The Constitution Reform Committee worked for about 9 months at 18th amendment for repealing 17th amendment. The Committee consisted of senior parliamentarian of all parties, treasury as well as opposition. All nation put their eyes at the 24th of March when the Bill was to be tabled but suddenly PML (N) backtracked and took a u-turn.
It is now crystal clear that PML (N) is foul playing; they only want to impose their own suggestions on all committee members. It is clear that PML (N) member of the committee were not consulted by their party leadership. A few days earlier they said that their only grievance pertained to the name of the NWFP rather than the dispute Sharif addressed in the press conference.
One more issue is regarding consultation with Chief Justice of Pakistan for the appointment procedure for judges. It means that they want to deny the supremacy of the parliament. Sharif’s press conference shocked the whole nation and political parties across the country. PML (N) head wasted all effort made by the members of the committee which they were doing for finalization of the issue with consensus.
Constitution reforms are a newel social contract among all provinces. Given that all members of the constitutional reform committee had agreed at the issue of appointment of judges, one wonders why this drama has been created by PML (N) Chief. It creates doubts that Nawaz Sharif is not sincere for repealing of 17th amendment. His press conference has created doubts his sincerity and creditability. He should stop playing with the emotions of the whole nation.
Sharif seems to hold some ulterior motive behind the drama which will soon be evident before the nation. Nawaz Sharif only wants to create hurdle for repealing of 17th amendment. As he knows if this issue is solved than nothing will be left for his political manoeuvring.
ISLAMABAD: Moments before the scheduled signing of the amendment bill by the all-party Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms, the Pakistan Muslim League-N on Thursday backtracked from its stance on the issue of judges’ appointment and renaming of the NWFP, stalling the much-awaited reforms package for an indefinite period.
At a time when the nation was eagerly waiting for a happy conclusion, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif dropped a bombshell that the mechanism agreed for judges’ appointment was not acceptable to his party.
“I have talked to Prime Minister (Yousuf Raza) Gilani on phone and asked him to consult the chief justice and then decide the mechanism with us,” Mr Sharif said at a news conference after presiding over a meeting of the party’s central organising committee and its leaders from the NWFP at the Punjab House. His appeal to the government to delay the constitutional reforms package and consult the judiciary on judges’ appointment before presentation in parliament shocked the whole nation and political parties across the divide.
This is despite the fact that the procedure for judges’ appointment is the same as that drafted under the Charter of Democracy signed by Mr Sharif and Benazir Bhutto in May 2006. Just a couple of days ago, the reforms committee had even agreed to reconstitute the proposed judicial commission on PML-N’s calls for adding a retired judge of the Supreme Court as its seventh member.
Mr Sharif’s remarks also contradicted the admission by all sides that the reforms package has been finalised with consensus.
Even PML-N members of the committee found it extremely difficult to defend the party’s somersault on a matter already agreed upon.
Committee chairman Raza Rabbani was the most downcast and frustrated after the development. “The authority to appoint judges should not rest with an individual and for that matter not even with the president or the chief justice,” he said, adding that the number of judges in the proposed judicial commission should be more than the members representing the government.
The PML-N chief said he had warned the prime minister against any move to present the draft of the amendment bill in parliament without consensus. He, however, said he had assured Mr Gilani that his party would not create any hurdle if President Asif Ali Zardari decided to address the joint parliamentary session.
Earlier, Mr Sharif had advised Mr Zardari not to come to parliament for the address without repealing the 17th Amendment.
“We want it early. It’s up to the prime minister as to when he consults the chief justice,” Mr Sharif said when asked how long will the party will wait for a consensus.
To the surprise of many, Mr Sharif even suggested to the prime minister to convene a meeting of the government and opposition representatives with the chief justice to hammer out the issue. Mr Raza Rabbani could also be invited to the talks, he said.
Mr Sharif evaded a question as to why members of his party did not raise the issue during the committee’s proceedings.
In the morning PML-N leaders were claiming in their private conversations that they had reached an understanding with the ANP on the renaming of NWFP and that a meeting of the party in the afternoon was a mere formality.
PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal told Dawn after the press conference that the party failed to resolve the renaming issue. In reply to a question about an earlier claim of an understanding, he said the party was not expecting such a harsh reaction from members belonging to the NWFP.
Sources said that some members from the NWFP at the PML-N meeting had even threatened to resign from assemblies and the party if it agreed to the ANP proposal of renaming the province as “Pakhtoonkhwa”.
“We have told the committee that the signing of the document is subject to the outcome of their party’s Thursday’s meeting,” said Mr Iqbal, who had not told the media about this condition till Wednesday night.
About the judicial commission, he said there were reports that lawyers were unhappy over its composition and some of them had even prepared petitions to challenge it in the court.
Mr Iqbal said his party did not want to see a clash of institutions and, therefore, wanted to resolve the matter to avoid a possible confrontation.
The PML-N chief said the issue of renaming of the NWFP should be resolved through consensus even if took longer in time. Asked if he was ready to show some flexibility, Mr Sharif said: “There is no flexibility on principles.”
He said that whenever his party would realise that there was a threat to the independence of judiciary it would act accordingly.
The abrupt U-turn by the PML-N drew harsh criticism from all political sides.
ANP leader Ilyas Bilour said the PML-N would come out as “lone loser in the present crisis”. He said that two days ago Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N himself called on ANP chief Asfandyar Wali and gave him a choice to select one name from Pakhtoonkhwa-Abaseen and Pakhtoonkhwa Khyber to which Mr Wali had given him a free-hand.
Mr Bilour categorically stated that his party would not support the repeal of the 17th Amendment unless its demand of renaming the province as Pakhtoonkhwa was met. He claimed that all smaller and nationalist parties had agreed to it.
ANP Senator Haji Adeel, who is a member of the committee, said all parties had submitted notes of dissent on the proposals on which they had reservations. However, he said, no party, including the PML-N, had submitted any dissenting note on the proposal about the formation of the judicial commission.
PPP information secretary Fauzia Wahab termed the development “regrettable” and “against the spirit of the Charter of Democracy”. She said there were some hidden forces which did not want to see any parliamentary role in judges’ appointment.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira refrained from criticising the PML-N and expressed the hope that the matter would be resolved amicably.
He, however, said the PML-N announcement had shocked the nation, urging Mr Sharif to reconsider his stance.