rule the country a political party will have to obtain 51 percent of the total votes” remarked the former secretary defence. General Asif Yasin believes, “Certain things in the concurrent list which were abolished through 18th Constitutional Amendment needs to be revived. For example the pricing mechanism of health product in every province is different. There are some other things which need to be centralized and should not have been dissolved to provinces. Education also needs to be a federal subject”.

“The country needs a specialized Constitutional Court which should deal only Constitutional matters. The constitutional matters waste a lot of precious time of Supreme Court which causes delay in providing justice to the citizens in criminal and civil cases. When we have specialized Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and High Courts will focus only on criminal and civil cases and the people will get speedy justice”, says Gen (retd) Asif Yasin.

General (retd) Asif Yasin is against the defection clause. “The defection clause in the Constitution i.e. Article 63A should be abolished or amended because it is against the true spirit of democracy. A member of the parliament should be given independence to vote against the party’s will if his conscience is not satisfied on something”.

He says, Punjab province should be divided because it is becoming ungovernable. Not only Punjab, but Balochistan, Sindh and KP should also be divided but not on ethnicity basis.

“Punjab should be divided on administrative basis because it is too large to be governed. Also the smaller provinces have grievances against Punjab. This will be better for the federation to divide Punjab on administrative basis. Similarly, Balochistan should also be divided into two units i.e. Southern Balochistan and Northern Balochistan. This will result in ending the grievances of Baloch nationals and administratively it will be easy to govern. Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should also be divided on the same basis. There should be five to six factors on the basis of which provinces should be divided including area, population, resources etc., said the retired secretary defence”.

When asked how will this be achieved because for a constitutional amendment two-thirds majority is mandatory and will the top three political parties support this constitutional review, the retired General says this is not impossible. In order to achieve this goal one needs a vigorous movement on national level and a pressure group which should create public opinion for reviewing the constitution.

“The upcoming assemblies should be pressurized for this purpose and I believe it is easy to achieve this. We will see a different political scenario during the general elections as masses have awakened and they are questioning their representatives. Therefore when the parliamentarians will come to assemblies this time they will have public pressure”, said Gen Asif Yasin Malik.

The News approached former Chairman Senator Raza Rabbani to get his response on these suggestions. Except one suggestion, Senator Raza Rabbani opposed the proposed suggestions.

Talking about compulsory voting, Senator Raza Rabbani says, “I don’t think the concept of compulsory voting exist in the free world. It is an impossibility. If a voter fails to cast his vote then he will commit violation of constitution so it is impossible to change the voting laws. It is even physically impossible. This is an absurdity”.

“Yes there should be a high turnout but there are so many other methods to increase the turnout and this could be done by creating awareness among voters. When parliament will become responsive to its voters then interests of the people will automatically be increased to cast and parliament will become more responsive when extra constitutional forces will stop meddling in the affairs of parliament and politics”, suggests Senator Raza Rabbani.

About reviewing the concurrent list, the former chairman Senate says, “The review of the concurrent list has been a long demand which has been voiced clandestinely through various forces. The basic question which bothers them is NFC and Education. With NFC they feel that the pie in the federal government is reduced with resources been allocated to the provinces. When the pie in the federal government is reduced that means all ministries, departments functioning under the federal government subsequently they will be required to tighten their bill. On the question of education, the centrist mindset wants to produce a citizenry that is responsive to their notion of nationhood their notion of national security. They feel if education is devolved and academic freedom is allowed in the universities it will bring to an end to distorted history that is now being taught to the students”.

He said if there is any major policy issue on education or any other subject, it can be discussed on the platform of CCI. Similarly there is another platform of Intra provincial Coordination ministry and if there is any issue regarding curriculum or syllabi then it can be discussed on this platform as well.

Talking about General Asif Yasin’s suggestion that a party with 51 percent vote should rule the country Senator Raza Rabbani says, “This is not for the state to decide. This is for the citizenry to decide that who should rule them. The state cannot decide whether the government should be formed through simple majority or with 51 percent majority. Already we are a destabilized democracy. This kind of mechanism is adopted by the established democracies where they have up to 70 percent turnout. This will be a fundamental change in the constitution and if this change is necessary then the political parties who are in favour of this change should bring it in their manifesto so that people should be informed beforehand to get their mandate about this major constitutional amendment. These are major constitutional issue so they have to become an election issue”.

About constituting a Constitutional Court, Senator Raza Rabbani says, “I agree on the demand of setting up a constitutional court. This was in fact part of the Charter of Democracy as well. The Constitutional Reforms Committee held a long and detailed discussion on this issue. However, later it was dropped because at that time Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had some issues with the civilian government. Majority of political parties suggested that this will give an impression that the Parliament wants to reduce the jurisdiction of SC. To avoid this impression the committee dropped this suggestion at that time”.

“Rolling back the concurrent list will have disastrous effects for the federation. Pakistan is a federation and it was created on the basis of federation. We are multi ethnic and multinational nation and we have to give their basic rights and control of the natural resources to the provinces. If you want to revive the concurrent list it means you are taking back their rights which the federation cannot afford now. This will unleash the force of nationalists’ forces which will be uncontrollable for the state, says the former chairman Senate”.

To the suggestion of Gen (retd) Asif about abolishing or amending Article 63A Senator Raza Rabbani says, “If any parliamentarian consider himself self-righteous then he should resigned and seek re-election. It is pre-mature to do away with Article 63 A. If we see two to three consecutive democratic transitions and institutions get stronger then we can think about Article 63 A. But for the movement it will be feasible to do away with the defection clause”.

About use of pressure groups for constitutional review, he said he will only say that we haven’t learnt from history.

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