LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has alleged that the judiciary had forced the then government in 2010 to get passed the 19th Constitution Amendment, which did away with the parliamentary committee’s role in appointment of judges of superior courts.
“Through the 18th Amendment our government had introduced a parliamentary commission for appointment of judges, but the judiciary got [the role of] the parliamentary commission forcibly abolished through the 19th Amendment,” he said while speaking at a dialogue on “18th Amendment to the Constitution and Federalism”, arranged by the Lahore University of Management Sciences on Friday.
“After the amendment, the judiciary has become ‘from the judiciary, by the judiciary and for the judiciary’,” he added.
Defending the then PPP government’s surrender to pressure from the judiciary, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that had it not done so the judiciary could have reviewed [and weakened] the 18th Amendment. He said political parties would have to review the 19th Amendment at an appropriate time.
Says political parties will have to review 19th Amendment at appropriate time
He admitted the corruption phenomenon in the country, but said there’s vendetta and not accountability to check it. “NAB is holding accountable only rivals of the government. Nawaz Sharif is our rival, but is a target of vengeance. Imran Khan has through an executive order excluded businessmen and bureaucrats from the accountability mechanism. He views only politicians and that too from the opposition ranks only as corrupt,” he added.
The PPP chairman said he favoured an accountability process that’s across the board and through a transparent mechanism. “There should be a system in which politicians, judges, generals, bureaucrats and businessmen could be summoned for accountability.”
Recalling his mother Benazir Bhutto’s struggle for restoration of the 1973 Constitution, Mr Bhutto-Zardari chided former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for trying to become Amirul Momineen instead of restoring the Constitution when he got a chance to work. He said the federal democratic system had been promised at the time of inception of Pakistan and that the country could run on the basis of federalism.
Defending the 18th Amendment, he said the separatist movements ran out of steam when the provinces were given administrative and financial powers. He said conditions of federating units had improved after getting the powers while the measure was also strengthening the federation.
Coming down hard on the officialdom, Mr Bhutto-Zardari declared it a misconception that the federal bureaucracy was more intelligent than the elected representatives. He said federal bureaucrats were interested only in repayment of loans and investment in defence projects and were not ready to invest in education and health sectors. He claimed that PPP-ruled Sindh was ahead of other federating units in the provision of free healthcare services, whereas the federal government refused to take over Sindh health institutions notwithstanding court orders.
Responding to a question, the PPP chairman said the federal government or state could not define national identity because this identity came out from a mix of cultures, languages and societal norms in vogue from Gwadar to Skardu. “Cultural pluralism is our power and not weakness as all colours of the nation should be blended instead of forcing the people to fit in anyone identity. The federation cannot impose the interpretation of Pakistani, which encompasses identities and cultures of all those living within the boundaries of Pakistan.”
Answering a question, the PPP leader said he won’t dispute the fact that about 40 per cent of people in Karachi lived in katchi abadis. He argued that the Sindh capital witnessed a sort of immigration that no other city in Pakistan did.
“We see internal immigration from the province and other provinces and Karachi is the most welcoming city in Pakistan. Where are these people going to live? They are going to live in encroachments and katchi abadis. What is the response to that? We should be providing them with the facilities that are their rights, whether its infrastructure, healthcare or education. Our history shows a hostile approach to katchi abadis,” he added.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari lamented that a policy by the judiciary banned regularisation of katchi abadis, and he thought it as a flawed policy because those living in the slums could not be ignored. “Until you bring these people into the mainstream, these issues are going to continue. When I say mainstream, I mean regularisation,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2020