LFO dialogue: MMA has surprises in store
By Shahid Orakzai
Parliament House, April 30: Credit Hafiz Hussain Ahmed of MMA, the Opposition is leading by two goals to nil even before the match starts at Committee Room No. 4, 10.30 a.m. Friday.
His proposal for a Combined Eleven to sort out the LFO was approved by the government, apparently without much forethought. Experienced watchers are counting it the second goal after kick-off by the prime minister. The invitation to dialogue, of course, was a score for the noisy opponents collectively determined to bring the game to the floor of the parliament. The dialogue, opposition circles insist, is the “unavoidable first phase” of the contest.
It is not yet clear whether the move for Combined Eleven was examined or approved by the military establishment. It came so suddenly that the prime minister had no time to consult the president. And had he attempted so, his own credibility would have visibly suffered. At present, he seems to be enjoying a free hand and he is clear about his fallback position.
There is nothing in black and white about the mandate of the Combined Eleven. The opposition says the task is to come up with a unanimous Amendment Bill draft but the state-run TV insists it is to “point out the faults in the LFO”. Both ways, it goes against the government. If the government ever agrees to evolve a common draft, the military would call off the match.
The MMA proposal appeased Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who was nominated the skipper with a choice to pick another five members of the Eleven from his side. Obviously, it ought to represent the parties in the coalition and it is still to be seen whether the government has the required expertise to confront the opposition.
Informed sources believe the match is going to be extremely tough and some new constitutional issues within the LFO are likely to overtake the more publicized controversies like the referendum and uniform of the president. The MMA is doing its homework and there are many surprises in store.
One important issue is that the size of the new National Assembly cannot be inserted in the Constitution because unlike the previous Article 51, the LFO has even given a province-wise break up of seats in a digital chart. If that makes part of the Constitution, clause 3 of the same Article would become redundant. Clause (3) states: “The seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the federal capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.”
Through this clause the 207 Muslim seats in the National Assembly could be redistributed among the federating units through a law but the LFO has divided the 332 of the 342 seats among the federating units and those figures for the provinces can’t be changed without amending the Constitution that requires a two-thirds majority. The opposition’s previous consent to enlargement of the six legislatures will be reviewed in the negotiations unless the government agrees to redraft Article 51. The president and his legal experts would have to be fairly close to the sidelines if they desire their elected team to defend their encroachments.