PPP’s penchant for controversies

The Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP’s) ‘love’ for controversies knows no bounds. As if there were not enough controversies surrounding the government, the PPP has landed itself into yet another one. On Tuesday, the government finalised the names of four members of parliament – two from the Senate and two from the National Assembly – belonging to the treasury benches for the parliamentary committee to make appointments in the superior courts as per Article 175-A of the 18th Amendment. The reason for this new controversy is that all four treasury members of this committee are from the ruling party, i.e. the PPP.

It seems as if the PPP has forgotten that it is part of a coalition government comprising other parties like the ANP, MQM and JUI-F. All three coalition partners of the PPP have voiced their resentment at neither being consulted by the PPP when making this decision nor being included in the parliamentary committee. The only saving grace for the PPP is that it has ensured representation of all the provinces in the committee and one of the members is a woman. The treasury members of the parliamentary committee are Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari from Punjab, Sabir Baloch from Balochistan, Aftab Shaban Mirani from Sindh and Asma Arbab Alamgir from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The PPP has not explained why it decided not to include anyone belonging to the other three coalition parties. As per Article 175-A, the parliamentary committee has to have eight members – four from the treasury benches and four from the opposition. The formation of the parliamentary committee is complete now. Four members of the opposition include PML-N’s Ishaq Dar, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Sardar Mehtab Abbasi from the PML-N and Ghaus Bux Mehar from the PML-Q.

The Supreme Court (SC) was wise in giving an interim judgement when it asked parliament to review Article 175-A and work out the modalities in the interim. Since this was terra incognita, parliament will now be able to see the problems that have not been addressed in the 18th Amendment as far as the judicial commission and parliamentary committee are concerned. The 18th Amendment only mentioned that there should be equal representation in the parliamentary committee from the treasury and the opposition benches, but it rightly did not mention anything about a coalition government since that is contingent on election results. But there are a few things that the political parties in parliament should have kept in mind. One, since Punjab is the largest province population-wise and has more seats in the National Assembly, in the future it can automatically overshadow other provinces in the composition of the committee. So it all depends on the sweet will of the nominating authority, which is what we saw in the PPP’s partisan decision. Secondly, the spirit of Article 175-A was that parliament should review judicial appointments in order to avoid any controversy. On the contrary, what we have seen is that only the three largest parties in parliament are going to end up reviewing the proposed appointments. Neither the government nor the opposition has acted in wisdom. The PPP should have included at least one member of its coalition in the committee. It is now up to parliament to make some rules regarding this or perhaps the committee itself can devise something in this regard. The SC’s interim judgement has indeed given parliament enough time to work things out. It is hoped that the SC’s January review will be as wise as its previous judgement.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


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