18th Amendment not implemented in true spirit: Rabbani
ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani Saturday regretted that 18th Constitutional Amendment has not been implemented in its true spirit to ensure provincial autonomy and empower the Council of Common Interests (CCI) with a view to strengthening the federation.
Speaking at a seminar “Enhancement of Powers of Senate for Stronger Federation,” organised by Senate of Pakistan at the Parliament House, Rabbani said the Senate is second home to provinces as it represents the federating units of the country.
Under the Constitution, he emphasized, it is the responsibility of the federal government to announce National Finance Commission (NFC) after every five years but it is not being implemented.
He suggested that in case the federal government fails to announce the NFC in stipulated time, the Senate should have the powers to extend the Award for a year and also to enhance the share of the provinces by one per cent.
The seminar was also addressed by Deputy Chairman Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Leader of the House Raja Zafar ul Haq, Leader of the Opposition in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan, Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, Speaker Balochistan Assembly Raheela Durrani, Speaker Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Asad Qaiser, representative of the Chief Minister Punjab and Senior Minister Punjab Raja Ishfaq Sarwar and Secretary Senate Amjad Pervez Malik.
Rabbani further stated that strong provinces are the manifestation of the stronger federation and it is necessary that for protection of the powers of the federating units, their representative house of the Parliament, Senate, should be strengthened.
A strong federation is the need of the hour, he said, adding both the houses of the Parliament should have equal powers and voting strength during the joint setting of the Parliament.
He clarified that enhancement in Senate powers does not mean depriving the provinces of their authority and autonomy but it would pave way for better representation of the federating units and strong federation.
Since inception of Senate, he pointed out that it is striving for equal representation of the provinces, adding there is paradigm shift as we have changed from the presidential form of government to the parliamentary and participatory form of government and it is a political reality.
He said that under the 18th amendment it was agreed that the CCI would be constituted and it would have an independent secretariat for collective administration of the national resources of the country.
He said that it was agreed that CCI Secretariat would have the same status as the Cabinet Division has for the federal cabinet. “But unfortunately it has not been implemented as yet,” he regretted, adding it would be better to implement this constitutional provision and the secretariat be given the administrative control of the natural resources of the provinces.
Rabbani also suggested that the Constitution should be amended by adding a provision under which the chief ministers of the provinces can address the Senate and present their issues and report performance of the respective province.
He further suggested that all the foreign loans agreements should be ratified by both the houses of the Parliament to ensure that the relevant constitutional provisions are implemented with regard to volume of the foreign debt.
He said that during the joint sitting of the Parliament, the effectiveness of the Upper House and representation of the federating units comes to zero level, which is against the spirit of the 1973 Constitution.
He said that bringing the Upper House at par with the Lower House in terms of the powers of the both is not unprecedented as it is being practiced in democratic countries. He said that the services and sacrifices of the people for rule of law, supremacy of the Parliament and democratic governance were not recognised in the past even by different democratic governments.
“Unfortunately, the state under a well thought-out policy pushed back and cornered the veteran politicians who rendered immense sacrifices for the restoration of democracy in the country in different times,” he remarked. A monument constructed in front of the Parliament House would compensate for this negligence of the past, he added.
Deputy Chairman Senate Haideri said that increasing the powers of the Senate is tantamount to strengthening the federation and the provinces. He said that a strong federation with its strong federating units is need of the hour.
Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq in his address appreciated the role of the chairman Senate in 18th Constitutional amendment and for transforming the Senate. He also highlighted the crucial role of the Senate in lawmaking and other affairs.
Leader of the Opposition, Aitzaz Ahsan said that the sense of deprivation of provinces should be minimised by giving them more powers. He said that role of the Senate for making a stronger federation is unprecedented. He said that a stronger federation is guarantee of the rule of law and the government must realise it.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that Senate has played an effective role in the provincial autonomy and better coordination among the provinces. He said that inclusion of Senate members in the PAC is a welcoming step and proposed that the issues and disputes among the provinces in the CCI should be presented in the Senate as it is the true representative of the federating units.
Speaker Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Asad Qaisar said that uneven distribution of resources among the provinces is hurdle in sustainable development. He said that the efforts of the Senate for inter-provincial harmony must be appreciated and given due consideration.
Speaker Balochistan Assembly Rahila Durrani said that less-developed segments of the societies and areas have been represented by Senate in befitting manners. She also welcomed the Senate recommendations allowing chief ministers to address the Upper House, adding it would enable the provinces to present their issues in a more effective way.
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