ISLAMABAD - Senior PPP lawmaker Senator Farhatullah Babar Wednesday called for consensus reforms as well as some check and balance to reverse the ‘erosion’ of the parliament, saying there has been a systematic erosion of the parliament for the past five years.
Speaking at the upper house, he also called for a parliamentary debate on the Supreme Court’s powers to review the constitutionality of laws. He said, “Former president Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed at Wednesday’s meeting to work together with all political parties to strengthen the Parliament as there has been a systematic erosion of the Parliament for some time.” There is a growing need to address the issue of strengthening the Parliament and stopping its systematic decline, he said.
Farhatullah Babar listed a number of instances which, he said, amounted to erosion of the Parliament during the last five years He said overturning the ruling of the National Assembly speaker, throwing out role of the Parliament in the appointment of judges, totally overturning a law passed by the Parliament, disqualifying an elected prime minister without reference to the Election Commission, refusal of the SC to place accounts before the parliament and refusal to answer parliamentary questions were some of the instances that eroded the Parliament.
Senator Babar called upon the government and all political parties to review the situation and adopt some consensus reforms to address the issue of erosion of the Parliament.
Proposing reforms, he said, “The rule restricting discussions on any matter before courts should be revisited.” Article 68 of the Constitution restricts such discussion only to the extent of the personal conduct of a judge in the discharge of his duties and there should be no bar on discussing other issues without commenting on merits or demerits of any particular argument in a court. “Likewise, there is a need for parliamentary debate on the exercise of suo motu powers with a view to developing a framework for its exercise,” he said.
Pointing out that the verdict on the 18th Amendment had not been announced even after four years, he called for a parliamentary debate on the court’s powers to review the constitutionality of laws. He also called for legislation on privilege motions to provide for action against any person who refuses to give evidence or produce documents or knowingly gives false evidence. “No legislation exists on punishment to those who breach the privilege of the Parliament,” he said, adding there was a need for an appropriate legislation in this regard.
Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch, endorsing Babar, said it was good that both the leaders sat together and discussed the problems being faced by the country.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) staged a token walkout from the house after its senator Tahir Mashhadi said 13 workers of the party had been found dead and 54 missing during the on-going operation of the law-enforcement agencies in Karachi. He said, “The victimisation of political parties started in the ongoing operation in Karachi. We demanded an operation, but it is being carried out against political workers,” he said before staging a token walkout.
On the other hand, Shahi Syed of ANP said Karachi needed necessary operations and the ongoing operation should continue there. He made it clear that police had not abducted the MQM workers.
Earlier, the combined opposition in the Senate, including PPP, ANP, PML-Q and MQM, staged a walkout from the house during the question-hour session over what it said the government gave an incomplete answer to the question regarding the number of state entities being privatised.
The government had stated in the written answer that 11 government departments were being privatised while the minister in his verbal answer said they were total 32.
Senator Abdur Rauf said the Saudi authorities had told the Pakistan government that its local companies would provide food and other eatables to pilgrims during the Haj season and charge 40 riyals from each pilgrim. He said it would be an extra burden on the pilgrims and limit their choice of food.
The chair referred the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2014, to the standing committee concerned after the PPP opposed it.
In an unprecedented move, Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch adjourned the house till Thursday (today) at 4pm without getting reply from the government on a call-attention notice of Senator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi regarding appointment of a junior and controversial officer of grade-20 as secretary in Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). As Mashhadi read out the notice, the chair adjourned the house.
The chair delayed its decision for a day on a privilege motion of Saeed Ghani against the Finance Division over what he said it gave a wrong answer to a question about the cases being investigated by NAB against privatisation of Muslim Commercial Bank.