Negativity unlimited: Ansar Abbasi’s reaction to the Constitutional Package

Agents of dark forces (establishment, Taliban, right wing) are as usual busy in spreading mischief and disinformation in the land of the pure.

Ansar Abbasi, a key leader of Pakistani Taliban Union of Journalists (PTUJ), has recently written two articles in response to the proposed 18th amendment in Pakistan’s constitution.

The entire Pakistani nation is celebrating the parliamentary consensus on the constitutional amendments. However, the prophets of doom and gloom (i.e., Ansar Abbasi, and his Geo TV/ Jang Group buddies, Shahid Masood and Shaheen Sehbai) are busy in mourning.

Here are two most recent articles by Ansar Abbasi:

Will the new king with unchecked powers deliver?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The otherwise historic constitutional package, presented before the Parliament on Friday, makes the prime minister a king of the parliamentary system having unfettered powers without any checks and balances or parliamentary oversight.

Although it reduces the president into a non-entity, the package left a major flaw in the 1973 Constitution unplugged, ignoring a parliamentary check on the all powerful prime minister to make key appointments in the civil and military bureaucracy, key state-owned corporations, autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies and authorities.

Prime minister’s discretionary powers, which remained the main cause of corruption and bad governance in the country, stay unchecked and the constitutional package does not propose any recipe to keep a vigilant parliamentary check on federal and provincial executives.

The constitutional package, once approved by the Parliament, would give the prime minister unfettered powers to appoint his choice men without any parliamentary oversight or inbuilt system of check and balance.

All the constitutional appointments like army chief, chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee, naval chief, air chief, attorney general, provincial governors, auditor general, chairman and members of Federal Public Service Commission etc would be made by the prime minister.

Like the prime minister, the provincial chief executives will also have unchecked authority to appoint their choice men as advocate generals and chairman and members of the provincial Public Service Commission.

The prime minister and the provincial chief ministers already enjoy complete authority to make key appointments in the state-owned corporations, public sector authorities, autonomous and semi-autonomous organizations and key civil service posts falling in their respective domain.

The prime minister also enjoys unchecked discretionary authority to make key appointments in the civil bureaucracy like heads of public corporations such as Pakistan Steel Mills, Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Railways and several others, besides key bureaucratic positions.

Interestingly, one of the members of the constitutional committee recommended parliamentary oversight on executives (prime minister/provincial chief ministers) powers to make key appointments in civil and military set-up. However, the committee ignored the recommendation with all the ruling parties, whether in the centre or in the provinces including PPP, PML-N, ANP, MQM and JUI, opposing it.

We have seen almost in all the civilian governments in the past even during the governments of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both of whom enjoyed two-third majority in their respective assemblies, that the prime ministers massively used their discretionary powers to make key civilian and military appointments, which not only resulted into bad governance but also led to corruption and misrule.

In developed democracies, the executives though are given a lot of powers, such parliamentary oversight and institutional mechanism of check and balance is put in place that good governance is promoted and corruption is effectively curbed.

Even in the recent years we have seen the state institutions like Pakistan Steels, PIA, Railways, Wapda and several others touching all time lows in terms of mismanagement and corruption merely because those appointed as heads of these institutions were the blue eyed boys of the rulers.

This correspondent talked to quite a few parliamentarians on the issue and almost all of them agreed that the executives need to be checked for good governance and to curb corruption but they generally say that such reforms should be made part of the second constitutional reform package, thus clearly reflecting their non-serious attitude to address the issues of corruption and bad governance.

The present flawed system not only allows the prime minister to appoint his favourites but it also opens avenues for politicians and MPs to get their near and dear ones appointed against their choice postings. Such flaws in the system have also led to extreme politicisation of the civilian bureaucracy.

Interestingly, the major political parties including the PPP, PML-N, PML-Q, ANP etc, have also not agreed to a proposal to provide constitutional protection to government servants to enable them act independently and providing them enough safety whereby they could say no to the unlawful dictates of the political masters.

Judicial Commission too vulnerable, may be challenged

Saturday, April 03, 2010
By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The constitutional package puts the independence of the judiciary, which is one of the fundamentals of the Constitution, at risk as all the judicial appointments will now hinge on just one vote, too vulnerable to manipulations of any shrewd administration.

The composition of the judicial commission is such that it gives a lot of room to the executive to manoeuvre its choice appointments in the judiciary whereas the judiciary’s representatives would always be at risk of losing just one vote to find the tables turned on them.

The Rabbani Committee package rejected Nawaz Sharif’s recommendations to keep the law minister out of the commission and instead of the Pakistan Bar Council’s nominee, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association should be made member of the judicial commission.

Such is the controversial composition of the judicial commission that the proposed appointment procedure is expected to be challenged in a court of law for apparently posing a threat to the independence of the judiciary, one of the basic features guaranteed in the Constitution, which cannot be affected even by parliament through a constitutional amendment.

The constitutional package proposes a seven-member commission for the appointment of judges in the SC and 11-member commission for the appointment of judges in the high courts.

For the appointment of judges, the commission would comprise the chief justice of Pakistan, who would be its chairman; two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court; a former chief justice or a former judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to be nominated by the CJP in consultation with the two member judges; federal law minister; attorney general of Pakistan; and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, nominated by the Pakistan Bar Council for a term of two years.

For the appointment of judges in the high court, the commission, besides the above seven members, shall include four more members, including chief justice of the respective high court to which the appointment is being made, the senior-most judge of that high court; provincial minister for law; and a senior advocate to be nominated by the provincial bar council for a period of two years.

In case of the Supreme Court appointments, the commission’s constitution shows a balance of three judges plus one retired judge as against the law minister, another government nominee (attorney general) and a nominee of the Pakistan Bar Council, which is presently under the influence of Sardar Latif Khosa, the PPP senator and adviser to the prime minister. It means by maneuvering to get the sympathy of just one vote of a retired or serving judge, the government could get through its choice appointments.

For the appointment of high court judges, the composition of the commission presents a balance of five judges plus a retired judge against five, including two law ministers, one federal and one provincial, attorney general, one nominee of the Pakistan Bar Council and another nominee of provincial bar council. The above constitution of both the commissions provides to the government a lot of room to outsmart or even buyout the judiciary’s primacy in the appointment of judges.

Over and above this judicial commission, the package proposes parliamentary oversight by setting up an eight member parliamentary committee that will have the power to reject any appointment recommended by the commission by three-fourth majority. In its dissenting note to the proposed commission, the PML-N, however, said that the federal law minister or the attorney general should be dropped as the government’s viewpoint could be expressed by either of them.

The PML-N also proposed that the President Supreme Court Bar Association be made a member of the main commission whereas for the appointment of high court judges, instead of nominees of provincial bar councils, the presidents of the high court bar associations should be made members of the enlarged commission.

Contrary to what Pakistan is about to do for appointments in the superior judiciary, India is well set with the system of a five-member collegium of Supreme Court judges, which make the appointments in the superior judiciary.

Even Britain, where the appointments in the judiciary were traditionally made by the prime minister and the Lord Chancellor (Law Minister), has excluded politicians from the judges’ appointment procedure and left it to a judges’ commission to make such appointments.

Related articles: Ansar Abbasi’s “Truth” Problem



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