PML-N softens stance on 17th Amendment
* Backs off from de-linking 17th Amend from package
* Committee convinces PML-N on amendments to ‘contentious issues’ only
By Irfan Ghauri
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – which was earlier insisting on de-linking the issue of the repeal of the 17th Amendment from the constitutional reforms package – on Thursday agreed that all proposed amendments should be accommodated in a single comprehensive constitutional amendment package.
During a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms, headed by Senator Raza Rabbani, committee members urged the PML-N to show some flexibility in their stance in order to move ahead on the issue, sources privy to the meeting told Daily Times.
Earlier, the committee discussed the constitutional amendment packages forwarded by various political parties, but decided that matters related to the repeal of the 17th Amendment would be sorted out before taking up other issues proposed in the drafts.
The sources said of the 29 points of the LFO, which later became part of 17th Amendment, all parties agreed on 20 points, however differences remained on the remaining nine.
Of these, seven points were more contentious, as they dealt with the discretionary powers former president Pervez Musharraf had invested in the office of the president.
The pace of the proceedings of the committee had been slackened due to differences between the PPP and PML-N, which insisted that the repeal of 17th Amendment was a separate issue from rest of the constitutional amendments.
Issues: However, the sources said committee members had persuaded the PML-N that the entire 17th Amendment could not be abolished and amendments could be made only to contentious clauses.
The sources said smaller parties in the committee also supported the PPP’s view on the matter, which is based on a comprehensive package and aims to resolve all issues in a single package. They said members of smaller parties also insisted that issues such as provincial autonomy were more important to strengthening the federation and could not be ignored at any cost.
The committee members further contended that outstanding grievances of smaller provinces would stand as they were if the PPP and the PML-N only focused on matters related to the repeal of the 17th Amendment.
The PML-N, however, accepted the arguments and agreed that all proposed amendments would be furnished in a comprehensive package.
The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms will continue its discussions for the next two days.
The sources said besides the draft packages proposed by the political parties, the civil society and various bar councils had also forwarded around 90 suggestions for constitutional reforms.
The committee will now start discussions on the preamble and other articles of the constitution.
Meanwhile, talking to reports after the meeting, Committee Chairman Raza Rabbani said the nation would soon hear good news about a consensus constitutional reforms package, however, he did not give any time frame for submitting a final proposal to parliament.
Rabbani said all stakeholders agreed on annulling all controversial amendments previously made to the constitution. (Daily Times)