ISLAMABAD - Senators on Monday blamed past military dictators and politicians for repeated abrogation and suspension of the constitution.

While commemorating April 10 as Constitution Day and taking part in a discussion, the senators called for holding past dictators and their collaborators accountable for playing with the constitution.

The lawmakers from both sides of the aisle also said the Senate, being the voice and house of the federation, should have equal powers like the lower house of the parliament.

Some questioned why former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf was allowed to travel abroad despite his on-going trial in a special court.

Senator Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah said that despite the passage of 1973 constitution, the country still has no federal participatory constitution which is reflective in the limited powers of the Senate. He lamented that Senate had no fiscal powers — a sign of federal participatory democracy. He also asked for giving the right of vote to the upper house in the election of the prime minister.

Senator Rehman Malik said that late Pakistan Peoples Party leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who gave a unanimous constitution to the country should be given the title of ‘Baba-e-Dastoor-e-Pakistan’ (father of the constitution of Pakistan).

“The chairman Senate, who had to his credit hectic struggle and sacrifices to protect the constitution, should be called ‘the protector of the constitution," he said.

MQM Senator Maulana Tanvirul Haq Thanvi gave credit to Indian politicians for conducting themselves in such a way that the constitution could not be suspended. He called for strictly adhering to the constitution, which if implemented, would hugely benefit Pakistan.

He and several treasury and opposition lawmakers praised the late prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and other leaders of that time for giving the nation a consensus constitution.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said the constitution should be made a compulsory subject in academic institutions, particularly in military academies to inculcate respect for the constitution. “Historically, the mindset of the establishment knows little respect for the constitution,” he said and recalled the Quaid-i-Azam’s address to officers in June 1948 in Quetta.

The Quaid, he said, had deplored that in his conversation with senior military officers when he noticed that they did not fully appreciate the importance of the constitution and the oath they had taken. The Quaid then had read out the oath to them to emphasise the importance of the words in the oath, he said.

“There is a mindset that believes that a uniformed person is a greater patriot than a civilian and an elected prime minister is a 'security risk'. Such a mindset does not readily come to terms with the constitution made by elected representatives of the people,” he said.

Senator Babar maintained that days of abrogation of the constitution and the imposition of PCOs and the LFOs might be over. But the day when all state institutions would willingly accept the supremacy of the constitution was still far away.

“Were all institutions willingly submitted to the constitution it would not have been possible for a dictator being tried for treason to escape trial by just barging into a hospital in Rawalpindi leaving the courts and the parliament bewildered,” he said. “With such disrespect being shown to the constitution clearly there is a need for teaching constitution in the military academies,” he said.

PML-N Senator Abdul Qayyum asserted that those who abrogated the constitution betrayed the country and also those who sided with them from political gains should also be declared as guilty as a dictator.

He contended that the abrogators of the constitution were individuals and not the institutions and their supporters were politicians, who wanted to become premiers or ministers. “This was a great injustice on the part of such politicians and this is a black stigma on them,” he said.

He lamented the judiciary also not only facilitated dictators but also allowed them even to amend the constitution.

Senator Usman Kakar of PkMAP lamented that military dictators were defended by different political parties. He called for amending the constitution further to empower the Senate at par with the National Assembly, establishing supreme courts in each province and a constitutional court in the Centre and abolition of FCR in Fata.

PML-Q Senator Mushahid Hussain appreciated former PM Bhutto for evolving consensus on the national document but noted there were some lacunas and at the top was that the Senate should have more powers.

Senator Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldeni of BNP-Mengal noted that shortly after the constitution was adopted, amendments were made in it, which sent wrong signals to the provinces and bitterness of that time could not be mitigated even now. “Giving red carpet farewell to Musharraf shows that the constitution is still in some sort of cage and there is a need to free it and all should follow it,” he said.