PML-N wants revision of Charter of Democracy

| One-third of clauses still remain unimplemented

LAHORE - While one-third of the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed between the PPP and the PML-N way back in 2006 is yet to be implemented, the ruling party wants revision of the document to suit the present conditions.
The PML-N leadership thinks that some of the clauses of the CoD cannot be implemented under the present circumstances. “It is not necessary that all the provisions should be implemented,” said PML-N Secretary General Iqbal Zafar Jhagra while talking to The Nation yesterday.
Jhagra said there were some clauses in the CoD which, if implemented, will not prove good for the current political dispensation and hence it was better not to touch them. “Some clauses cannot be implemented without seeking input from some institutions,” he remarked.
Though the PML-N leader did not identify those provisions, but looking at the text of the CoD and its implementation status, it is quite obvious that they pertain to the two main institutions, the army and the judiciary.
The two major parties who were kept out of power from October 1999 to 2008 as a result of military coup signed this document in London with the underlying objective of keeping the Army away from power and to make it subservient to the political leadership. It also included provisions to reform State institutions especially the army and the judiciary.
One of the pivotal provisions the two parties are religiously adhering to since 2008 pertains to the army intervention. Clause 22 of CoD reads: “We shall not join a military regime or any military-sponsored government. No party shall solicit the support of military to come into power or to dislodge a democratic government.
But the PPP on its part is not happy with the PML-N as far as implementation of this military clause is concerned. In a recent statement PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto complained that the ruling party was not adhering to the CoD.
Though he did not state it in too many words, his obvious reference seems to be towards Dr Asim’s case and the powers acquired by the Rangers in Sindh. The PPP thinks that the PML-N is not supporting the Sindh government the way it had been supporting the federal government in the recent past.
Jhagra proposed the two parties should sit together to review the CoD which he thought could not be implemented in haste. “Some provisions can be adopted if the need arises,” he added.
PPP Secretary Information Qamar Zaman Kaira, on the other hand, said his party was ready to sit with the PML-N to evolve consensus on rest of the CoD clauses. “We did not have majority to make all the required changes in the constitution in the light of the CoD. Other parties including the PML-N had reservations on some of the clauses and we could not implement them single-handedly.” he said, adding PML-N has the majority to make legislation on rest of the clauses.
He also said CoD was not time-bound and could be implemented in phases.
It merits mentioning here that 12 out of 36 provisions have not been touched so far either due to political expediencies or lack of consensus among the signatories. Some provisions involved changes in the constitution while some were to be implemented through administrative decisions.
According to clause-13, Truth and Reconciliation Commission was to be established to “acknowledge victims of torture, imprisonment, state-sponsored persecution, targeted legislation, and politically motivated accountability”. The proposed commission was also mandated to examine and report its findings on military coups and civil removals of governments from 1996. This body was also required to examine and identify the causes and fix responsibility and make recommendations in the light thereof for incidences such as Kargil.
Under clause-34, defence budget was to be placed before the parliament for debate and approval. In clause-32, they had pledged that the ISI, MI and other security agencies shall be accountable to the elected government and their budgets will be approved by Defence Committee of the Cabinet.
Clause-35 said military land allotment and Cantonment jurisdictions will come under the purview of Defence Ministry.
A commission was proposed to be set up to examine the legitimacy of all land allotment rules, along with all cases of state land allotment including those of military urban and agricultural land allotments since October 12th, 1999 to hold “those accountable who have indulged in malpractices, profiteering and favouritism”.
The two parties had also agreed in the CoD to evolve mechanism for accountability of NAB and other Ehtesab operators to check abuse of office by them. Similarly, all military and judicial officers were required to file annual assets and income declarations like parliamentarians to make them accountable to the public.
The two parties had also agreed to end the arbitrary powers of the chief justices over the assignment of cases to various judges and the transfer of judges to various benches.
According to clause-4, a federal constitutional court was to be set up to resolve constitutional issues while the supreme and high courts were required to hear regular civil and criminal cases.
A national democracy commission was also proposed to be set up to promote and develop a democratic culture and provide assistance to political parties for capacity building on the basis of their seats in parliament in a transparent manner.

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