PPP accuses centre of ruining economy, calls for elections

Updated September 14, 2019

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18th Amendment ensures the federation will not influence and undermine provincial autonomy, says Senator Rabbani. — APP/File
18th Amendment ensures the federation will not influence and undermine provincial autonomy, says Senator Rabbani. — APP/File

KARACHI: The Pakistan Peoples Party on Friday accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government of ruining the economy and called for fresh elections in the country, echoing a statement by a federal minister who cited a similar reason for granting control of Karachi to the centre.

“The plot hatched by Gen (Pervez) Musharraf’s team, which is in the [present] ruling setup in the federation, to divide Sindh will bring extremely dangerous consequences. The people of Sindh will never allow them to divide their province,” said Senator Raza Rabbani while speaking at a press conference at the Sindh Assembly building.

Senator Rabbani, who can be described as the lead author of the 18th Constitution Amendment, referred to federal Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem’s statement in which the latter had hinted at invoking Article 149 to seize control of Karachi’s affairs, and said: “Creating such an impression is totally unconstitutional. Instead, the federal government can offer directives to the provincial government on certain issues; and that does not give it the power to do those things on its own.”

The former Senate chairman said the federal minister had cited the deteriorating economy as a reason for takeover of Karachi’s affairs; this was a remarkably shallow and self-contradictory reason to play with the political geography of a province that was sensitive to its magnificent past.

18th Amendment ensures the federation will not influence and undermine provincial autonomy, says Senator Rabbani

“It is not Sindh where decisions for regulating the economy are made. Such decisions are devised and implemented by [the federal government in] Islamabad. It is their flawed economic policy which has thrown the country into a grave economic crisis, multiplied joblessness and led to price hike.

“For these reasons Sindh demands of the government, which has failed in protecting the wellbeing of its poor population..., to resign and go for fresh elections,” said Senator Rabbani.

He said the 18th Amendment had introduced suitable and sufficient checks and balances to ensure that the federation could not influence and undermine provincial autonomy.

“Article 234, about imposition of emergency in the country, cannot be invoked until the parliament endorses it. Similarly, if a provincial government wants to delegate certain functions to the centre (it cannot do so) until its legislature passes a resolution. These checks have been introduced to stop misuse of the powers that were used in the past with impunity.

“All these provisions are there to stop recurrence of such dramas; and if the federal government furthers this issue, then it would be openly violating the Constitution.”

The senior PPP leader said there would be strong implications if any action aimed at dividing Sindh was taken.

Referring to the Indian action of annexing occupied Kashmir, Senator Rabbani said: “There are lots of states in India that have special status. The fallout from India can harm Pakistan as well. Those who are thinking about Article 149 should keep the regional context in mind.”

He said “foreign hand” is already active in Balochistan and destabilising factors are there in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well; still the government is tinkering with a settled issue in Sindh.

“Don’t ambush provincial autonomy. Should I say you are working on a foreign agenda? For God’s sake, do not destabilise the country on ethnic grounds; it would lead to instability and the entire country will suffer.”

Senator Rabbani said it was intriguing that what the PTI government wanted to do in Karachi was somewhat similar to what Narendra Modi had done in occupied Kashmir.

For his part, Sindh’s Inf­or­mation Minister Saeed Ghani said the provincial government had the ability to tackle the problems of the province. There was no need for the federal government to invoke Article 149 of the Constitution to solve them.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2019