ISLAMABAD: Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani expressed opposition to the passage of the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Bill, 2022 which paved the way for the signing of a settlement deal on Reko Diq mining project as he termed the legislation an “attempt to rollback 18th Amendment”.

Mr Rabbani, who is a senior leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, observed that parliament “stands alone as its powers were encroached upon by the executive”.

“The trichotomy of power under the Constitution, 1973, is being circumvented by the other two organs of the state”, the PPP senator remarked. He said presidential reference filed by the federal government before the Supreme Court had dealt a “deadly blow” to the concept of trichotomy of power and the supremacy of parliament.

Out of two questions framed for the opinion of the Supreme Court, the second dealt with the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Bill 2022, which was still on the drawing boards of the Ministry of Law and Finance.

“With utmost respect, it is difficult to understand why the Supreme Court opinioned on the constitutionality, or otherwise, of a bill that was yet to be introduced in parliament and required resolutions from two provincial assemblies under Article 144 of [the] Constitution, 1973”, he said.

He noted that the government had circumvented the process under Article 73, thereby, infringing on the right of parliament to legislate, which is its prime duty, function, and responsibility. The senator added that the entire legislative procedure has been reversed i.e. a bill still in the embryonic stage has been placed by the federal government before the Supreme Court which tentatively approved its constitutionality and the same had been bulldozed through the parliament.

He said Section 3 of the bill was a further infringement upon the rights of parliament, as amendments to the three schedules of the bill will be made through notifications by the federal government.

He added through subordinate legislation, a worse form of Article 89 has been created as there is no time frame for the amendments. “I cannot agree with the opinion of the Supreme Court that the said Section 3 does not infringe upon the powers of parliament.”

Through subordinate legislation, an attempt is being made to roll back the 18th Constitutional Amendment”, he observed. Mr Rabbani was one of the four senators from the treasury benches who opposed the bill in the house.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2022

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