PDM resurrects idea of preparing ‘Charter of Pakistan’

Published August 22, 2021
PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV
PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV

• Steering committee forms panel to prepare draft
• Anti-govt rallies’ plan to be out next week
• Fazl’s felicitation to Taliban termed JUI-F’s internal matter

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has resurrected the idea of preparing “Charter of Pakistan” containing its proposals to resolve problems being faced by the nation and aimed at establishing a true constitutional and democratic system in the country.

This was stated by PDM secretary general and senior vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during a press briefing after presiding over a meeting of the opposition alliance’s steering committee here on Saturday.

Mr Abbasi said they had constituted a committee to prepare within six weeks a draft of the charter that would then be presented before the heads of the PDM member parties for approval.

He did not disclose the names of the committee members.

He said the PDM steering committee also finalised a schedule for anti-government public meetings and rallies in the country.

It would be announced only after approval by the heads of the member parties at the Aug 28 meeting in Karachi, where it had planned to hold a public meeting the following day, he added.

Besides, the PDM had decided to publish a white paper on completion of three years of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government highlighting the alleged corruption and misgovernance, he said.

The PDM leaders also once again rejected the government’s “unilateral electoral reforms” and rejected the proposal of using electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the elections, terming it a plot to rig the next general elections.

On Nov 8, last year PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced that the heads of the component parties had agreed to prepare a Charter of Democracy-like document to be known as Charter of Pakistan to formally outline their dem­ands and future course of action to achieve their targets with the main aim of “establishing a true constitutional and democratic system in the country”.

As the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was a part of the 11-party alliance at that time, former president Asif Ali Zardari and the PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had attended the meeting, the latter via a video link from London.

After another meeting of the PDM leaders on Nov 18, Maulana Fazl, who is also the head of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), announced that they had approved the 12 basic principles for preparation of the proposed Charter of Pakistan.

The Maulana also read out those principles in the presence of PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal, PPP’s Sherry Rehman and ANP’s Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

They were “supremacy of federal, Islamic, democratic and parliamentary constitution; sovereignty of the parliament; elimination of the role of establishment and intelligence agencies; independence of judiciary; reforms for holding independent, transparent and judicious elections; protection of the fundamental and democratic rights of the citizens; protection of the rights of the provinces and the 18th Constitution Amendment; establishing effective local governments; defending the freedom of media and freedom of expression; implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism and extremism; preparation of an emergency economic plan to end price hike, unemployment and poverty; and protection and implementation of the Islamic clauses given in the Constitution”.

A five-member committee comprising PML-N’s Mr Iqbal and Khurram Dastagir, Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman from the PPP and Kamran Murtaza of the JUI-F had also been constituted to prepare the final draft of the charter.

However, after the decision of the PPP and the ANP to quit the alliance over differences on the issue of nomination of Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani as the opposition leader in the Senate in March, the PDM almost became dysfunctional.

In the original 36-point Charter of Democracy, which was signed by the PPP and the PML-N in May 2006, the two parties had admitted their past mistakes and agreed on a number of constitutional and legal matters, including setting up of a constitutional court and replacing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with a powerful and independent commission having the powers to hold ‘across-the-board’ accountability. Later, the two parties though succeeded in implementing some of the points, but accused each other of deviating from the CoD on many issues.

“The PDM had resolved some six months back that it would prepare a Charter of Pakistan to present the solution to the problems of Pakistan from the PDM platform. Some progress had been made on it, but then it (process) remained suspended. Now we have decided and form a committee to complete the draft and prepare the charter in six weeks’ time,” said Mr Abbasi while informing the reporters about the steering committee decisions.

He said the PDM’s component parties had expressed their resolve that they would continue their struggle for the supremacy of the Constitution and to eliminate the “unconstitutional and illegal interference” in the democratic process, saying that they wanted to make it sure that all institutions stayed within their constitutional limits and work for the betterment of the country.

The PML-N leader demanded a transparent election system “free from all kinds of interference”.

Referring to the renewed government’s offer for talks on the use of EVMs, he claimed the “so-called and unilateral electoral reforms” of the government were in conflict with the Constitution and the country’s laws. He alleged that the EVMs were being introduced to ‘facilitate rigging’ in the upcoming elections and to usurp the right of the people to elect their representatives.

Responding to a question, Mr Abbasi asked the government to call a joint session of the parliament for a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan and to devise a strategy with a national consensus.

Asked about the JUI-F’s move to hail the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, the ex-premier was of the opinion that it was not merely a matter of receiving or giving felicitations. He termed the Maulana’s felicitation to the Taliban an internal matter of the JUI-F. However, he said PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif had already presented the party’s stance on the issue.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2021

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