18th amendment in political sphere of Pakistan

Since its independency, provincial autonomy is a figure out problem in the political and constitutional history of Pakistan. The country was overlooked under the five martial laws and long casualties of ruling elites in managing the powers. Since 1973, country was determined by two wings (West-East Pakistan). Prolong regime of general Ayub till 1969 damaged the political aspect of the country with falsification acts like EBDO (Elective Bodies Disqualification Ordinance). Military moral was down in dark years of the 1970s, former prime minister Zulifkar Bhutto was charged to control the country again. After 1971 war, Pakistan disintegrated, Bangladesh came into being due to lack of constituency and weak management problems. In 1973, It was the first time a constitution was shaped at its historical defects and recovered all miscalculated measures. Comparatively, 1956 parliamentary constitution, 1973 was clarified document to rule the country’s provinces with their status. But shockingly, ZA Bhutto was deceived and Martial law was imposed in July 1977.

In 1973 Constitution, pure parliamentary form of government structured in the country.Ex-president of the country General Zia-ul-Haque abrogated article 6 and he was in fear of death sentence from the judiciary.He had to obtain legitimate power to rule the country and safety block to legalize his illegal act. By enforcing presidential ordinances and provisional constitutional ordinance (PCO), General Zia amended constitution and made more powerful to the president in reference of Article 58 2(B) to dismiss prime minister on discretion. The blunders of establishment in the constitution were demotivated the political stability of the country and politicians were discouraged to participate, for suppose people’s party of Pakistan boycotted the 1985 party less elections. The shuffling of powers used to shift from one hand to other hand till 1990s decade. But in 1997, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had disabled 8th amendment changes in the constitution and introduced 13th amendment. The game was not over yet, soon coup was imposed and inserted again 8th amendment workable under the shadow of 17th amendment included by martial law administrator general Musharraf; again, political activities were stopped in the country. Former Politician Sharif was jailed, and ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto exiled from the country.

The whole scenario to abrogate and promulgate new amendments to the constitution, irritated major political parties such as PPP and PML(N). In 2006, Both Parties signed the charter of democracy in London, Nawaz and Bhutto agreed to stay away from the military involvement and supporting to martial law regimes, thick or thin not to support the military in political activities and reduce the establishment role in democracy. While the vision of the signing charter was to improve democratic structure in the country and to sweep the footprints of the dictators from the constitution. Consequently, PPP came into power in 2008 general elections. First time in the history of constitution 18th amendment was introduced, and more than 102 Articles were amended in the constitution. The major changes of the amendment were to increase the provinces powers to give control on demanded subject, to remove 17th amendment changes and reshaped the 7th NFC award of the country. It was the first time in the history of Pakistan, President Asif Zardari dropped his own powers to the parliament and scheduled parliamentary supremacy. In 2010, it was major change in the constitution, provinces have awarded autonomy and retitled their names schedule in Islamic democratic Pakistan.

!8th amendment was passed and implemented within 10 days. It was game changing and threat to the authoritarian rule and their hegemony in different area like Baluchistan. Rather at next side, provinces had grievances of due share in natural resources of their own, that issue resolved in the amendment with more powers of health, education, curriculum, and more than one percent of GDP control in each province. This amendment resolved insoluble crisis of the country and made a strong federation in the country and referred as the “New Constitutional Software of Pakistan”.

Recently, after 2018, PTI government is supporting to the establishment and criticizing the 18th amendment role in the region. Prime Minister Imran khan also showed favor for the presidential form of the government while his party manifesto is talking about the devolution of powers at grass root level according to local government set up. During first session of Parliament after lockdown, Foreign minister blamed to people’s party to use SINDH CARD, further he discussed the 18th amendment and suggested to revisit weak parts of the amendment. Responsively, opposition criticized the statement of Shah Mahmood Qureshi and said government is confused in coronavirus pandemic, prime minister has no strategy to settle the issue of COVID-19. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abasi demanded from ministers to show documentation steps for the coronavirus, further he claimed if 18th amendment is the main reason of virus spreading we will quite of it.

The major conflict of the federal government is that it cannot perform well in various subjects like health is in hand of provinces but federal has appointed health expert. So, in that condition it is hard to manage the extra expenditure of the desired institutions for the federal. For centralization of powers, Pakistan Tahreek Insaaf government is trying to grab powers from provinces in favor of the establishment to manage finances. Either on second page establishment is indigent of provincial governments for holding influence in regions and provinces are moving free to make contract with the military for their support and withdraw willingly at any time due to accountability in work which is not bearable for them. Constitutionally or cooperatively, PTI government wants settlement on NFC award reconsideration and pushing back some subjects from provinces to control the cost of the system. Ruling elites are playing major role to support the PTI at every step to curb the provincialism. As for as PTI is giving out for two years struggle after in power.

Lastly, the overall propaganda against the 18th amendment in political climate of the Pakistan is an interesting debate. PTI government faces soon its consequences in sharp response of the opposition. It is already accepted that PPP will never go to be compromised on 18th amendment because it is produced by their own party sacrifice and greatly all provinces are beneficiary of it.

Mudasar Ali
Mudasar Ali
Msc Pakistan Studies from Quaid e Azam University Islamabad.