Thursday, April 22, 2010

Passage of 18th Amendment

April 8, 2010
Dallas, Texas
Passage of 18th Amendment
By Saeed Qureshi
With the passage of the 18th amendment in the National Assembly of Pakistan, the country changes tracks from the presidential to the parliamentary form of government as was originally enshrined in the 1973 constitution. Understandably, the Senate would also pass it and it would become a part of Pakistan’s constitution. Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League (N) and other political parties ought to be complimented for this historic development. Belatedly though, yet it did come finally and perhaps this is the first giant step that has been taken after a long period of poltical uncertainty and dictatorship.
Hopefully, the 18th amendment would prove to be a stepping stone for building afresh a new democratic edifice that would endure and will be safeguarded by the coming governments and dispensations. The most glittering and redeeming feature of the passage of 18th amendment is that barring certain dissenting notes, it has been passed unanimously which is the second such healthy tradition set up by the political leadership almost 37 years after the adoption of the 1973 constitution by consensus.
The annulment of 17th amendment - with some acceptable exceptions, and its replacement with the 18the amendment abolishes the orders and ordinances that were enacted by the former president Musharraf to make the president’s office invincible and his semi-dictatorial regime fortified. Although the 1973 constitutional had incorporated guarantees against the military takeover, yet in contraventions of those safeguards, martial law was imposed twice in the country thereafter. However, from now onwards, it is hoped that if the political forces keep behaving and do not join the military heads to destabilize the political systems as was done against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and later Mian Nawaz Sharif, no military chief would dare stage another military coup. The abiding lesson is that the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship.
Now when the parties with regional stamp such as MQM, ANP have been duly compensated and have willingly participated in the smooth and unanimous passage of the landmark 18th amendment, it can be visualized that no parochial frenzy would be stirred against the center and other provinces. The 18thy amendment is akin to Magna Carta as far decentralization and devolution of powers to the provinces is concerned. The 18th amendment contains such far reaching stipulations as abolition of a concurrent list of subjects to give more autonomy to the provinces. It also lifts bar on more than two terms of a prime minister or chief minister. It ordains the constitution of Judicial Commission for appointment of judges with chief justice as the chairman.
There are still fringe parties and factions that would not be happy because they would not be able now to press for their narrow agendas and parochial designs to get out of the federation of Pakistan. Such splinter factions stand defeated and further marginalized and their foreign abetters must be squarely disappointed.
The right of the provinces over their natural resources has been accepted in the 18th amendment. The provinces would be able to run and administer their own local government systems and also enter into direct financial loans and credit arrangements with external parties without involvement of the center. There are host of other rights that really make the constituent units independent and having self rule which in turn would consolidate the federation of Pakistan.
The change of the NWFP name to Khyber Pakhtunkhawa meets a long standing demand of the Awami National Party that commands support in the Pashto speaking areas of that volatile region. Still it would be desirable if the demand and the reaction from residents of the Hazara region, who want a separate province other than the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, can be given a serious consideration. The discontent among Hazara inhabitants is growing and if their demands are not seriously looked into, this trend and movement might escalate to other regions with similar demands and sentiments.
While a very formidable constitutional hurdle has been overcome and relatively there are soothing signs as expressed by ordinary citizens and the political and social circles, the bull of grassroots problems has yet to be caught by horns and tamed. Pakistan is in the throes of massive and unprecedented socio-civic morass, in that the power outrages continue for as long as 18-20 hours a day. The life is in a mess. The commercial and the industrial sectors are mostly dysfunctional due to power blackouts, short supply of water and lack or absence of civic facilities.
The common man is faced with a cataclysm of horrendous day to day problems that has made his life nightmarish. The hospitals, the educational sector, the roads and traffic, fragile law and order, unemployment and sanitation and similar problems are enormous and aggravating. The moral vices such a bribe, corruption, misuse of power, spurious drugs, the land grabbing mafia, fake educational testimonials, domestic violence, poverty, illiteracy, rape, kidnappings, the ghost schools, the adulterations and the dearness of food and other staple necessities and undue profiteering have to be curbed with full force of law.
The role of army and particularly that of the COAS, Gen. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is certainly laudable who despite tempting occasions for interference and impostion of military rule has remained completely unconcerned of the political upheavals and thus the political leadership has finally been able to hammer out a viable recourse for reestablishing the veritable ascendency of the parliament. General Kayani deserves national approbation for his commitment to the democracy and representative governance.
Predictably, when the Charter of Democracy signed between PPP and PMLN has seen the light of the day and translated into reality, the PMLN would now rejoin the federal government. It would further lend strength to the federal structure and would lead towards unity among the disparate political forces, entailing national cohesion. The poltical bickering and brinkmanship would be checked and with a political harmony, the leadership would be able to steer the country out of dire straits. It is time for national jubilation.
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