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Negativity unlimited: Ansar Abbasi’s reaction to the Constitutional Package

Agents of dark forces (establishment, Taliban, right wing) are as usual busy in spreading mischief and disinformation in the land of the pure.

Ansar Abbasi, a key leader of Pakistani Taliban Union of Journalists (PTUJ), has recently written two articles in response to the proposed 18th amendment in Pakistan’s constitution.

The entire Pakistani nation is celebrating the parliamentary consensus on the constitutional amendments. However, the prophets of doom and gloom (i.e., Ansar Abbasi, and his Geo TV/ Jang Group buddies, Shahid Masood and Shaheen Sehbai) are busy in mourning.

Here are two most recent articles by Ansar Abbasi:

Will the new king with unchecked powers deliver?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The otherwise historic constitutional package, presented before the Parliament on Friday, makes the prime minister a king of the parliamentary system having unfettered powers without any checks and balances or parliamentary oversight.

Although it reduces the president into a non-entity, the package left a major flaw in the 1973 Constitution unplugged, ignoring a parliamentary check on the all powerful prime minister to make key appointments in the civil and military bureaucracy, key state-owned corporations, autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies and authorities.

Prime minister’s discretionary powers, which remained the main cause of corruption and bad governance in the country, stay unchecked and the constitutional package does not propose any recipe to keep a vigilant parliamentary check on federal and provincial executives.

The constitutional package, once approved by the Parliament, would give the prime minister unfettered powers to appoint his choice men without any parliamentary oversight or inbuilt system of check and balance.

All the constitutional appointments like army chief, chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee, naval chief, air chief, attorney general, provincial governors, auditor general, chairman and members of Federal Public Service Commission etc would be made by the prime minister.

Like the prime minister, the provincial chief executives will also have unchecked authority to appoint their choice men as advocate generals and chairman and members of the provincial Public Service Commission.

The prime minister and the provincial chief ministers already enjoy complete authority to make key appointments in the state-owned corporations, public sector authorities, autonomous and semi-autonomous organizations and key civil service posts falling in their respective domain.

The prime minister also enjoys unchecked discretionary authority to make key appointments in the civil bureaucracy like heads of public corporations such as Pakistan Steel Mills, Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Railways and several others, besides key bureaucratic positions.

Interestingly, one of the members of the constitutional committee recommended parliamentary oversight on executives (prime minister/provincial chief ministers) powers to make key appointments in civil and military set-up. However, the committee ignored the recommendation with all the ruling parties, whether in the centre or in the provinces including PPP, PML-N, ANP, MQM and JUI, opposing it.

We have seen almost in all the civilian governments in the past even during the governments of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both of whom enjoyed two-third majority in their respective assemblies, that the prime ministers massively used their discretionary powers to make key civilian and military appointments, which not only resulted into bad governance but also led to corruption and misrule.

In developed democracies, the executives though are given a lot of powers, such parliamentary oversight and institutional mechanism of check and balance is put in place that good governance is promoted and corruption is effectively curbed.

Even in the recent years we have seen the state institutions like Pakistan Steels, PIA, Railways, Wapda and several others touching all time lows in terms of mismanagement and corruption merely because those appointed as heads of these institutions were the blue eyed boys of the rulers.

This correspondent talked to quite a few parliamentarians on the issue and almost all of them agreed that the executives need to be checked for good governance and to curb corruption but they generally say that such reforms should be made part of the second constitutional reform package, thus clearly reflecting their non-serious attitude to address the issues of corruption and bad governance.

The present flawed system not only allows the prime minister to appoint his favourites but it also opens avenues for politicians and MPs to get their near and dear ones appointed against their choice postings. Such flaws in the system have also led to extreme politicisation of the civilian bureaucracy.

Interestingly, the major political parties including the PPP, PML-N, PML-Q, ANP etc, have also not agreed to a proposal to provide constitutional protection to government servants to enable them act independently and providing them enough safety whereby they could say no to the unlawful dictates of the political masters.

Judicial Commission too vulnerable, may be challenged

Saturday, April 03, 2010
By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The constitutional package puts the independence of the judiciary, which is one of the fundamentals of the Constitution, at risk as all the judicial appointments will now hinge on just one vote, too vulnerable to manipulations of any shrewd administration.

The composition of the judicial commission is such that it gives a lot of room to the executive to manoeuvre its choice appointments in the judiciary whereas the judiciary’s representatives would always be at risk of losing just one vote to find the tables turned on them.

The Rabbani Committee package rejected Nawaz Sharif’s recommendations to keep the law minister out of the commission and instead of the Pakistan Bar Council’s nominee, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association should be made member of the judicial commission.

Such is the controversial composition of the judicial commission that the proposed appointment procedure is expected to be challenged in a court of law for apparently posing a threat to the independence of the judiciary, one of the basic features guaranteed in the Constitution, which cannot be affected even by parliament through a constitutional amendment.

The constitutional package proposes a seven-member commission for the appointment of judges in the SC and 11-member commission for the appointment of judges in the high courts.

For the appointment of judges, the commission would comprise the chief justice of Pakistan, who would be its chairman; two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court; a former chief justice or a former judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to be nominated by the CJP in consultation with the two member judges; federal law minister; attorney general of Pakistan; and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, nominated by the Pakistan Bar Council for a term of two years.

For the appointment of judges in the high court, the commission, besides the above seven members, shall include four more members, including chief justice of the respective high court to which the appointment is being made, the senior-most judge of that high court; provincial minister for law; and a senior advocate to be nominated by the provincial bar council for a period of two years.

In case of the Supreme Court appointments, the commission’s constitution shows a balance of three judges plus one retired judge as against the law minister, another government nominee (attorney general) and a nominee of the Pakistan Bar Council, which is presently under the influence of Sardar Latif Khosa, the PPP senator and adviser to the prime minister. It means by maneuvering to get the sympathy of just one vote of a retired or serving judge, the government could get through its choice appointments.

For the appointment of high court judges, the composition of the commission presents a balance of five judges plus a retired judge against five, including two law ministers, one federal and one provincial, attorney general, one nominee of the Pakistan Bar Council and another nominee of provincial bar council. The above constitution of both the commissions provides to the government a lot of room to outsmart or even buyout the judiciary’s primacy in the appointment of judges.

Over and above this judicial commission, the package proposes parliamentary oversight by setting up an eight member parliamentary committee that will have the power to reject any appointment recommended by the commission by three-fourth majority. In its dissenting note to the proposed commission, the PML-N, however, said that the federal law minister or the attorney general should be dropped as the government’s viewpoint could be expressed by either of them.

The PML-N also proposed that the President Supreme Court Bar Association be made a member of the main commission whereas for the appointment of high court judges, instead of nominees of provincial bar councils, the presidents of the high court bar associations should be made members of the enlarged commission.

Contrary to what Pakistan is about to do for appointments in the superior judiciary, India is well set with the system of a five-member collegium of Supreme Court judges, which make the appointments in the superior judiciary.

Even Britain, where the appointments in the judiciary were traditionally made by the prime minister and the Lord Chancellor (Law Minister), has excluded politicians from the judges’ appointment procedure and left it to a judges’ commission to make such appointments.

Related articles: Ansar Abbasi’s “Truth” Problem

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  • every body has right to say,so donot take it as negative,see may be there is good thing inside it.

  • Is Jang Group Reporting Facts…Or Erasing Them?
    April 1st, 2010

    The past few weeks have been filled with enough political news to keep any reporter busy. This creates a prime opportunity to view what different media groups are reporting and how they are reporting it. For our first examination, we looked at how The News (Jang Group) is reporting the constitutional reforms. The results of our first test has been disappointing.

    In The News today, the top stories include one article about the historic constitutional reforms – the same number as about Shoaib’s marriage. No fewer than four stories are about the Swiss case. The constitutional reforms are a historic event, regardless of what political party anyone belongs to, and yet they are receiving less reporting than a legal debate.

    And it’s not just the number of articles that is troubling. Consider the language that is being used in what are supposed to be news reports (not opinion columns). Take a look at the language used in the News article about the historic constitutional reforms.

    Nowhere in the article is President Zardari mentioned by name, despite the fact that he was integral to the proposition and passage of this historic package. Instead, the article is reported as if Raza Rabbani had invented and passed the package of reforms all by himself. Actually, the reforms required the leadership of the PPP, the political party Zardari co-chairs, and could not have been enacted with his support.

    Consider how this same package is being reported in the international media. The Christian Science Monitor wrote:

    “It’s a massive political boost to [Zardari],” says Cyril Almeida, a political columnist for Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language daily. “It’s not the standard practice in Pakistan to give away powers. It’s more the reverse, where people consolidate or accumulate powers.”

    Mr. Almeida points out, however, that Mr. Zardari will retain leverage over Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani in his capacity as co-chair of their ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

    “The President is honoring our party’s commitment to restore the 1973 constitution and undo the usurpation of the authority of the people’s house by military dictators,” says Farahnaz Ispahani, Mr. Zardari’s spokeswoman, referring to former Pakistani ruler Gen. Zia ul-Haq.

    The 27-member parliamentary committee, which included all parties and was led by the PPP, announced late Wednesday that it had reached a consensus, almost 10 months after convening. They approved the draft of the constitutional amendment, which is set to be presented for a vote in the lower and upper houses of parliament.

    With the draft bill alone, however, the reforms are essentially a “sealed deal,” says Rasul Baksh Rais, a professor of political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

    It is a “gain for democracy and democratic forces in the country,” he says.

    Consider also the reporting from The Telegraph:

    The deal was last night hailed by President Asif Zardari who told The Daily Telegraph it was a “historic moment” for the country’s democratic forces, and the fulfilment of his late wife Benazir Bhutto’s dream.

    “The pledges made with the people to restore the 1973 Constitution have been honored. It is a victory for the democratic forces, a culmination of decades old struggle and a fulfilment of the dream of my wife Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto,” he said.

    “All political parties and democratic forces deserve credit for it. The Pakistan Peoples Party is specially pleased as it marks the end of distortions introduced into the Constitution,” he added.

    The agreement was also welcomed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (N) who said it was a welcome example of consensus. “This proves that political leadership in Pakistan, once it joins hands, rising above petty differences, can resolve the most difficult of issues,” he said.

    These are fair an un-biased reports that do not favor any particular political party or agenda. They are simply providing the information to their readers who can then make up their own minds. Why can’t our press report like this? Instead, we have national media groups putting out articles about constitutional reforms that do not even mention the name of the President!

    Pakistan’s media has sacrificed too much to free itself from censorship. Why would it now decide to censor itself. Please, do not sacrifice the facts for some political agenda. Instead, report the facts without any bias and let the people make up their own minds.

  • Geo TV / Jang Group is really in the mourning mode.

    Hamid Mir has not lagged behind in the negativity of his fellow colleagues of Jang Group / Geo TV (Ansar Abbasi, Shaheen Sehbai, Shahid Masood etc):

    Zardari still has powers, Charter of Democracy not followed in true spirit

    Saturday, April 03, 2010
    By By Hamid Mir
    ISLAMABAD: The 18th Amendment bill is no doubt a historical breakthrough giving many new rights to the provinces by abolishing the concurrent list but the Charter of Democracy signed between late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in 2006 has not been followed properly.

    Interestingly, the case of provincial autonomy was fought by Senator Abdul Malik Baloch and Senator Afrasiab Khattak in the constitutional committee whose elders were allies of Sheikh Mujib in 1970. Pakistan could have been saved by giving this autonomy in 1970 to Sheikh Mujib.

    Consensus on the 18th Amendment bill is definitely a collective victory of all the political parties but two big parties, the PPP and the PML-N, were not able to fulfill some of their promises made in the Charter of Democracy. The basic objective of CoD was to restore all powers of the prime minister and turn the president into a show piece according to the 1973 Contitution. The 18th Amendment bill does not serve this objective.

    The president is not a lame duck if the amendment is passed as approved by the Rabbani Committee. Zardari would not be like a former showpiece President Chaudhry Fazal Elahi or Rafiq Tarar. He will still retain many powers in violation of the CoD.

    Complete implementation of the CoD was not in the interest of both President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Both president and chief justice are the beneficiaries of violation of the CoD. The constitutional reforms committee left some powers for the President in violation of the first clause of the CoD, which said that “The 1973 constitution as on 12th October 1999 before the military coup shall be restored with the provisions of joint electorates, minorities and women reserved seats”.

    According to the real 1973 Constitution and clause 2 of the CoD “the appointment of the governors, three services chiefs and the CJCSC shall be made by the chief executive”. The constitutional committee never agreed to implement clause 2 of the CoD in its true spirit.

    The 18th Amendment bill proposed changes in Article 101 of the Constitution that “there shall be a governor for each province, who shall be appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister”.

    According to the new bill, the president is still the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and “the President shall, on advice of the Prime Minister appoint CJCSC and three services chiefs”.

    The 18th Amendment bill has definitely curtailed the discretionary powers of President in the appointment of governors and three services chiefs because the “advice” of the prime minister will be binding but this new proposed amendment is also a violation of CoD.

    The president still enjoys 50 percent powers in the appointment of governors and services chiefs. It is learnt that Senator Raza Rabbani consulted with President Zardari in detail and some powers were left for president with the consent of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani

    The Clause 3 of the CoD says that the recommendations for appointment of judges to superior judiciary shall be formulated through a commission headed by a chief justice who has never previously taken oath under the PCO. In the light of this clause, Justice Iftikhar was not eligible to become the head of the judicial commission because he took oath under the PCO in 2000.

    The 18th Amendment bill gave him this relaxation. Now he could become head of the judicial commission in violation of the CoD. It is also important that the 18th Amendment bill has introduced some changes in Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution in the light of the Supreme Court verdict in the NRO case.

    The Supreme Court made some remarks about Article 62(f) and 63(1) h in the detailed judgment of the NRO case. The SC said that 62(f) was inserted by a dictator in the Constitution but it is still continuing although five National Assemblies and Senate had been elected and completed their terms but no effective steps have been taken in this regard.

    The Clause 62 (f) says that a person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of parliament unless he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and Ameen. Now the 18th Amendment bill has proposed to add some new words in it and these are: “He is sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law”.

    The 18th Amendment bill has deleted article 62(g) completely which says that a person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of parliament unless “he has not been convicted for a crime involving moral turpitude or for giving false evidence”.

    The Supreme Court verdict on the NRO also said that Articles 63(h) and 63(i) have been made ineffective by NRO. The 18th Amendment bill has changed the Article 63(h) but not touched 63(i). The original version of Article 63(h) says that a person shall be disqualified from being elected member of parliament if “he has been convicted by the court of competent jurisdiction on a charge of corrupt practice, moral turpitude or misuse of power or authority under any law for the time being in force”.

    According to the new version of Article 63(h), now a person shall be disqualified from being elected member of parliament if “he has been, on conviction for any offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has lapsed since his release”.

    According to some experts, this new article may help President Zardari in future from disqualification or impeachment. Sources in the constitutional reforms committee claimed that members of Jamaat-i-Islami and the JUI-F opposed major changes in Articles 62 and 63 but members from PPP, PML-N, PML-Q, MQM and also ANP supported changes in articles inserted in Constitution by former military dictators.

    The ANP wanted that Fata be included in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa according to clause 8 of the CoD but Fata representatives in committee refused to become part of the Pakhtunkhawa province. They want a separate identity. Now the PPP and the PML-N can claim that they have washed the name of General Ziaul Haq from the Constitution but they cannot claim that they followed the CoD in its true spirit.