A rejected resignation

FEDERAL Parliamentary Affairs Minister Babar Awan has had the offer rejected of his resignation from the Cabinet, by President Asif Zardari, in the course of a meeting on Monday. Dr Awan had made the offer after the Supreme Court directed the National Accountability Bureau to proceed against him and others in the Haris Steel Mill case for allegedly having offered to bribe Supreme Court judges. The President is supposed to have said that enquiries cannot be made reasons for resignations. It is perhaps an irony, considering his portfolio, that Dr Awan should have made his offer to the President, not only over the head of the Prime Minister, but apparently without his knowledge, even though he is considered especially responsible for the choice of the Cabinet members of his own party. Dr Awan's offer gives an easy way out from the question, but it was inappropriate for a minister to have got a clean chit from a President whose NRO case is still before the Court whose suborning was allegedly contemplated. It prevents the PM from taking action against other ministers affected by the NRO, for whose resignation there has been a widespread demand. However, most importantly, the offer to the wrong elected official violates the spirit of the 1973 Constitution, and does not recognise its parliamentary nature, which requires the PM to be chief executive. Instead, this act accepts the 17th Amendment, and admits that the Constitution is actually presidential in nature. This is quite apart from the flawed logic which allows Dr Awan to continue as a minister, and thus to influence the course of the enquiry by an agency which reports to a Cabinet colleague. There is no tradition of resigning in Pakistan, even though there should be, and ministers should be so far above suspicion that no enquiry should be tenable against them. If the PM does not pick his own ministers, as the Constitution mandates him to do, he should at least ask the President to ensure that this minimum standard is met.

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