Constitutional Changes

Rauf Klasra reports for The News that some powers of the President, like appointment of Federal Public Service Commission chairman and Chief Election Commissioner, would be distributed to the Prime Minister. Mostly, though, the Constitution is being edited to provide more discussion and cooperation between branches of government.

The documents available with The News revealed that now under the proposed amended Article 232 of the Constitution, the president of Pakistan could not act on his own without proper consent of the concerned provincial assembly. The new clause being added to the article reads that now imposition of emergency in the country due to internal disturbance beyond the powers of a provincial government to control, a resolution from the provincial assembly of that province shall be required. It has also been provided further in the same article that if the president acts on his own, the proclamation of emergency shall be placed before both the houses of parliament to be approved by each House within 10 days.

Earlier, under the existing Constitution, if the president is satisfied that a grave emergency exists in which the security of Pakistan or any part, therefore, is threatened by war or external aggression or by internal disturbance beyond the powers of the provincial government to control, he may issue a proclamation of emergency.

This has the potential to be a positive change. By including the provincial assemblys in the process, it means that there will be more deliberation within the affected provinces. Also, it will hopefully mean that there will be less political gaming done by opposition parties. Too many times we see opposition parties making a lot of noise without having to make any actual decisions. Now, for example, if the President believes there is some state of emergency and the opposition parties in a province block it, they will have to answer to the people as to why they are standing in the way of help.

Additional broadening of balance of power is, not surprisingly, in the realm of judicial appointments.

Likewise, [the President’s] powers are proposed to be transferred to the judicial commission and parliamentary committee of both the houses of parliament. The most important clause added to these changes is the new role of parliament in making decisions about the nomination of judges. The committee would have even powers over the Judicial Commission of Pakistan, which would send its recommendation to the Parliamentary Committee of parliament.

Quite a few clauses are being added to Article 175 to facilitate the new process. According to the new proposed Article 175 (clause 6), the judicial commission, by a majority of the total membership, shall recommend one name for each vacancy in the Supreme Court or a high court to the parliamentary committee while the parliamentary commission would have the powers to send back a recommendation to the judicial commission by a 3/4th majority, and in such a case, the judicial commission shall send a new name for its consideration. The committee would decide the matter within 14 days of the receipt of recommendation, failing which it shall be deemed to have been confirmed.

If done correctly, this should also remove some of the political opposition games that occur naturally when there is not sufficient transparency or dialogue defined in the process. It enables opposition parties to participate in political games rather than in actual governing.

Of course, there are risks to this as well. By spreading the decision making across so wide a group, it is possible that we will see a stalemate where no decisions are made. We cannot afford to have the government come to a standstill, and so there must be some mechanism for a final decision maker to act in the case of stalemate.

At the end of the day, though, the editors of Dawn have a good point: if the country is going to continue down a path of democracy, it needs to implement some changes to facilitate this. Certainly opposition parties will be gladly calling this a clipping of Zardari’s powers, but actually it would be to the benefit of PPP in the long run. After all, if there is no move to democracy, there will only be movement away from democracy. We have been down that road before – let us not return.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *