LIST of a few in many achievements accredited to Mian Raza Rabbani as a Member and the Chairman, Senate of Pakistan. “I would say with abundant clarity that, I would jealously guard the Sovereignty of Parliament,” said Mian Raza Rabbani before taking oath as Chairman of the Senate. A dawn of a new era became apparent to Senate of Pakistan, following the oath of Mian Raza Rabbani as its 7th Chairman on 12th March 2015. Famously known as a man of integrity, a principled politician, a symbol of democracy, an expert Constitutionalist and, a believer in the rule of law. Apart from being an eminent lawyer, he has been widely acclaimed for his unparalleled work as a statesman across the Parliamentary benches, in addition to his exceptional services rendered as a human rights activist to the civil society and non-governmental organizations.
Raza Rabbani, for first time in 1993 stepped in the Upper House as Senator and since, has proven to be an asset of great value to Parliament. One of his many notable contributions as a Parliamentarian is presiding over, ‘’Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms’’ and co-authoring the historic 18th Amendment 2010 that restored Sovereignty of Parliament, devolution to the federating units (provinces) and increased seats of the minorities in Senate, amongst other amendments. For his untiring efforts and devotion to this Constitutional change, Raza Rabbani is praised as, ‘’Father of the 18th Amendment.” As Custodian of the House of Federation, Raza Rabbani disposed his duties with utmost dedication and remained obedient to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct. While chairing Parliamentary sessions, he continued to be objective and unbiased, allowing each member an equal opportunity to express his concerns, views and contentions on floor of the House. Additionally, ‘’Rulings of the Chair’’ stated by Raza Rabbani highlighted issues of national importance such as provincial autonomy, non-implementation of job quotas, non-functioning of the Council of Common Interests (CII), holding of the local government elections and protection of the rights of minorities.
During his tenure, Raza Rabbani made commendable efforts to bridge the gap between Parliament and the people. Firstly, by designing a system where people can have direct access to Senate, its Committees, the Chairman, as well as contribute their ideas and call attention of the Upper House on matters of public importance through filing a petition via Senate website. Secondly, trips to Parliament can be arranged through online registration as well, where proceedings of the House can be viewed along with a guided tour. Being a leader/political activist as a student himself, Raza Rabbani placed importance on the role of youth for a continuous growth of Parliament. By way of introducing, the “Parliamentary Education Programme”, envisaged to empower people belonging to various professions and primarily focusing on the involvement of youth. This brainchild of Raza Rabbani, came into life form as “Senate Internship Program” and “Clerks of the Parliament Program”, where students from various universities plus young professionals can have a hands-on learning and working experience, while lending their ideas and skills in making the Senate a more dynamic institution.
Under the Chairmanship of Mian Raza Rabbani, Senate became the first House in Pakistan to enact, the Senate Services Act, 2017, giving structure and lustre to Secretarial side of the Upper House. This Act, along with a framework of rules ensures merit/seniority in terms of recruitments, promotions in Senate and simultaneously curbs the conservative culture of cronyism. Raza Rabbani, progressing with constitutional spirit, inaugurated, Gali-e-Dastoor (The Constitutional Gallery) in Parliament, which depicts the struggle of people who participated in the quest for democracy and surrendered their freedom for the sake of civil rights. Paying tribute to the departed democrats, he installed a monument in the Parliament lawns named as “Unsung Heroes of Democracy”, representing, honouring and telling the untold arduous journey of people from all walks of life, in their fight to promote the democratic culture. As the Custodian of Upper House, he made sure to preserve history, reorganization and evolution of the Senate since its inception, through creation of the “Senate Museum.” Previously, the empty walls, empty halls and empty lawns of Parliament, are now engraved with a newfound sense of purpose; and tasked to tell the tales of democratic struggle of those, who have died to keep liberty alive. In his pursuit to achieve political egalitarianism, Mian Raza Rabbani has continued to work tirelessly as a virtuous Parliamentarian. Following the democratic beliefs ingrained in his heart, he took it upon himself as Chairman, to make Senate the House, nay, Home of the People.
— The writer is researcher based in Islamabad.