18th amendment tabled in Parliament

The report of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms has been laid before both the National Assembly and Senate.

Chairman of the Committee and Advisor to the Prime Minister Mian Raza Rabbani laid the recommendations of the Committee before both the Houses separately on Friday.

After tabling the amendment bill before the National Assembly and Senate Separately, Advisor to the Premier, Senator Raza Rabbani said that the committee received more than 800 recommendations for the 18th amendment that will thoroughly overhaul the constitution of the country.

The beaming Rabbani said the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue can resolve all disputes. “Today I am grateful to Almighty Allah”. Today is a historic day in country’s Parliamentary history. The constitutional reforms was result of unanimous hard work and effort of Political forces and nation”, he said.

Today, the Pakistani nation has proved that they can tackle any situation and they are united at hour of need, he said.

After 1973, today’s Assembly, he said, would be the first one to amend the constitution. He deplored that Gen Zia-ul-Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf distorted the constitution to the hilt.

“Today where I feel happy there I am sad also because the leader who taught me everything in field of Politics is not with us”, he said with teary eyes.

Dubbing today’s historic day and his success at name of late Former Premier and Chairperson Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Benazir Bhutto, he said, the committee has recommended some new clauses and Parliament can take time to accept it but he warned if the recommendations of committee were not accepted then it would be harmful for Federation.

He hoped that the both houses would accept the recommendations of committee. He also warned establishment to mend its mind and not to create any hurdle in approval of 18th amendment.

He also held Former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq responsible for creating hatred among Provinces. He described the consensus Constitutional Reforms as dawn of a new era towards strengthening democracy and the political system.

Rabbani said all the members deserved praise for the untiring work they did for more than nine months and crossed all the hurdles during the days of turbulent political atmosphere through dialogue and reconciliation, which were the essence of democracy, to prepare this historic document.

“Historians will recognize the efforts of all members of the committee who were part of the efforts of revisiting the Constitution of 1973 after 37 years,” Rabbani said.

Senator Raza Rabbani while reading the proposed 18th constitutional amendment said it proposed clipping President’s powers to dissolve the parliament by repealing Article 58-2 (B) of the constitution.

The Parliamentary Committee has recommended the Parliament to repeal 17th Constitutional Amendment and Legal Frame Work Order given by a dictator as it is without any legal authority. it has also been recommended that NWFP should be re-named as “Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa”, he said.

The Committee, he said, recommended that suspension and holding constitution in abeyance should be declared as high treason also under the article six of the Constitution.

It has also been recommended that article 58/2-B of the Constitution should also be repealed. The amendment also proposes to increase the strength of Senate from existing 100 to 104 with four minority members from Provinces.

Besides abolishing concurrent list from the constitution, the committee also recommended to delete name of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq as President from the constitution.

The constitutional Package also recommended Parliament to remove the third time restriction on becoming the Prime Minister, he said, adding that, for the first time since the Constitution was framed in 1973, the office of the Prime Minister is being given unprecedented powers in the new constitutional package, which will make him the chief executive of the Federation, though he will use these powers in the name of the President.

The Prime Minister and the Chief Minister will be elected by the assemblies through show of hands against the current Provision of secret balloting, he said. According to the amendments, he said, a caretaker chief minister will also be selected by the Governor in consultation with the Chief Minister and the leader of the Opposition in the outgoing Provincial Assembly.

Under the recommendation, members of the caretaker cabinet, including the caretaker Prime Minister and caretaker chief ministers and their immediate family members (spouse and children) shall not be eligible to contest the election.

To give full Powers to the Chief Ministers, Article 139 has been changed to allow the Provincial Government to make rules for the allocation and transaction of its business, stripping the Governor of this Power, he said.

The committee has given complete powers of installing hydropower projects to provinces, while the Center would consult the concerned Province before installing Project in the Province. In accordance with amendment made in section-1 of article 157 of the Constitution, he said, Provinces would be completely free in installing hydropower projects in their respective areas but the Center would consult the concerned Province before installing project in that province.

Under the amendment made in the constitution, the President cannot dissolve assemblies in future. The President would dissolve assemblies only on advice of Prime Minister”, he said.

According to the constitutional Reforms Package, 25 Federal Ministries will be assigned to the Provinces to ensure Provincial autonomy while concrete list will be fully abolished, he added.

“Council for Common Interest will be restructured and more powers will be delegated to it. Parliament will monitor whatever loans will be obtained by the Government from donor’ agencies. Monitoring and management of loans will be made part of the constitution. Provinces will not be authorized to hold direct talks with the international donor agencies to secure loans”, he said.

“NA session will be summoned within 21 days after general elections. This has also been suggested in the proposed 18th amendment that whosoever will revoke the constitution will be liable to be tried under article 6 of the constitution. Speaker of provincial assembly will act as governor in the absence of governor”, he said.

“Federal Shariah court will remain intact. It has been proposed to set up federal court in federal capital. Federation and provinces will jointly share the natural and mineral resources and provinces will get equal share”, he maintained.

Under the amendment, he said, working days of senate has been increased 90 to 100 and Provincial assemblies days from 70 to 100.

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