ISLAMABAD - Following a criticism by Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for “not resisting anti-democratic moves of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif” as the custodian of the Upper House of Parliament, visibly perturbed outgoing Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani on Friday hinted at not taking the oath as a senator on March 12.

Rabbani, who is retiring on March 11 after completing his six-year Senate term, was re-elected as a senator from Sindh on a PPP ticket on March 3 for another six years.

Earlier, the former president had said that Rabbani also did not remove his party’s reservations regarding the 18th Amendment and tried to side with Sharif during his tenure as the Senate chairman.

Zardari also rejected a proposal by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to choose by ballot Rabbani as Senate chairman for the next term.

In his farewell speech on the last day of the present House, Rabbani said that there was a clash-like situation in the country between state institutions, which compelled him not to announce his ruling, spread over 70 pages, on the trichotomy of power.

“I had reserved my ruling after a thorough debate on the trichotomy of power… the reason why I didn’t announce my ruling is because there is a dire need of "intra-institutional dialogue" to bury the insinuations for a "clash between different state institutions", he said and underlined the need for the intra-institutional dialogue. He hoped that his successor would carry forward the dialogue.

“If I take the oath on March 12, I will place the document (ruling) before the House as a way forward,” he said while clearly hinting that he might not take the oath as the member of the Upper House of Parliament following the criticism of his party supremo.

He said the document might help find a way to avert the threat of clash between state institutions. He also referred to his meetings with former Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and the discussion regarding the role of the parliamentary committee on appointment of judges. He also referred to Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s presence in an in-camera meeting of the Committee of the Whole House along with intelligence chiefs. He called these interactions a way forward to avoid clash among the state institutions.

Rabbani said though the army was an institution working under the executive, as a matter of fact, it was a stakeholder. He said that in real politics, they would have to identify stakeholders.  “The reason why the army, a state institution, has become a stakeholder and calls the shots,” he said adding that they need to retrospect and see if they had made mistakes.

Talking about the role of the executive, he said that the executive flouted the powers of the legislature by issuing ordinances, but the parliament remained silent. He called for abrogating Article 89 of the Constitution to take away the executive’s powers to promulgate an ordinance. The outgoing Senate chairman said an explanation had been sought from the government after promulgation of an ordinance recently but to no avail. “Cabinets have been defying constitutional mandate of being responsible to the parliament,” he remarked and added that the executive was not ready to accept parliamentary accountability.

Rabbani stressed that all institutions must work within their constitutional domain and there should be the supremacy of the parliament.  He went on the say that mistakes were also committed by the civilians as well. “We accepted when the parliament was dissolved as well as suspended…and came back like good children when it was revived and endorsed the laws made during the suspension”. He said that it was the parliament that created a space for others to encroach upon.

Rabbani also called for the need to place all foreign agreements, including financial and defence related pacts, before both houses of the parliament for ratification.

Talking about the recent allegations of horse-trading allegations in the recently held Senate elections, Rabbani said that direct elections to the Senate was not the answer as it would negate the concept of Senate envisioned by the framers of the 1973 Constitution. “If direct elections are held, it will create a situation like that of the National Assembly where one or two parties are in a majority,” he warned.

He reminded that the Committee of the Whole House on May 20, 2016, adopted a resolution seeking changes in the procedure of the election for the Upper House of Parliament. He said the resolution was turned down by the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms. The resolution had proposed that the name of a lawmaker voting in the Senate polls will have his name written on the ballot paper and in case any doubt against the party mandate, the parliamentary leader concerned should approach the Election Commission of Pakistan ECP to see the ballot paper concerned. He lamented that the proposal had been rejected in the name of secrecy of the ballot.

The Senate chairman also eulogized the role of slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto what he said that he was at this position due to her.

 At the beginning of his speech, Rabbani handed over a statement of his assets and liabilities to the secretary Senate. He had also made public his statement of assets when he took over as the Senate chairman three years back.

Lawmakers of both sides of the aisle gave a standing ovation to Rabbani by thumping desks following the conclusion of his farewell speech.