Rabbani hints he may not take oath as Senator

ISLAMABAD: The outgoing chairman of Senate, Mian Raza Rabbani, has hinted that he may not take the oath as member of the upper house of parliament on March 12.

In his farewell speech on Friday, he said he had decided to withhold his 70-page ruling on trichotomy of powers in view of the present situation involving talks about clash of institutions. The ruling earlier reserved by him carried constitutional position with reference to powers of the judiciary, executive and parliament, he said.

Underlining the need for intra-institutional dialogue, Mr Rabbani described the ruling as trust of the house and said: “If I take oath on March 12 I will place the document before the house as a way forward.”

The ‘if’ in his statement was meaningful amidst the reports that he was considering vacating the seat after the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership rejected the proposal given by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to support him if he is nominated for the slot again.

He said the document might help find a way out to avert the threat of a clash between the institutions. Referring to his discussion with former and incumbent chief justices Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Mian Saqib Nisar on Article 175-A of the Constitution concerning the parliamentary committee on appointment of judges, Mr Rabbani expressed the hope that his ‘successor’ would carry forward the dialogue.

He also referred to the army chief’s attendance at the in-camera meeting of the committee of parliament along with the directors general of ISI and MI. “I think this is the way forward,” he remarked.

Calls for abrogating Article 89 to take away executive’s power to promulgate ordinance, holding it accountable

The Senate chairman said the army as an institution worked under the executive, yet he separately talked about it as reality on the ground reflected it as a stakeholder. “When you talk of real politics, you have to identify stakeholders,” he said.

Recounting the mistakes of the past, he said: “We accepted when parliament was dissolved, we accepted when parliament was suspended, and came back like good children when it was revived and endorsed laws made during the suspension without going through them.”

He also regretted that the executive flouted the power of legislature by issuing ordinances, but parliament kept mum. He called for abrogating Article 89 of the Constitution to take away the executive’s powers to promulgate an ordinance. He said an explanation had been sought from the government after the recent promulgation of an ordinance, but to no avail. “Cabinets have been defying constitutional mandate of being responsible to parliament,” he said, adding that the executive was not ready to accept parliamentary accountability.

It had been decided that foreign agreements, including financial and defence-related pacts, would be brought before both the houses of parliament for ratification, yet the decision was not being implemented, said the outgoing Senate chairman.

He said parliament should enact a law making it obligatory for the government to bring all foreign agreements for ratification before parliament. He alluded to the horse-trading charges in the recently held Senate polls and said: “We cannot behave like ostriches and have to face reality.”

Mr Rabbani reminded political parties that the committee of the whole had on May 20, 2016 adopted a resolution to check corrupt practices in the Senate elections and sent it to the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, but it was turned down. The resolution proposed that the name of a lawmaker voting in the Senate polls would have his name written on the ballot paper and if parliamentary leaders doubted someone of voting against the party mandate, they should file an application in the Election Commission of Pakistan to see the ballot paper concerned. In this regard, an amendment to Article 63-A of the Constitution had also been suggested to punish those responsible for violation, he said.

But the proposal had been rejected in the name of secrecy of ballot, he regretted, adding that it would have been a less bitter pill to swallow.

Mr Rabbani said direct election to the Senate was not the answer to all problems, as it would negate the very concept of Senate envisioned by the framers of the Constitution.

Earlier, Mr Rabbani handed over statement of his assets to the Senate secretary.

He had also made public his statement of assets after he had taken the oath as chairman of the upper house of parliament about three years ago.