ISLAMABAD, Sept 12: Consensus-builder PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani has warned that some forces are busy conspiring to rollback the historic 18th Constitution Amendment.
“They are playing with fire. For the moment I will not name them but they are present among the politicians and in the civil bureaucracy,” he told a galaxy of the two present at the launch of his book “A biography of Pakistani federalism: Unity in diversity” here on Wednesday.
Speakers at the well-attended ceremony included leader of the opposition in the Senate Muhammad Ishaq Dar, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, former Chairman Senate and PML-Q leader Wasim Sajjad, Afrasiyab Khattak (ANP), Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Haider Abbas Rizvi (MQM) and Mir Hasil Bizenjo (National Party).
Raza Rabbani said the provinces were not ready to believe that the civil-military bureaucracy would let 18th Amendment pass through or it would happen through a consensus.
He noted that the deficit gap still persisted and could only be bridged through effective implementation on the amendment. He stressed that nobody should put at stake the Federation for the sake of petty interests and said the rollback of the powers constitutionally devolved to the provinces would not be acceptable.
“Not a comma or full stop in the 18th Amendment can be changed without approval of the parliament,” he remarked.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman termed the passage of 18th Amendment a significant headway in the journey towards a stronger Pakistan.
He said the JUI-F had called for identifying the basis of the constitution which, even the parliament cannot change.
He said it was agreed that Islamic republican system, democratic system, federal system and parliamentary system cannot be changed.
He stressed that the salvation of Pakistan was directly linked with the protection of the constitution, which enjoys the status of being ‘national charter’.
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan said federalism was an important subject for Pakistan and democracy itself. He noted that federalism was a message of co-existence and tolerance. He stressed that no one had the right to thrust his opinion or ideology on others.
“I must not determine or seek to determine your choice of livelihood,” he remarked.
In his unique style of showering praise, he said he wanted to do a critical speech against Raza Rabbani, but could not find in his memory anything other than his ‘stubbornness on principles’.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Muhammad Ishaq Dar said it was anticipated that the 18th Amendment would be derailed and sabotaged.
He said almost 40 per cent of the constitution was re-written, and eulogised Rabbani for leading the most difficult task in the parliamentary history.
He also spoke about his meeting with Benazir Bhutto, during which the two parties had decided to work together for democracy.
He said Ms Bhutto had concerns that one can backtrack on promises after coming to power and he was the one who had suggested signing of charter of democracy and making it public to give it public ownership. Afrasiab Khattak of ANP said in the past those raising voices for autonomy of the provinces were labelled traitors.
He observed that diversity was strength and not the weakness of Pakistan. He also talked about efforts to derail 18th Amendment in the recent months, but did not elaborate.
Wasim Sajjad said passage of 18th Amendment was as important an event as framing of the constitution itself.
He said there were doubts that the committee would be able to achieve anything, but said Rabbani was able to steer the discussion to consensus and deal different areas including reduction in the powers of the president, abolition of concurrent list and appointment of judges.
He said the purpose of the exercise was effective governance in Pakistan. The task is ‘on’ — the result is yet to come, he said, but observed that “it will take some time but we were in right direction”.
He said that he anticipated that in future Pakistan will always have a coalition government as a concept of participatory democracy in the country had been introduced.
Haider Abbas Rizvi of MQM said be it 18th Amendment or Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan, “We have done too little and too late”. He said it would be a joke to provide Rs120 billion to Balochistan in 10 years.
Mir Hasil Bizenjo said Pakistan can become a strong, prosperous and stable country if the 18th Amendment was preserved.
He said in the beginning he was not convinced that the concurrent list could be abolished altogether.