ISLAMABAD   -    Reacting to the controversy of issuance of production orders of detained lawmakers, former chairman Senate and Pakistan People’s Party Senator Raza Rabbani Wednesday said that issuance of production orders was not a privilege but a right under the rules of business in the Senate and the National Assembly.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in the last cabinet meeting had questioned the issuance of production orders for the detained parliamentarians facing corruption and money laundering cases. He also called for revising the relevant laws to ensure that production orders of those lawmakers facing corruption cases should not be issued.

“According to Rule 84 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate 2012, and Rule 108 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007; the issuance of production orders is a right, not a privilege,” he said. He added that these rules had been framed under Article 67 of the constitution of 1973. The said rules are at a higher pedestal than rules made under a statute as they draw their source from the constitution, he said in a statement.

Rabbani, a senior lawyer, said rules drew their strength from parliamentary practice and traditions in the international jurisdiction.

He said that the arrest of members of parliament under detention laws in civil and criminal proceedings had been a common phenomenon in Pakistan. The purpose is either to induce a change in party loyalty or to prevent members from the performance of their constitutional and parliamentary duties and functions, or preventing them from voting or forcefully obtain a crucial vote. In order to overcome this, “the Members of National Assembly (Exemption from Preventive Detention and Personal Appearance) Ordinance, 1963” was promulgated, he reminded.

The said ordinance provided that a member of parliament shall not be arrested in any law relating to preventive detention, in order to be required to appear in person in any civil or revenue court or before an election tribunal during a session and a period of 14 days before and after session of the parliament.

Former chairman Senate underscored that this practice was not in isolation; as exemption from arrest, detention and appearance in person under the civil process was also conferred through the Legislative Members Exemption Act, 1925 in India. The law provides that during 14 days before or after a meeting of parliament, the member will not be arrested. However, the scope of duration of arrest was changed there in 1950 and it was enhanced to 40 days, before or after a session of house, to bring the law at par with United Kingdom, he added.

He further said that the rules of procedure of parliament had been framed and adopted by the either house under Article 67 of the constitution. “Any interference by the executive to change, alter or tinker with the said rules will be an attempt to trespass into the domain of another institution created and functioning under the constitution.” It will amount to violating the concept of trichotomy of power which forms one of the bases of the constitution of 1973, he said.

PPP stalwart said that it appeared that the executive has scant respect for the constitution, as it continued to violate its Article 160 by not announcing NFC (National Finance Commission) Award. “It continues to violate Article 154 of the constitution by allowing 150 days to lapse without calling a meeting of the Council of Common Interest (CCI), which under the constitution is mandated to meet at least once in 90 days.” He added that it continued to violate clause (3) of Article 154 by not making a permanent Secretariat of the CCI and it carried on violating Article 260 when its governors had been found indulged in political horse trading.

Rabbani stressed that a right conferred by parliament could not be withdrawn, altered or amended by the executive. Such an act along with the encouragement of horse trading only reflects the political weakness of the government and will usher an era of greater political instability which will have a consequential effect on the already tottering economy, he said giving a reference of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent meeting with the disgruntled lawmakers of opposition parties.

“These and other such related steps are a reflection of the authoritarian mindset of the government, the Senate in the past has stood like Stalingrad against such attacks on its powers and sovereignty and will continue to do so in the future,” he concluded.