ISLAMABAD: Supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in their meetings in London have agreed to implement the left-out clauses of the Charter of Democracy (CoD), signed by the two parties some 16 years ago and to finalise a roadmap for the future with the consensus of all democratic forces.
According to a statement issued by the PPP on Saturday, both Mr Sharif and Mr Bhutto-Zardari had discussed “ways forward” after a constitutional victory for democracy, the rule of law and supremacy of parliament”.
“The agenda (of the talks) included completing the unfinished business left on the CoD as well as a discussion on the broad roadmap for the future with consensus of all democratic forces,” says the statement, adding that it was also agreed that a high level summit is needed to brainstorm the path ahead.
“The immediate goals include repairing the rot across the board. There was a strong realisation that the people of Pakistan have suffered greatly at the disastrous economic mismanagement and unprecedented incompetence of the PTI government, all of which needs to be addressed and repaired,” it says, adding that the “joint goals will focus on reversing in phases the drastic economic slide that Imran Khan has taken the country down on, the terrible blunders and self-serving trade-offs on foreign policy, as well as healing the deep scars from assaults made on the country’s democratic system.”
In the past, PPP, PML-N accused each other of violating the charter signed in 2006
The 36-point CoD had been signed by the two parties in London in May 2006 when Mr Sharif and former PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto were living in exile during the military rule of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in the country. Through the document, the two parties had admitted their past mistakes of dislodging each other’s governments with the support of the establishment and vowed to respect each other’s mandate in the future.
An important clause of the CoD which did not receive serious attention from both the PPP and the PML-N was regarding the formation of a “federal constitutional court to resolve constitutional issues, giving equal representation to each of the federating units, whose members may be judges or persons qualified to be judges of the Supreme Court, constituted for a six-year period”.
After the creation of the constitutional court, the scope of the work of the Supreme Court and high courts would have been limited to the hearing of regular civil and criminal cases.
Despite staying in power for a full five-year term after the signing of the CoD, both the PML-N and the PPP also ignored the setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of the objectives of the proposed commission was “to acknowledge victims of state-sponsored persecution, targeted legislation, and politically motivated accountability”.
“A Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established to acknowledge victims of torture, imprisonment, state-sponsored persecution, targeted legislation, and politically motivated accountability. The commission will also examine and report its findings on military coups and civil removals of governments from 1996. The commission shall also examine and identify the causes of and fix responsibility and make recommendations in the light thereof for incidences such as Kargil,” reads the concerned clause of the CoD.
‘Politically motivated’ NAB
The leaders of both parties openly admitted that they committed a mistake by not disbanding the infamous National Accountability Bureau. In the CoD, the two parties agreed to replace the “politically-motivated” NAB with an independent National Accountability Commission.
Another important clause mentioned in the CoD, which remained out of the sight of the two parties, was the constitution of a National Democracy Commission with an aim “to promote and develop a democratic culture in the country and provide assistance to political parties for capacity building on the basis of their seats in parliament in a transparent manner”.
The leaders of the two parties admitted that they had committed some mistakes in the past, but claimed they had respected the most important clause of the CoD which stated that no party would become instrumental in dislodging the elected government with the connivance of anti-democratic forces.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2022