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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Maulana Fazal calls on Zardari: Will 18th amendment amended?

Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to remove anomalies from the 18th amendment. However, Maulana Fazalur Rehman called on Asif Ali Zardari and decided to put more pressure on the incumbent government. Notably, owing to a delicate number game in the parliament, the government remained unable to ensure meaningful legislation. PTI promised to introduce electoral, judicial and police reforms before coming into power.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leaders have agreed to continue with their inflexible stance on the 18th Amendment and the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award pledging to pursue political consensus for the country’s integrity and security. PPP has maintained that there shall be no compromise on the said amendment since any change is likely to alter the constitution and its essence.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman called on the former President Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at Bilawal House on Friday. They discussed the political situation of the country for about half and an hour where Fazl also inquired about the health of Zardari.

Read More: 18th amendment debate is irrelevant at this time!

Talking to the JUI-F leader, Zardari said that there would be no compromise on anti-people budget and NFC Award adding that he had already predicted that Prime Minister Imran Khan was incapable and incompetent to govern.

Importance of 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 concurrent legislative list from the constitution. It intended to empower the provinces by giving complete autonomy over their respective educational policy.

PM Khan’s views on 18th amendment

Recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the federal government did not have any disagreement with provinces, but rather it wanted to remove anomalies from the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan.

Read More: 18th amendment and charter of democracy – Dr Farid A Malik

Speaking to senior journalists, the prime minister said that some federal subjects were wrongly devolved to the provinces under the constitutional amendment, which should be returned back to the Centre and for this purpose, all provinces would be consulted.

Experts’ Point of View

Analyst Amir Raza in prime-time show Live with Moeed Pirzada argued 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 interest at the cost of national interests. Meanwhile, in the present case, the ruling party does not wish or plan on taking any steps to repeal the amendment.

Yasmeen Ali, an academic and political analyst, believes that “The 18th Amendment has created a governance gap; where it has removed the Federal umbrella, funnelling finances to provinces without checks and accountability. The recent revelations in the “Fake Accounts Case” in Sindh, if proved, will reflect the weakness of the federation, but not necessarily at the cost of strengthening the provinces. The 18th Amendment has so far not offered much to the common man and has neither managed to lead to a smoother interaction between the federal and provincial levels”.

Read More: How has 18th amendment impacted the Federation in Pakistan?

She also thinks that instead of focusing on making Pakistan into an effective federal state with a balanced approach towards its provinces, the 18th Amendment worked towards devolution of powers without too much effort going into analyzing the impact that the Amendment would have upon the legal structure of the country. Moreover, there was also a lack of setting up infrastructures for good governance to trickle down to grassroots levels and thereby the common man prior to the introduction of the law.

The World Health Organization had also expressed its reservations over the state of the Health sector after the 18th Amendment. In 2011, in a letter to the then PM Gillani, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concerns over the devolution of the Ministry of Health to the provinces. The concern of the WHO was that “The provinces did not have enough resources, infrastructure, and medical staff and if the provinces were given the responsibility of the health sector in such circumstances, it would wreak havoc”, a source, quoted in the Pakistan Today.

The above-mentioned comments and opinions present a case to the public intellectuals and lawmakers to review the 18th Amendment and modify it as per the needs of the time.