• April 10 declared ‘national day’ during convention marking 50 years of 1973 Constitution
• PTI asked to sit with govt to find solutions to prevailing issues, without prior conditions
• Justice Isa reaffirms judiciary’s support for legal canon

ISLAMABAD: All three pillars of the state — the executive, legislature, and judiciary — on Monday vowed to safeguard the Constitution, at an event held to celebrate 50 years of the Constitution at Parliament House, which was also addressed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

At the Golden Jubilee Convention of the 1973 Constitution, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and three other lawmakers presented four resolutions, declaring April 10 as a national day and the old hall of the National Assembly, where the Constitution was passed, as national heritage.

Although the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) did not take part in the convention, speakers invited the party to sit with the government for a dialogue to find solutions to prevalent problems — particularly economic meltdown and political chaos.

 Justice Qazi Faez Isa, senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court, holds up a copy of the Constitution during his address.—Facebook / National Assembly
Justice Qazi Faez Isa, senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court, holds up a copy of the Constitution during his address.—Facebook / National Assembly

Some former legislators also attended the convention, including former Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, who was seen sitting next to PM Shehbaz. Some of the guests, however, seemed to take little interest in the speeches and were busy taking pictures with their mobile phones inside the NA hall.

‘SC stands by Constitution’

The presence of Justice Qazi Faez Isa at the event was quite significant, with his speech becoming the highlight of the convention.

A source told Dawn that all judges of the apex court, including Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, were invited to the function, but Justice Isa said he was there to represent the entire Supreme Court. “The Supreme Court and I stand by the Constitution,” he said while speaking on the occasion.

The second senior-most judge of the apex court also distanced himself from the political remarks made during the ceremony and said: “I came here thinking that there would be a discussion on the role of Constitution during the event, instead of politics.”

In addition to Justice Isa, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari were given a chance to “deliver lengthy speeches” on the occasion.

Other politicians did not get a chance to speak but JUI-F leader Maulana Asad Mehmood managed to squeeze in a speech after he was asked by Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to offer prayers at the end of the function.

The presence of Justice Isa raised many an eyebrow, with a number of people on social media questioning the judge’s decision to attend the event and sit next to Mr Zardari.

The National Assembly Secretariat, however, issued a statement rejecting the impression that the event was a parliamentary meeting. The NA spokesperson said vice chancellors, lawyers, doctors, women, and senior parliamentarians were invited to attend the function to celebrate the Constitution.

“In order to ensure the participation of representatives of three organs of the state i.e. legislature, executive, and judiciary were also invited,” the statement added.

‘Collective wisdom’

Speaking at the start of the convention, PM Shehbaz recalled that a year ago, coalition parties formed their government through a constitutional process. He said the coalition government took on the challenges through collective wisdom to steer the country out of tough conditions, for the sake of the nation.

The premier said though the allied parties would go into elections on their respective manifestoes, they were united in their mission to save the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari termed PTI Chairman Imran Khan a “Frankenstein” and said he was imposed on the country as a part of a “ten-year doctrine chalked up by his facilitators”.

“Under the doctrine, Imran was to be made prime minister for ten years and chief justice and army chief were also to be appointed for a decade,” he said. The plan was to have a “selected PM, a selected chief justice, and a selected chief of army staff to impose a selected martial law,” he claimed.

In a reference to the no-trust vote against Mr Khan, the PPP chairperson said, “For the first time in the country’s history, a selected puppet was sent home not with the aid of the judiciary or the establishment, but through a no-confidence motion.”

PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari urged political forces, including the PTI, to sit together to initiate a dialogue and asserted that Imran Khan will have to come to the prime minister for talks.

“We cannot afford chaos. We can request the PM for a dialogue with the opposition, but they have to come to him as he is the prime minister,” said the former president.

The head of the government is the “only valid authority” to spearhead a dialogue, he said, adding, “One cannot walk into a dialogue with pre-conditions.”

Resolutions

A resolution presented by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif declared April 10 as National Constitution Day. Another resolution presented by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar declared the old hall of the National Assembly where the Constitution was passed as a national heritage site.

The resolution presented by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb was aimed at incorporating fundamental aspects of the Constitution in the education curriculum, whereas the fourth resolution presented by Senator Raza Rabbani paid tribute to the framers of the Constitution and the entire National Assembly of 1973 and highlighted those who had abrogated the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2023

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