Cabinet sidelined in making key decisions: PILDAT

SC judgment to set state institutions into motion

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad—Since the PML-N government took control of the government in 2013, the Federal Cabinet has met only 20 times instead of 167 as per the constitutional requirement and this speaks volumes about the present government’s taking into confidence this important state institution. Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development & Transparency (PILDAT) has released a handout saying the federal cabinet under the current tenure of the PML-N led government has met only a dismal 12pc of (20 meetings as opposed to 167).
The recent Supreme Court judgment pertaining to cancellation of tax exemptions for importers of cellular phones and textile goods (as it was only Prime Ministerial decision and cabinet was consulted) is indicative of the fact that the highest seat of justice has urged involvement of federal cabinet on key decisions. The judgment indicts the increasing trend of a Prime Ministerial form of Government, instead of a Parliamentary one, which is against the spirit of the Constitution,” says PILDAT news release.
PILDAT has termed the decision a milestone in the development of Pakistan’s democracy. While lauding the Supreme Court’s judgment, PILDAT specifically welcomed the declaration of Rule 16 (2) of the Rules of Business of the Federal Government (giving the Prime Minister the power to bypass the Cabinet) as ultra vires.
The statement goes on to say, “PILDAT considers the judgment to be a critical indictment of the personalized form of governance centered around the office of the Prime Minister, which has been the hallmark of various governments of different political parties in Pakistan.”
PILDAT emphasized that the centrality and discretionary powers which have come to be associated with the office of the Prime Minister erroneously perpetuated a Prime Ministerial form of Government instead of a Parliamentary one, as originally envisaged by our Constitution, especially after the 18th Amendment.
An unfortunate consequence of this has been the dormancy of various official fora for consultation and decision-making. For example, the Federal Cabinet has been detrimentally sidelined in the decision-making structure under the current Government. It was only able to meet a dismal 20 times; a mere 12% of the total of 167 times it should have met till now. This lack of collective consultation and decision-making is not only reflected in the dormancy of the Cabinet, but also amongst the Council of Common Interest (CCI) and the National Security Committee (NSC). No meaningful consultation seems to be taking place on important governance matters within the political parties as well.
It says that PILDAT has already maintained that as per the Article 90 and 91(6) of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Cabinet, which includes the Prime Minister and the Ministers, is collectively responsible as the Federal Government, which is to exercise the executive authority of the Federation. The judgment reaffirmed the same in its incisive manner by stating ‘the Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet but he can neither supplant nor replace it. He cannot exercise its powers by itself’.

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