PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani visits the Sindh High Court building along with lawyers in Hyderabad on Monday.—Dawn
PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani visits the Sindh High Court building along with lawyers in Hyderabad on Monday.—Dawn

HYDERABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani has said that he will resist any attempt to roll back the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Speaking to reporters during his visit to the Sindh High Court building here on Monday, he observed that the amendment that ensured provincial autonomy to provinces was not being accepted by a [particular] mindset within the federation.

“A conspiracy against it has been afoot for a long time and attempts are now being made to roll it back,” he claimed.

Mr Rabbani said that those articles which deal with provincial autonomy were being circumvented on the part of the executive by not convening meetings of the Council of Common Interests (CCI). “Those items which are part of the Federal Legislative List Part-II and are to be referred to CCI are not being sent to the council,” he said.

He pointed out that some verdicts handed down by the judiciary in the past sought to create grey areas regarding the 18th Amendment. “It is a campaign run by federation about the 18th Amendment,” he said.

‘Federation wants a syllabus that is dependent on false or incorrect history’

Perhaps, he noted, Article 160 dealing with National Finance Commission (NFC) was the real issue as a new clause, 3-A, was inserted in the Constitution which ensured that share of provinces would not be less than what was previously decided.

“Federation feels that its share [in divisible pool] is gradually declining and it wants to keep it intact, thus these efforts,” he believed.

In addition to the CCI, the inter-provincial coordination ministry existed to ensure harmony [among federating units]. “We want to make it abundantly clear that we will not accept rolling back of the 18th Amendment. It was a long political struggle after which provinces got their rights to some extent. We will take the matter to every forum including the judiciary and parliament, and may take to roads if need be to defend the 18th Amendment,” he said.

The other problem that existed in the federation’s mindset pertained to syllabus, he went on, and explained his view that federation/state had given a syllabus that “is dependent on false or incorrect history”. He alleged that “it [federation] wants to produce students, with a particular narrative through [the] syllabus, who could not challenge state’s initiatives and excesses”.

He termed the recently formed National Curriculum Forum “unconstitutional”.

About federal taxes on property, Mr Rabbani said they were illegal and could not be imposed without relevant legislation. He said they could not be levied through executive orders. He alleged that the present government was expected to do that as it represented the big businesses that had funded Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf during elections. “It is payback time [for them],” he remarked.

He pointed out that mini-budget of reforms package had also provided relief to big businesses. He said middle class, lower-middle class or professionals did not get relief; rather they got the entire burden.

“When the government announced its mini-budget, it gave a clear message to the working class that trade unions will not be tolerated. The next day, the [federal] cabinet declared Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Security Printing ‘essential services’ thus excluding them from trade unions’ purview.”

Raza Rabbani said that PPP never minced words; when it discussed ‘umpire’ or ‘state’, it referred to the civil-military bureaucracy. “Institutions have conceded space and above all parliament has conceded ground the most; and now executive [is] following it. Whenever a vacuum is created, it’s filled by other forces.”

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2019