BY ALI NAQVI –
Nothing is permanent but change. Perfection is no more than just an illusion. If the constitution of 1973 were perfect there definitely would not have been any room for any amendment leave alone the 18th. Every document or any set of rules no matter how carefully formulated are bound to undergo a process of change and improvement. The constitution of the United States have had its handful of amendments soon after it was drafted and put into effect.
The debate on 18th amendment is a useless one for many reasons. The first and foremost reason is that the PTI Government, that wants to change/repeal or amend the amendment, lacks the number in the Parliament to practically get the work done. In 2010 Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and other like-minded parties came together with the required two-thirds majority and amended the constitution despite the fact that the establishment was never in favor.
Opposition’s hasty and fiery counter attacks on the federal government may be counterproductive. PTI’s intention in starting 18th amendment debate is not likely to turn it into a serious dialogue. Both the government and the opposition are violently scratching the surface without addressing the real issue. There are more than 100 items in the 18th amendment including articles of amendments, repeals and inclusions.
Since we know that the present government and PM Imran Khan is guarded by the establishment, it is highly likely that article 58 2B and NFC Award among other matters could be the bone of contention. But the government has not been vocal about this. All we have seen is the wild rampage of PTI stalwarts like Murad Saeed being pricked by the aggressive defense of 18th amendment particularly by the PPP.
Centralization of power has been the most effective ploy of the establishment to control and manipulate power. Ayub Khan’s One Unit and Zia’s 8th amendment centralized power in an individual, the former dismembered the country and the latter uprooted democracy by eroding the political culture. Now, if the establishment is up to something then the defenders of 18th amendment are in real trouble. After what we saw in senate elections of 2019 the passage of a new amendment bill in the parliament cannot be ruled out.
It is hoped that the power hungry establishment will not go to the extent of turning the parliamentary system on its head and risk the federation. If the establishment is not behind the debate on rectifying the 18th amendment PTI’s cries for revisiting it may not be more than just a storm in a tea cup.