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April 2, 2018

‘18th Amendment irreversible’


April 2, 2018

Thank you Opposition Leader Syed Khurshid Shah for your honest and bold assertion stating ‘18th Amendment is irreversible’ at the time when “Bajwa Doctrine” was intensely in circulation based on the off-the-record media interaction with the army chief. Thank you DG (ISPR) for the comprehensive clarification diluting the misconception of the “Bajwa Doctrine” that was being discussed in the news and views in the background of the role of all state institutions within the ambit of the Constitution.

Thank you media for conveying the underlying message of the incongruity of the doctrine, as was understood prior to the clarification; with the relevant provisions of the Constitution those clearly defined the role of the state institutions. All is well that ends well, optimistically.

Surprisingly, other political leaders generally reserved their comments on the very important subject perhaps considering it the forbidding domain. The Awami National Party (ANP) response endorsing Opposition Leader’s stance on the 18th Amendment came quite late. Not calling a spade a spade is regretful. However, the statement of Opposition Leader was a source of great satisfaction to the people in general and of the smaller provinces in particular who took the sigh of relief as PPP leader perfectly represented their sentiments. The voice of the Opposition Leader was indeed the voice of the nation that firmly stood behind the 18th Amendment.

Earlier, the tone and tenor of the cascade of arguments on the so-called doctrine was generally being deciphered as bordering the overreach. The DG (ISPR)’s clarification thankfully dissipated the impression when he maintained that the doctrine’s contours may be understood in the perspective of the national security only, nothing more or nothing less. Its juxtaposition with 18th Amendment or considering its relevance with other subjects, 7th National Finance Award, judiciary etc., should be regarded as mere insinuations or figment of the imagination. The spokesman seemingly had succeeded in controlling the damage and also of future downside as well because in the absence the discussions were likely to continue in full glare of media beaming out the mastery of the spin doctors. The perception of afterthought presumably had also been addressed as well. However, the air is still thick with misgivings that require the implementation of the ‘clarification’ clearly and visibly. For that, another media interaction with senior editors and senior journalists may be considered not in the too distant future to lay the speculations at rest thoroughly.

The DG (ISPR)’s clarification may have neutralised the misconception and the unwanted repercussions flagged in analysis of the seasoned commentators, the distinguished journalists and eminent editors. It is a matter of common sense as how could Army Chief contemplate to cast doubts on the suitability of the unanimously passed 18th constitutional amendment in the Constitution, and also on the unanimously passed 7th National Finance Award? Simply unbelievable by any criterion. These unprecedented political achievements were judged as akin to dream of smaller province came true in particular and of the country in general? For the same reason, no one in Pakistan may dare to challenge the legitimacy and suitability of these monumental political achievements of the people of Pakistan as these carried the highest degree of unstinted respect and recognition of the nation.

The people had also taken the ownership and they would never lower their guards. They were unquestionably determined to protect their rights from the callousness of the forces those grudged their political empowerment. Pakistanis had acquired requisite strength and resolve to protect their turf from the mindset that had already inflicted irreparable damages to the federation.

At the heart of the subject matter is the trichotomy of power that has been well defined in the Constitution of 1973 leaving no grey areas whatsoever? Yet, the insatiable quest among the state institutions for unqualified ascendance at the expense of others is extremely unfortunate that had already played havoc with the collective destiny of the country. The dictators usurped the whole space and inflicted irreparable losses to the federation along with the appalling national indignities and the humiliations. Their curdling legacies like territorial losses to the country, triggering wars with neighbors with controversial outcomes, serving as proxy of the superpower and creating monster of extremism and terrorism, have pushed the country to the brink and mow grappling to survive on the edges. These ignominious legacies have become the albatross around the neck of national life choking it in its all despicable forms and manifestations.

The future generations may also go through the traumatic experiences like the present one. The application of cut and run narrative is the need of the hour. The state institutions may ponder and undertake their responsibilities within the ambit of the Constitution keeping in view the prime consideration of saving the country and the political system from the likely pernicious prognosis of the alacrity. Country cannot afford running of its affairs as ultra-virus of the Constitution. The great minds have greater responsibility to fulfil the purpose of the Constitution matching the aspirations of the people. Who should guard the guardians should be the relic of the past for the good of the federation, democracy and the country. The security establishment‘s reiteration of support to democracy at the highest level may address the apprehensions emanating from the rumors those are making rounds quite exponentially.

More the reason for national jubilation as the much cherished legacy of the PPP founding father was given back to the people of Pakistan in original form by then Parliament through 18th Amendment. It was mercilessly defaced by dictators with the collusion of the then judiciary. PPP earned the incredible accolades across the political divide as its previous government led the initiative to successfully evolve consensus in favour of 18th Amendment consisting landmark components, and also other amazing political decision: passage of 18th Amendment unanimously by the Parliament, 7th National Finance Award, and handing over of Presidential powers, (58)2 b, to the Parliament by the then president Asif Ali Zardari. This exceptionally pro-democracy decision in particular was clearly an instrument of removing the constantly hanging sword on the heads of elected governments. It may be recalled that the exercise of this power by then presidents had axed elected governments during nineties and earlier despite their enjoying majority in the respective parliaments. The survival of the government used to depend on the will of the president not on parliamentary strength. They sent the government packing under the flimsy pretext of rampant corruption of the incumbent government, or the government being run well beyond the scope of the Constitution.

The Parliament and the parliamentarians indeed deserved compliments that steered cleared all the impediments to evolve consensus to restore the Constitution in its original form through the 18th Amendment and by repealing of the notorious 17th and 8th amendments of despots. It was a great show of demonstrating political sagacity by the lawmakers well above the considerations of power politics or party politics. It indeed optimised the paragon of the collective wisdom at its best.

The 18th Amendment that stipulated a full spectrum constitutional framework to strengthen democracy and also to pre-empt the re-visiting of future dictatorship was incredible development on the political horizon of the country. It had proved its worth since its enactment because democracy as a political system, though fragile, had gained phenomenal acceptance among all the sections of the society according to various studies and surveys conducted from time to time. The people’s massive endorsement may surely stem the hands of inward looking forces from carrying out their notoriety against the people. Their allergy to devolution of authority at the downward level as best strategy to serve the people, has no future. For, the closest government is best government. The 18th Amendment had exactly provided the government at the door steps to the people to the possible extent.

The 18th Amendment in the Constitution, with consensus during PPP’s pervious government was an epoch making achievement by any stretch of imagination. It was welcomed by all in general and the people from the smaller provinces in particular. Why? Because it gave the people more control of their lives and also abolished the Concurrent List thus expanding the domains of the provinces -- the commitment inserted in the Constitution of 1973 requiring the Concurrent List to be abolished after ten years. The constitutional commitment could not be fulfilled because dictator General Ziaul Haq disfigured the Constitution by unilaterally incorporating amendments in the Constitution. The Constitution was neither a parliamentary nor a presidential; the worst mixture of the both was perfidiously designed to perpetuate the tyrannical rule of the military dictators. The elected governments during intermediary period of two martial laws remained deeply embroiled in the survival strategy and therefore could not rectify the deformities in the Constitution.

In pursuance to its political commitment, the PPP restored the Constitution 1973. The then Parliamentary Committee headed by illustrious parliamentarian Raza Rabbani, played pivotal role in evolving parliamentary consensus to bring about the 18th Amendment in the Constitution. Its enactment was widely welcomed by the smaller provinces who had been long demanding the provincial autonomy. It certainly strengthened the federation because it provided the constitutional framework to the provinces to address their political and economic alienations as a result of political, financial and administrative autonomy conferred upon them under the said amendment. They are bound to succeed as the people have taken the destiny in their hands.

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