Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has ruled that the federal government is violating the Constitution by not convening the Council of Common Interests (CCI) meetings within the stipulated time and that such delays can have grave implications.
“The last meeting of the CCI was held on March 18, 2015. Therefore, the CCI should have senso stricto met on June 16 last year, ie, on the 90th day as required by the Constitution,” Rabbani said on Friday.
He said the consequences, arising from this delay, were grave and could have a chaotic effect, bringing the entire state machinery dealing with relevant items in the Federal Legislative List to a grinding halt.
The CCI is a constitutional body that resolves the disputes of power sharing between the federation and provinces. The CCI, formed through 1973 Constitution, worked under the Cabinet Division till 2010. However, after the 18th Amendment, it was transferred under Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination.
In his ruling, the chairman said the pivotal role of the CCI and such like institutions in a participatory federal constitutional framework cannot be underplayed. “In the Pakistani constitutional framework, it is necessary to trace the historic continuity of interprovincial and federal constitutional forums,” he said.
He said all matters relating to the formation and regulation of policies and exercising supervision and control over related institutions will be of no legal effect, if they have not been passed or approved by the CCI.
“Rules of the CCI do not provide for the prime minister to take a decision and subsequently refer it to the council for its approval; nor can the federal cabinet – constituted under Article 91 of the Constitution – arrogate to itself the powers conferred on the CCI through Articles 154 and 155 of the Constitution,” he said.
He said he was conscious of the constitutional chaos and mayhem that could be created and therefore ‘reluctantly’ restrained to hold all such decisions, actions and orders to be unconstitutional.
“However, any action taken in violation of the constitutional scheme from 15 days after the date of announcement of this ruling will be in violation of the Constitution,” he added.
Earlier, the lawmakers wound up a debate on the government’s economic policy and issues of petroleum and gas consumers. Opposition members blamed the government for depriving masses of benefits of gross reduction in petroleum prices in global markets. They also criticised the government’s decision to further burden the gas consumers in the country with Rs101 billion additional taxes.
Responding to these objections, Minister for Petroleum Khaqan Abbasi quoted statistics on international markets and claimed that Pakistan had the lowest prices of fuel among importing countries.
Speaking on the floor of the house, the Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said the government by sealing an LNG deal with Qatar had tied down the economy for 15 years and had allowed the Middle Eastern powers to influence its policies.
Chairman Rabbani also announced his rejection of the government’s request to include the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) Bill, 2016 on the agenda as it was not submitted as per rules.
After hearing points of order – including one on the unprecedented rise in the fares of private airlines during the last week’s PIA workers’ strike – the chairman prorogued the session.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2016.