See what Nawaz Sharif stymied… Zardari’s speech that never was

The proposed Constitutional amendment package that Nawaz Sharif backed away from at the 11th hour (after having promised to support it) was to have restored federalism, provincial rights, and Parliamentary sovereignty, besides doing away with the President’s powers to dissolve assemblies.

Here’s a front page report from The News, Saturday, March 27, 2010:

Zardari’s speech that never was

By our correspondent

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Zardari was all set to deliver the speech before a joint sitting on Friday to take the lead in announcing the omission of Article 58(2)b, empowering the president to dissolve the National Assembly.

The draft of the speech (available with The News) nullifies the rumours that the president may have been reluctant to give away his power to dissolve the Assembly. Sources say that the president did not even interfere in the affairs of the constitutional committee leaving its head Senator Raza Rabbani absolutely independent in deciding things.

The withdrawal of the Nawaz League from the joint tabling of the historic reform package came as a shocker to the Presidency. The president had particularly mentioned in his unread speech that the amendments would make the Constitution truly democratic and federal in character, and restore the provincial rights and Parliamentary sovereignty. He was also set to announce the repeal of the Legal Framework Order and the Seventeenth Amendment.

The relevant exact portions are being reproduced below: “It is an honour for me, to share with this sovereign House, the policies and performance of the government. I wish to thank you for the honour shown to me.

“As a democrat, I never take my privileges for granted. This is no ordinary day. It is a great day in our history. Because today we have fulfilled our pledges to the people. Because today marks the success of a prolonged struggle initiated by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed.

“We have collectively written history by restoring the 1973 Constitution, and more. The Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment Bill has been laid in parliament before you. I pause to congratulate each one of you. Today belongs to every Pakistani. I congratulate the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms, I congratulate the Parliament, the political parties and indeed the whole nation, on the laying of this bill on the occasion of the 71st Pakistan Day.”

“I congratulate all the coalition partners and the opposition parties for joining hands in true national spirit. They all have risen above partisan politics. It is a dream come true. It is a promise redeemed. I wish to thank the Law Minister Dr Babar Awan and the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for extending full cooperation to the parliamentary committee, led by the honourable Raza Rabbani, adviser to the prime minister.

“Two years ago standing here I had urged the Parliament to revisit the 17th Amendment and do away with Article 58(2)b from the Constitution. And last year, repeating the request, I also urged you Madam Speaker to form an All Parties Committee for this purpose. History will record that it was achieved when the first woman speaker in the Muslim World presided over this august House.

“I stand here today in the shadow of Shaheed ZAB and Shaheed MBB. I walked from the gallows to the Presidency in this shadow and today I walk into the annals of history.“Congratulations Madam Speaker. We have reasons to be proud. It is the first major Constitutional reform in more than three decades. Previously, there were piecemeal constitutional amendments, but these were brought about by dictators, only to perpetuate their personal political interests, and NOT for the cause of the people.

“This indeed is a great achievement of the democratic process that has begun to take root. The amendments will make the Constitution truly democratic and federal in character, and restore provincial rights and Parliamentary sovereignty.

“The Legal Framework Order and the Seventeenth Amendment has been repealed, subject to amendments. Article 58(2)b empowering the president to dissolve the Assembly will stand omitted.”

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One Response

  1. As for the issue of the judicial reforms, it was at the behest of the PML-N that a seventh member was added to the judicial commission on the appointment of judges. The constitutional reforms committee conceded to that demand but now the PML-N chief has gone further to ask that the prime minister should consult the chief justice (CJ) on judicial matters and that the CJ should be authorised to appoint the seventh member. Mr Raza Rabbani is right in rejecting this proposal because the whole purpose of the judicial commission would be defeated. The logic behind having this commission is to ensure that there is a transparent mechanism in the appointment of judges by taking it out of the purview of any one person. Unfortunately, Mr Sharif’s strategy of escalating demands does not make any sense.
    What is equally ironic, if not downright funny, is Mr Sharif’s statement that the age of ‘phone diplomacy’ is over. He was referring to the rumours that his u-turn was the result of a mysterious phone call. If that were the case, then why would British Foreign Secretary David Miliband call him after the March 25 fiasco? According to Mr Sharif, there were no discussions between the two of them on the political deadlock in the country, but on the other hand, Senator Pervaiz Rasheed from the PML-N claimed otherwise. He said that Miliband and Sharif “talked about the deadlock over the constitutional reforms”.
    What can one make of these contradictory statements? It might be a perception in the past but the current situation has very much created a strong sense that Nawaz Sharif is trying to be in hand and glove with both judiciary and military which could be fatal for county in general and democracy in particular in the longer run.

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