ISLAMABAD: The Senate session on Monday may witness a war of words between the ruling PML-N and the opposition PPP over the issue of establishment of a constitutional court in the country.

The matter is expected to come under discussion when the upper house of parliament will take up a resolution about the constitutional court, moved by PPP’s Karim Ahmed Khawaja. The resolution is on the agenda for the session.

The government is set to oppose the resolution whereas the PPP is expected to press for its passage in the Senate.

The PML-N believes that the situation has changed considerably after the retirement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2013 and there is no longer the need for a constitutional court in the country.

The PPP says a constitutional court should be set up, particularly after the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the petitions challenging passage of the 18th and 21st amendments of the Constitution.

The two parties had agreed to set up a constitutional court through the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto in London in May 2006 when they were living in exile during the rule of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf. The parties are now accusing each other of violating the CoD.

Through the resolution moved on Feb 3 last year, Senator Khawaja has called for “implementation of the CoD”, with special reference to the establishment of a “constitutional court with equal number of judges from all provinces”.

When contacted, Leader of House in the Senate and PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq said that after the retirement of Chief Justice Chaudhry there was a need to “review this clause of the CoD”.

He said the provision had been included in the CoD with a view to preventing “judicial activism” as it was affecting the court affairs at the time.

Mr Haq said the CoD was signed by two parties whereas a two-thirds majority was required in the parliament for the setting up of a constitutional court. At the moment the PPP and PML-N did not have the numbers required.

The PML-N leader hit out at the PPP and asked why it did not take any step for implementation of the said clause of the CoD when it remained in power from 2008 to 2013.

When contacted, PPP’s Karim Khawaja claimed that his party sincerely wanted to set up the constitutional court but it was the PML-N which had created hurdles in the past.

He said that PPP had implemented 80 per cent of the provisions of CoD during the period when it was in power.

“If the government opposes my resolution then it will be against the spirit of the CoD,” he added.

Similarly, PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar claimed that the PPP wanted to include the establishment of the constitutional court in the 18th amendment, but the move was put off on the special request of the PML-N. He said that there was a need for setting up the constitutional court after the retirement of Chief Justice Chaudhry because the Supreme Court in its recent verdict in the petitions against 18th and 21st amendments had stated that the court had the power to strike down any constitutional amendment.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2015

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