Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Civil society for reforms in PaK interim constitution

Muzaffarabad, Aug 6: Dozens of civil society activists staged a peaceful demonstration here on Monday, calling for much-needed reforms in Pakistan administered Kashmir's Interim Constitution “to pave way for worthwhile democracy, good governance and uncompromising accountability.”

 The demonstration, held in the wake of a row between the PaK Ehtesab Bureau and the PaK Council, coincided with a controlled visit of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to the site of an under-construction hydropower project near here. However, local media was not invited to the event for fear of ‘upsetting’ questions on its part.

 The prime minister of Pakistan happens to be the chairman of the PaK Council, which is at the centre of allegations of corruption and financial irregularities largely because of non-observance of codal formalities and pre-audit checks in its expenditures.

 “No to corrupt PaK Council,” read one of the several placards carried by the demonstrators, as they lined up along the capital’s bustling thoroughfare and later marched through it and the magnificent district headquarters complex.

 They were also chanting slogans against corruption in AJK Council and non-punishment by the concerned authorities to the culpable officials.

 The PaK Council, it may be recalled, was established under PaK's Interim Constitution Act, 1974 apparently “to serve as a bridge between Muzaffarabad and Islamabad.” However, contrarily, it has turned itself into a parallel government, evading accountability of its expenditures by investigating and accounting bodies of Pakistan or PaK.

 It was the former PaK Ehtesab Bureau chairman Justice Hussain Mazhar Kaleem who had dared summon record of some dubious contracts from the Council in the wake of serious complaints. However, his directions were not followed until he was himself removed by the AJK government on Friday, sparking off anger among the already charged civil society and political circles in PaK.

 While calling for abolition of Council and accountability of the Kashmiri taxpayers’ money at its disposal, the demonstrators also criticised what they termed as lily-livered PaK rulers for bowing to the pressure of corrupt PaK Council officials.

 The interesting aspect of the demonstration was use of social media to attract participants and organisers said they were heartened to observe the response of civil society to their posts on Facebook and Twitter in this regard.

 Answering questions by reporters on the occasion, Raza Ali Khan, President PaK Supreme Court Bar Association, said the Interim Constitution had undermined the status of the PaK government as it gave excessive executive and legislative powers to the PaK Council over 52 subjects, including taxation.

 He pointed out that as chairman PaK Council the prime minister of Pakistan was exercising full authority in PaK although he was neither answerable to the people nor to the elected representatives of PaK.
 “There is a dire need of constitutional reform to remove such anomalies,” he said.

 Abdul Qaiyum Khan, a student, said if the federal government could devolve powers to provinces, PaK should also be treated in the same manner.

 “Why our government is not being empowered and why we are being made to feel as aliens?”
 It may be recalled that in the recent session of PaK Legislative Assembly, Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed had announced to take all political parties on board for constitutional reforms. However, the government is yet to make any progress in this regard.