ISLAMABAD, July 14: The government on Sunday unveiled the second package of proposed constitutional amendments, seeking power for the president to appoint, on his discretion, the armed forces’ chiefs, head of the National Accountability Bureau, Chief Election Commissioner, and Auditor-General of Pakistan.
The package, released by the National Reconstruction Bureau, suggested modifications in articles dealing with the Legislative List and the Council of Common Interest, and allowing the Supreme Judicial Council to initiate inquiries on its own. The NRB is headed by a retired general, Tanvir Naqvi.
The NRB, which has already suggested a plethora of constitutional amendments in package-I, further proposed that bringing about any change in the Constitution by parliament should be made difficult. The NRB proposed that any bill seeking to amend the Constitution shall be made public two months before the initial discussion on it by either house of parliament.
It was proposed that the power to appoint armed forces’ chiefs and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee should be given back to the president who had enjoyed it before the 13th Amendment was introduced. The president would not only have the power to appoint the services chiefs but also the vice-chiefs.
To provide protection to the constitutional offices, the package suggested that heads of all such institutions be appointed by the president on his discretion. The constitutional offices were listed as the CEC, Election Commission, Auditor-General, chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and chairman of the NAB.
The package suggested that the heads of the constitutional offices would serve for a single term of fixed duration with no extension permissible. The heads of these offices would be ineligible for employment in any other office of profit in the service of Pakistan during or after expiry of the fixed term. These offices would submit annual reports to the president who shall cause it to be put before parliament. These heads would be removable before the fixed term by a special procedure.
The package suggested that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) should be appointed by the president after ascertaining the views of the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the National Assembly for a single term of five years.
The auditor-general and the FPSC chairman should be appointed by the president after ascertaining the views of the prime minister for five years.
The package proposed that chief justices of all four high courts shall be members of the Supreme Judicial Council, a constitutional forum for the accountability of superior court judges. Under the existing provision, only two senior most chief justices of high courts are members of the SJC.
It was proposed that the SJC be empowered to inquire into the matters given in Article 209 “of its own accord as well”. Earlier, the SJC had been refusing to take action against any judge on the grounds that its door only opened through the President House, and it would entertain only such matters as were referred to it by the president.
According to the package, the governor of the State Bank and members of the SBP’s central board would be appointed by the federal government for a single term of five years. The governor would report to the federal government. The president can remove him on his discretion but after consultation with the prime minister.
Recommending that the NRB be made a constitutional body, the NRB suggested that the office of the NRB chairman should be a constitutional office, and its head be appointed by the president.
The president would have the authority to direct NAB to investigate offences of corruption, recover proceeds acquired through corruption by a public servant, member of the elected body, or the holder of a public office.
NAB chairman would be appointed by the president after ascertaining views of the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the National Assembly.
The package proposed partial modification in 14th Amendment, retaining the power of the party leader to declare that a member had defected but not mere on the grounds that he had spoken against the party policy.
An assembly member would be at the risk of losing his seat if he, a) ceases to be member of the political party; 2) dissociates himself from the parliamentary party to which he belongs; 3) votes contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs; 4) abstains from voting in the house against parliamentary party policy in relation to any bill.
The head of the concerned political party in writing would declare that a member had defected, and would forward the declaration to the presiding officer of the concerned house.
The presiding officer would, within two days, refer to the CEC for a decision by the Election Commission within 30 days. If the EC decided that the member did defect, he would cease to be member of the house and his seat would become vacant. A person aggrieved against the decision of the EC, can approach the competent court.
The NRB proposed bifurcation of the Concurrent Legislative List; part one containing subjects where the federal and provincial governments would continue to have legislative jurisdiction. The part II would contain subjects where parliament would have the power to enact only framework legislation limited to establishing a national policy framework.
Detailed legislation for regulatory and executive functions would be domain of the provinces. For the purpose, the NRB suggested amendments to Articles 97, 137, 142, 143 and 149 of the Constitution with the Fourth Schedule.
The package suggested amendments to make the Council of Common Interest a more effective institution. It proposed amendments in Article 153 and 154 to change the composition of the CCI, to provide for its permanent secretariat, and to make its quarterly meetings mandatory. It would be mandatory for parliament to enact a law for creating a mechanism for enabling the CCI to formulate and regulate policies and exercise supervisory control over the institutions related to the subjects assigned to it.
The NRB suggested change in the composition of the CCI but did not indicate what would be the composition.
The package proposed amendment to the role of the National Economic Council to make it responsible for the formulation of macro-economic objectives and policies based on review of national economy, approval of national development plans and review of the economic and financial agreements with foreign governments and agencies.
The NEC would be mandated by the Constitution to meet once every quarter and the federal government would provide permanent secretariat to the NEC.
The NRB proposed that the formulation of annual development programmes and approval of projects to be funded by provincial consolidated budgets should be left to the provinces. These plans, however, would be presented to the NEC for better coordination to promote inter- provincial harmony.
The package also touched inter-governmental fiscal relations, suggesting that the federal, provincial and local governments be allocated at least one buoyant tax such as customs, export duty, major excise duty, income and corporation taxes, etc.
It proposed that federal divisible pool may comprise the most buoyant taxes for distribution amongst all three orders of the government (federal, provincial and local) in a way that each of them has a stake in its collection and widening of its tax base.
The package suggested that the system of local government be provided constitutional cover.