Leaders of civil society call for new constitution
By Aziz Malik
Courtesy: daily dawn, Friday, 10 Jul, 2009
HYDERABAD, July 9: Leaders of civil society reached a consensus on Thursday that 1973 Constitution had lost its validity due to frequent undemocratic interventions and extra-constitutional amendments and failed to solve inter-provincial political and economic conflicts.
They said that the Constitution could work for an interim period until a new constitution based on 1940 Resolution had been prepared and enforced by a new elected constituent assembly. The new constitution would operate as a new social contract among the federating units, they opined.
Noted intellectual and writer Mohammad Ibrahim Joyo, Centre for Peace and Civil Society executive director Jami Chandio, Mustafa Baloch of the SPO, Zulfiqar Shah of the SAP, M. Parkash of Liberal Forum and others demanded at a news conference at the press club that the concurrent list should be abolished.
They said that the federal government should keep only four subjects, foreign policy, defence, currency and communication, and leave the rest, including taxation, to the provincial governments.
Mr Jami called for establishment of a constitutional court at the federal level to protect the new constitution and arbitrate over the inter-provincial and federal relations.The military should have no role in politics and public life, the armed forces should be downsized and should have equal representation from all federating units, he said.
He said that the defence budget was not transparently prepared or spent and it should, therefore, be placed before the parliament for discussion and approval and should also be presented before the four provincial assemblies.
FATA and FANA should be made part of the NWFP, he suggested.
Jami said that Pakistan had become a structurally imbalanced federation after the separation of East Pakistan where one province dominated the state institutions and enjoyed an absolute majority in the parliament.
This concentration of power in the executive branch had emerged as a major source of conflict, Jami said and added that its viable solution laid in the empowerment of Senate with equal representation of federating units.
He said that the senators should be directly elected by the people and the Senate must have the power to pass or veto the budget, including defence and monitory bills, and approve treaties with foreign countries.
All appointments must be confirmed by the Senate committees, including those of Supreme Court judges, chief election commissioner, members and chairman of Federal Public Service Commission, ambassadors, heads of autonomous bodies and corporations, governors and the chiefs of armed forces, he suggested.
He said the Council of Common Interests should be a genuine representative body of the federating units and must meet regularly according to its mandate of facilitating inter-provincial communication and conflict resolution.
Jami said that provincial autonomy should be restored in accordance with 1940 Resolution to strengthen democracy and security.
He said that agriculture should be declared as a provincial subject as per the 1973 Constitution.
Decisions were being made by central authorities about zoning and cropping patterns in Sindh and prices of sugarcane and cotton, timing and quantity of wheat purchases, sunflower prices and marketing, availability of fertilisers and all other decisions were made by the centre, he said, adding that the policy needed to be
The major indigenous languages Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Seraiki and Hindko should be given status of national languages and Urdu and English should remain official languages, he said.
Jami said that the present district government system was over-centralised and should, therefore, be abolished and replaced with previous municipal system with its true spirit and form.
He recommended that either the office of the governor should be abolished or his powers should be curtailed, particularly his right to dismiss the provincial assembly.
He said that the state had no constitutional and moral right to redesign the geographical boundaries of provinces against the wishes of the indigenous people concerned.
He opposed the population-based formula of National Finance Commission award and demanded that the award should be announced on the basis of revenue generation, disparities in development as measured by the human development index, inequality, incidence of poverty and level of per capita income in comparison to other provinces and population.
He said the Federal Board of Revenue should be abolished and replaced with provincial boards of revenue.
Jami said that water conflict had become a major irritant. The Constitution and international law conferred inalienable rights over water on the lower riparian, Sindh, which had opposed further cuts on the River Indus and its tributaries through dams, canals and barrages that diverted water without its consent, Jami said.
He demanded that work on the Greater Thal Canal should be stopped until some agreement was reached and controversial mega projects on the River Indus in the upcountry should be shelved.