Govt agrees to consider proposal for constitutional court

Updated 28 Jul 2020

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PML-N’s Senator Javed Abbasi asked Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to convene a meeting of the committee of the whole to discuss the suggestion threadbare. — APP/File
PML-N’s Senator Javed Abbasi asked Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to convene a meeting of the committee of the whole to discuss the suggestion threadbare. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday agreed to mull over the proposal to establish a constitutional court, but said the final decision should not be taken in haste.

“It is a good proposal, but it needs to be thoroughly deliberated and discussed with the judiciary, bar councils, think tanks, Law Division and other stakeholders,” Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan told the Senate.

He said the decision would be a significant shift in present jurisprudence and would require a government-opposition concord.

“The doors of the government are open and we are ready to discuss any legislative proposal,” Mr Khan said.

The minister said some countries had federal constitutional courts, pointing to the United States where each state had its own supreme court.

Earlier, PML-N’s Senator Javed Abbasi, who had moved a motion seeking discussion on the issue, said the apex court was overburdened as every type of case, including time-taking constitutional cases, landed before it, which led to pendency of routine cases.

He said time had come to set up a constitutional court on the pattern of the Supreme Court.

He asked Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to convene a meeting of the committee of the whole to discuss the suggestion threadbare.

Mr Sanjrani responded by saying that he would discuss the matter with leaders of the house and opposition.

Usman Khan Kakar of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) said the Supreme Court also heard election matters which sometimes took years.

Mushahid Hussain Syed of the PML-N said the superior judiciary was under pressure as rules of the game could not be set.

He said judgements were therefore rendered which became controversial. He referred to the banning of the National Awami Party (NAP) in 1975, awarding of death sentence to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979 and the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif in the Iqama case in 2017.

He said Bhutto’s conviction was seen by many as judicial murder and pointed out that Prime Minister Imran Khan had himself called the Iqama judgement a “weak decision”.

He said the charter of democracy signed by the PML-N and PPP in May 2006 also had a mention of the federal constitutional court, adding that the proposed term of the court’s judges was six years with the eligibility criterion being a judge who qualified for the Supreme Court.

Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan held the previous PML-N and PPP governments responsible for the country’s reliance on costly imported fuel for power generation.

Winding up the debate on a motion on rising circular debt, the minister said the present government was in the process of resetting energy mix and promoting projects to produce cheap electricity.

He said now the government was focused on renewable energy, including solar and wind, besides other local resources for power generation like hydel and coal.

Omar Ayub Khan said today the country’s 70 percent energy mix depended on imported energy (fuel) due to flawed policies of the previous PPP and PML-N governments.

“The PTI government, for the first time, has introduced alternate renewable energy plan,” the minister said, adding that Balochistan and Sindh would enjoy maximum benefits from this energy.

The government wants renewable energy to be 20pc of the energy mix by 2025 and 30pc by 2030. Our target is to acquire cheap electricity by using artificial intelligence system and increase power generation capacity by 100,000MW by 2047 out of which 80pc of the power generation would be from local resources, Mr Khan said, adding that this additional power would be from renewable energy.

He said the last PML-N government had scrapped 4,000MW renewable energy projects in 2016-17 and promoted the costly LNG-based power plants.

Even contracts were made to pay back the principle amount along with interest in 10 years while the contract was 25 years long,” he said, adding that the PML-N signed such controversial contracts.

The minister for power said another challenge facing the present government was a result of the PML-N government’s failure to upgrade transmission lines. He also criticised it for not increasing power tariff timely as part of pre-poll politics.

He said the circular debt was climbing at a rate of Rs39 billion a month when the PML-N was in power, which the present government brought down to Rs12 billion before the Covid-19 pandemic set in.

He said the debt had increased again due to the pandemic, but expressed the confidence that the trend would soon be reversed.

He said 50pc of the circular debt was due to unfunded subsidies given by the last government and 35pc increase in it was due to devaluation of the rupee against the dollar.

The minister denied that there was some conflict of interest involved in the dealing of the government when it came to power generation, adding that a committee was negotiating with independent power producers which, he hoped, would yield a better outcome.

On the issue of K-Electric, he criticised the company for failing to invest in the system, saying that the government was ready to increase its power supply but the company’s system lacked capacity.

While introducing her ‘Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2020’ in the House, Parliamentary Leader of the PPP in the Senate Senator Sherry Rehman said an estimated 90pc of the women in Pakistan were subjected to some form of physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse.

“Through this bill, the act of domestic violence is to be criminalised with penalties prescribed for offenders. Moreover, the bill brings domestic violence into public domain and responds to the urgent need for giving women the rights guaranteed in Article 25,” she added.

Ms Rehman said the bill gave the court the discretion to order monetary relief to the aggrieved and ensured safe shelter for the victims.

Based on a zero-tolerance policy for violence against women, the senator said this bill provided relief and protection to the victims.

“Violence is not accepted anywhere and there is a need to criminalise it at the federal level, just like in other countries and in our two provinces. Sindh has comprehensive laws to safeguard women against domestic violence and PPP also has a clear no-tolerance policy towards it,” she said.

“Covid-19 has made the situation worse and the world has seen a spike in domestic violence cases. There is an urgent need for better enforcement of women’s protection laws,” Sherry Rehman added.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2020