ISLAMABAD: The finance minister informed the Senate on Monday that the Army had been empowered to act against terrorists across the border after obtaining concrete evidence that Afghan soil had been used to launch recent acts of terrorism in the country.
Monday’s session focused on several important issues including the current law and order situation and the exclusion of senators from consultations on the revival of powers of military courts to try civilians.
While responding to various points of public importance, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the prime minister had authorised the Army to take out terrorists wherever they might be.
He said it had been established beyond doubt that foreign soil had been used to orchestrate the two latest attacks — in Lahore and in Hayatabad. He recalled Pakistan’s commitment that its soil would not be allowed to be used for terrorism in any country and noted that time had come to ensure that no other country’s soil was used against Pakistan.
The minister informed the Senate that Pakistan had forwarded names of 76 terrorists to Afghanistan, adding that Afghanistan should also present names of terrorists in Pakistan if any. At the time, Mr Dar was apparently unaware that Afghanistan had presented a list of 85 names to Pakistan on Monday.
He also made it clear that there was no intention to bypass the upper house of parliament on the issue of military courts.
So far, parliamentary leaders had only held informal consultations, he said, adding that 14 parliamentary leaders from the Senate would receive formal invitations to attend a meeting on Feb 23 to decide the fate of military courts. The meeting was originally scheduled for Feb 27, but will now be held four days ahead of the previous schedule.
The minister acknowledged that legislation could not be passed by ignoring the Senate and that its consensus was required. “The idea is to take this menace head-on,” he stressed.
Earlier the finance minister called on Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani at his chambers. Informed sources said that Mr Dar took the Senate chairman into confidence over the issue of military courts. They said that Mr Rabbani had asked the finance minister to present a policy statement on military courts in the Senate.
Dual citizenship of judges
A bill proposing a bar on Superior Court judges from holding dual nationality landed in the house. The bill introduced by former law minister Babar Awan sought to amend Articles 63, 177 and 193 of the Constitution.
The government had opposed the bill when the motion for leave to introduce was put forward; however, the government’s position was defeated in the voting process by a margin of 26:13.
“In order to ensure the allegiance of holder(s) of the highest public offices like members of legislatures and the higher judiciary, it is to be made incumbent upon them to have exclusive citizenship of Pakistan. It would ensure their unfettered loyalty with the motherland, which may otherwise probably be undermined with dual nationality,” the statement of objects and reasons reads.
Ruling on regulatory bodies
Chairman Rabbani ruled that the powers of the prime minister under sub-rule (3), rule 3, of the Rules of Business, 1973, remained in force on matters which were exclusively the business of the federal government, that is, Federal Legislative List, Part – I, Constitution, 1973.
“Therefore, the control of regulatory authorities cannot be transferred from one ministry to another ministry without obtaining prior approval from the CCI [Council of Common Interests], in terms of Article 154, Constitution, 1973. Any attempt to bypass the CCI in taking such policy decisions is a constitutional violation affecting the rights of the federating units, hence [it is] against the spirit of participatory federalism and the scheme of the Constitution,” he observed in a detailed ruling which he had earlier reserved.
He said he was conscious of the fact that the government’s decision of placing five regulatory authorities under the control of line ministries had been challenged in high courts, but pointed out that the house had taken cognisance of the matter on Dec 20, 2016, and had been deliberating on it since. “In this case, the rights of the provinces and other territories were being infringed upon. Therefore the Senate has to act in accordance with the Constitution.”
Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2017