In a bid to make changes to the much-debated 18th Amendment and the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, the federal government has contacted several political parties and has been able to get some support on its decision, a local news outlet reported on Sunday.
The report came a day after the government contacted the opposition parties to take them on board regarding the new National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law.
The 18th Amendment was passed in 2010 to provide the provinces with significant decision-making autonomy, whereas the (National Finance Commission) NFC Award pertains to the resource distribution formula among the provinces.
The NFC Award is a constitutional obligation. According to Article 160 of the Constitution, after every five years, the president will constitute the NFC for a period of five years. Last year, President Dr Arif Alvi had reconstituted the ninth NFC to formulate a new resource distribution formula between the Centre and federating units.
Importance of the 18th Amendment
The said amendment has brought many significant changes to the 1973 constitution e.g. renaming of N.W.F.P as KPK, end of presidential powers, more fiscal power to provinces and removal of the concurrent legislative list from the constitution. It intended to empower the provinces by giving complete autonomy over their respective educational policy.
18 ویں ترمیم پر نہ کوئی بات ہوئی اور نہ ہوسکتی ہے: شیری رحمان
— Geo News Urdu (@geonews_urdu) April 26, 2020
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman of PPP, criticized the government and repeatedly warned the Prime Minister to not to attempt to repeal the 18th Amendment. “Those who are sitting in the Prime Minister’s office have become a symbol of arrogance. Those who are parading the idea of Naya (new) Pakistan should first understand the foundations of the old Pakistan,” he said.
In 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan told media representatives that after the 18th amendment the federation is financially bankrupt. “Provinces are not in a capacity to collect funds and the federation has to pay them, which causes heavy loss to the federal government,” PM Khan said. He pointed out that at the start of every fiscal year the Centre has to face fiscal shortfall to the tune of Rs.600 billion due to debt servicing, federal transfers to the provinces, and a defense budget that leaves nothing for development.”
However, PTI’s government has repeatedly clarified that there has never been a question of repealing the 18th amendment and that the PPP should stop spreading misinformation. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Speaker National Assembly, Asad Qaiser and Law Minister Farogh Nasim have denied any plans to repeal the 18th amendment.
Experts’ Point of View
Analyst Amir Raza argued in a talk show that the PPP was trying to pressurize the sitting government to evade accountability drive. “Even if the government or anybody else starts talking about amending or repealing the 18th amendment, why is it unacceptable for PPP? Can the parliament not make changes to it? It’s nonsense to not let anybody comment on the constitution which is subject to change according to changing socio-political realities,” he maintained.
Experts maintain that the constitution and amendments are subject to public debate. Saad Rasool, a prominent lawyer, said in a talk-show on Dunya TV that the legal discourse evolves gradually and several changes are made to the constitution to make it effective. “The constitution is always an adaptive document,” he clarified. Therefore the question of amendment or changes to the constitution through a parliament should not become a political tool to seek vested political interests.