18th Constitutional Amendment Opened Doors for Provincial Autonomy; Raza Rabbani
Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani, in an interaction with members of the provincial assemblies at the Parliament House on Thursday, has said that there is need to strike balance between powers of the National Assembly and Senate to enable the Upper House to better protect the rights of the federating units and raise voice for marginalized and under-privileged segments of the society. He stressed that there is need to understand the basic purpose for which Senate was created in the Constitution of 1973.
He underscored the need for strong linkages between the Senate and the Provincial Assemblies and emphasized that strong connection with provinces would enable the Senate to protect rights of the under developed territories in a more effective manner.
Replying to various questions from the members of the provincial assemblies, Chairman Senate observed that 18th Constitutional Amendment was a major breakthrough towards provincial autonomy and provinces were given right over natural resources. He maintained that a centrist mindset was creating hurdles in the way of smooth implementation of the 18th Constitutional Amendment. He said that 18th amendment brought a paradigm shift in the political landscape as instead of center, provinces were granted more autonomy which was earlier denied by those who advocated that strong a strong center is the guarantee of the strong federation.
He informed that Senate of Pakistan took a number of initiatives for better coordination with provinces and to evolve an institutional mechanism and has proposed amendments in this regard. He said that the provincial chief ministers can address the House and apprize the House of Federation on important matters related to federal government. He said that letters have also been written to the provincial chief ministers to enable Senators of the respective provinces to connect with the provincial assemblies and its committees so that the matters related to the federal government could be raised in the House for addressing the concerns of the provinces.
Regarding National Finance Commission award, Raza Rabbani said that NFC is an important issue. “If the federal government fails to announce NFC within the stipulated time frame, the Senate should be empowered to extend the NFC for one year with one per cent (01%) increase in share of Provinces”, Raza Rabbani said while informing the MPAs about the Senate proposal.
One of the major leaps towards empowering the Senate is to extend equal voting rights during Joint Sitting of the Parliament as currently the National Assembly outnumbers the Senate during the joint session. He remarked that this step would enable the Senate to play a more effective and proactive role for provincial integration and national unity. He said that balance of powers between the two houses of the parliament would further strengthen the federation in the long run.
While responding to a question from a member of the provincial assembly on NAB plea bargain and the role of the Senate, the Chairman Senate said plea bargain is a sensitive issue and the matter was first raised in the Senate. The Senate will play its constitutional role and will not let it die down.
He said supremacy of the Parliament depends on our conduct. He said that a particular mindset is against the supremacy of the parliament and is continuously trying to belittle the role of the Parliament. However, our conduct can win popular support and thus restore trust of the people in the institution which reflects their aspirations. He said that formulation of foreign policy is strictly the domain of parliament. Raza Rabbani referred to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security which formulated terms of engagement with United States and provided a course of action for devising an institutional mechanism for bilateral relationship and effective foreign policy.
Raza Rabbani observed that dictators strangulated culture, literature and banned the student unions which play key role in democratization. He proposed that there is need to revive those platforms to provide opportunities to the cultures to interact with each other and nurture a true democratic culture in the society in which each and every segment feels participated and involved.
The delegation which comprised of members of the provincial assemblies from all the four provinces lauded the contributions of Mian Raza Rabbani and acknowledged his role for strengthening the democratic foundations of the country. They also appreciated the active role played by Senate, under the leadership of Raza Rabbani, for becoming a true voice of the provinces.