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December 22, 2018

‘State is at stage where we should stop playing games’

Top Story

December 22, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani Friday called for shifting authority to Parliament to formulate Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Speaking in the Senate, Senator Rabbani lamented that every state institution was trying to trespass on the domain of another. He said it was no secret where the country’s foreign policy was being decided.

Rabbani said all the state institutions were answerable to Parliament because it was the mother of all institutions and hence they were required to furnish with it their reports annually or after every six months.

Rabbani regretted that fundamental rights had been privatised by the state. He said protection of citizens’ life was the state’s responsibility but they were hiring private guards.

“Electricity is the citizens’ fundamental right but they are purchasing generators for power. Education is their fundamental right but they are forced to send their children to private schools,” he continued.

The legislator cited Karl Marx, who had said that the state and the society could not be reformed from the top. Taking part in the discussion on presidential address to both houses of Parliament on September 17 this year, Rabbani said only politicians were not corrupt in Pakistan and demanded that there should be an across-the-board accountability of all, including the sensitive and important institutions, by a ‘federal accountability commission’. He said Parliament should be made fulcrum to formulate Pakistan’s foreign policy.

“I was shocked when the foreign minister stood up a day earlier and said ‘there are some things that cannot be shared with the House’. What are that things that can be concealed from Parliament?” he asked while referring to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement to the House Thursday on the recently held US-Taliban talks in the UAE and other foreign policy issues.

Rabbani said if there were sensitive things involved, then an in-camera session of the House could have been convened or these could have been shared with a joint meeting of defence and foreign affairs committees.

He argued, “This is not acceptable that the foreign minister stands up here and says ‘all is well’. We are not here to inquire about the weather report, whether the weather is good or bad but we are here to formulate policies and do legislation. He [FM] cannot formulate foreign policy in the Foreign Office and we know where Pakistan’s foreign policy is formulated. Therefore, we want that the fulcrum be shifted to Parliament House so that Parliament makes the foreign policy of Pakistan”.

The veteran legislator also demanded that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security should be constituted immediately that was a successful experiment in the previous parliament.

Rabbani said selective accountability was not acceptable. “If two segments of the society can be tried by their peers, then why can’t I be tried by my peers? If they have their own system of accountability, then politicians should also be tried by their peers,” he said.

Rabbani said the proposed ‘federal accountability commission’ should deal with all the irregularities in financial matters and corrupt practices, while disciplinary matters should be left to the respective institutions to be dealt with. He regretted that former dictator Pervez Musharraf was facing charges of high treason under Article 6, but the state failed to bring him back.

“Musharraf did not appear for a single day in the court and also in Nawab Akbar Bugti murder case. But the court acquitted him honorably. If you are a civilian, the law will treat you the other way. And if you are rich and powerful, then the application of the law will be in accordance with that. While if you are the common man then the application of law will be in another manner,” he said, adding, “The state is at that stage where we should stop playing games.

Rabbani cautioned, “if you want to save the state, for sure we have to save it because we are not those who go abroad, those who can [go], can afford to play games with the state,” he said, adding that the history was witness that when efforts were made to run political parties through the ‘remote control’ the system headed towards its collapse.

He also demanded creation of ‘truth and reconciliation commission’ to compensate those who believed that the state had treated them the other way. “When efforts were made to make forward blocs and break the political parties, the history witnessed that it had proved to be a hard experiment”.

He further maintained that when the accountability process was used as a tool to forward a political agenda that too led to bad consequences. The senator pointed out that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) was the first institution created under Article 153 of the Constitution followed by National Economic Council (NEC) created under Article 156, National Finance Commission (NFC) under Article 160, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) created under Article 213, Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) created under Article 168 and Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) under Article 228 of the Constitution.

He said all these institutions were answerable to Parliament, adding that the executive was also answerable to both the houses of Parliament under Article 90. “But unfortunately, there is dysfunctionality among these institutions, firstly between Parliament, the executive and the judiciary and then the rest of institutions,” he lamented.

Rabbani contended that constitution of a new NFC Award had been pending for the last five to six years. He said the 18th Amendment was passed in 2010 but the CCI secretariat was yet to be established, as was required to be set up on immediate basis.

“Today, we are being lectured that there is a need for revisiting the 18th Amendment. Where the state is going to take its direction? Quaid-i-Azam had spoken about the fundamental rights and today we are trampling them and the issue of missing persons has become an order of the day,” he added.

Rabbani wondered that the Nehru report had envisaged a powerful center while the Quaid’s 14 points called for federalism and ‘parliamentary form of government’. He maintained that the press was under restrictions. “Parliament could be a major criminal in the history and the history will not forgive us if we remain silent on these issues by adopting a reconciliation policy,” he added.

Senator Abdul Qayyum said the presidential address lacked any guidance for the government to improve governance and a way forward to put the country on the path of development and progress.

He pointed out that there was nothing in the address about the defence matters except for tributes to the martyrs. Usman Khan Kakar said the president’s address did not reflect a speech from the head of the state, but he toed the line of his political party.

He urged all political parties to stand united to protect supremacy of Parliament. He said there should be equal distribution of resources among all the federating units and nationalities of Pakistan. Mushtaq Ahmed said the country’s economic situation had greatly deteriorated in the first 100 days of government.

He said inflation was adversely affecting the common man. He said accountability was being used for political victimisation of opponents. He demanded revival of student and trade unions, as these entities served as a nursery of a democratic culture.

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