Home Global Village PPP’s apprehensions over the 18th Amendment: Propaganda or struggle for provincial autonomy

PPP’s apprehensions over the 18th Amendment: Propaganda or struggle for provincial autonomy


News Analysis |

On Tuesday, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari sternly warned the federal government against any attempts to reverse the 18th amendment, and threatened to launch a political agitation movement, “even a long march if it is required to protect the 18th Amendment”.

He spoke at a press conference after the inauguration of the Gambat Medical College, alongside CM Sindh Murad Ali Shah. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari further commented that the Sindh government had taken multiple methods to innovate the practices and infrastructure of healthcare, particularly at organizations such as the National Institute of Cardio-Vascular Diseases, which has led to “free heart surgeries across the province”.

At the press conference on Tuesday, Bilawal Bhutto raised his apprehensions over the alleged intentions to abolish the 18th Amendment and implored for an end to the “injustices being leveled against Sindh”

He argued that under the control of the federal government, these healthcare facilities required “donations” for providing basic facilities.

Bilawal further argued that “certain forces” intend to roll back the 18th Amendment, so they can “seize control of several institutions away from the provincial government”. He warned that “PPP will not allow this to happen”, and further challenged that his party will hold onto its “control of the hospitals by exercising legal measures”.

Upon being inquired about the alleged “attempts to establish a presidential system in Pakistan”, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari reminded the press of the warnings he had issued about the attempts to funnel in a “dummy government” and “abolish the 18th Amendment amongst other constitutional provisions”.

Read more: 18th Amendment: Zardari & Bilawal exploiting provincial fears?

“People who are attempting to introduce a presidential system in Pakistan have clearly not learned their lessons from the past”, he remarked.

Understanding the 18th Amendment

18th Amendment is a constitutional provision that entails a wide range of implications and favors for both, the federal and provincial governments. It was introduced in 2010 as an attempt to impair the quality of the 1973 constitution and do away with the egotistical measures that reminded PPP and PLMN leaders of the bitter legacy left behind by two military dictators. It focuses on the provincial powers of administration and political authority and the transfer of these powers towards the federal government.

This supposed controversy on the 18th Amendment first emerged in the news on 27th October, when Asif Ali Zardari claimed that he is “being attacked from all sides in attempts to abolish the 18th Amendment.”

It deals with the authority and control of the provincial government over debt management, electricity, healthcare, scientific research, education, and higher institutions, census, national planning, and regulatory authorities amongst other spheres of governance.

Undoubtedly, the 18th Amendment is a landmark amendment that has revived the character of the parliamentary system of government. It provided greater autonomy to the provinces, which boosted the federation by ensuring the satisfaction of all its stakeholders. Even though several nationalistic stakeholders found it disturbing, the amendment was largely approved by the then PPP-PMLN coalition.

Read more: Is SC going to review the 18th amendment?

Once again, the 18th Amendment has emerged as a hot topic for debate as the opposition parties, particularly PPP and Asif Ali Zardari, have accused the federal government of abolishing the amendment, primarily in terms of control over healthcare and education facilities across Sindh.

Ongoing Controversy on the 18th Amendment

At the press conference on Tuesday, Bilawal Bhutto raised his apprehensions over the alleged intentions to abolish the 18th Amendment and implored for an end to the “injustices being leveled against Sindh”. He argued, “Every time a selected government has been established, Sindh has suffered from shortages in its supply of gas and water, and its share in the monetary funds”. He warned, “We will do whatever it takes to secure Sindh’s rights”.

Islamabad must realize the implications and devastations such a decision can cause”. He added, “We will not allow the Baloch nation to be turned into a minority”.

This supposed controversy on the 18th Amendment first emerged in the news on 27th October, when Asif Ali Zardari claimed that he is “being attacked from all sides in attempts to abolish the 18th Amendment.”

He said, “I witnessed myself being attacked from all sides throughout the election campaign, and now I realize that this squabble is targeted towards the 18th Amendment.” He did not specify who he was referring to but continued to level accusations, stating “when they could not snatch away the Sindh government from PPP, they began their attempts to repeal the amendment”.

Zardari also announced that Sindh will be joined with Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in its agitation against any attempts to abolish the 18th Amendment.

Read more: Parliament should have debated 18th Amendment: CJP

On 28th January, Former CM Nawab Aslam Raisani also warned against the abolishment of the 18th Amendments, stating that it would be “hazardous for the country to dissolve the autonomy of the provinces”.

While speaking at a leading news channel, he said, “The people must ask the federal government why they intend to abolish the 18th Amendment. Islamabad must realize the implications and devastations such a decision can cause”. He added, “We will not allow the Baloch nation to be turned into a minority”.

During an interview with senior journalist Hamid Mir, Farrukh Habib MNA PTI commented on the scuffle between the Sindh government and the federal leadership, and called out PPP on its attempts to “undermine Islamabad with legal petitions.”

While talking to a leading news channel earlier today, Iftikhar Durrani, Special Aide to Prime Minister on Media Affairs, made it clear that the government has “no plans to repeal the 18th Amendment or introduce a presidential-style government”.

“We all know that Supreme Court has declared Bilawal to be innocent, however, the corruption cases against Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur has been referred to the NAB. It is evident that the antagonism expressed by the Sindh government traces its roots back to these corruption cases.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court bench had rejected the petition filed by Senator Raza Rabbani, requesting a full bench to review the case of the transfer of three hospitals in Sindh, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical College (JPMC), National Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases (NICVD) and National Institute of Child Health (NICH) from the provincial government to the federal leadership, according to the provisions of the 18th Amendment.

Former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had stated that it is the duty of the federal government to step in if the provincial government fails to “improve the healthcare sector and meet the needs of its people”.

Read more: Who made the 18th amendment controversial; PML-N or military establishment?

PTI MNA Farrukh Habib reminded that this decision was not taken by the government, but in fact, “ it is a decision taken by the Supreme Court. “The Sindh government should respect the decision made by the Supreme Court and use the parliament for debating its merits rather than baseless propaganda”, he said.

 18th Amendment & Future of the Federation

While talking to a leading news channel earlier today, Iftikhar Durrani, Special Aide to Prime Minister on Media Affairs, made it clear that the government has “no plans to repeal the 18th Amendment or introduce a presidential-style government”.

“We always hear of such news from the opposition, accusing us of introducing a Presidential style government, or repealing the 18th Amendment-these propagandist comments are all ploys to keep themselves alive and relevant,” he said.

While answering a question on the 18th Amendment, Fawad Chaudhry commented that the federal government “does not feel the need to repeal the laws”.

While referring to the comments made by Faisal Vawda, Federal Minister for Water Resources, Durrani argued, “the comments of the Minister for Water Resources are limited to the issues of water, apart from him, no other federal minister has criticized the amendment”.

While speaking to a private news channel, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry stated that “several members of the opposition who are challenged with extensive corruption cases seek NRO from the Federal government.”

He further argued that the opposition is quick to point out issues with the 18th Amendment and the mistakes of the NAB in parliamentary debates, but pressing concerns, such as “water issues in Karachi, and rapidly increasing unemployment” are never raised.

Read more: Democracy a farce?

While answering a question on the 18th Amendment, Fawad Chaudhry commented that the federal government “does not feel the need to repeal the laws”. He stated that the PTI-led government wants to introduce a system that ensures equality and justice for the poor and downtrodden.

Mina Jahangir with additional input by News Desk.

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