Home Global Village Who made the 18th amendment controversial; PML-N or military establishment?

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

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Waqas Shabbir |

Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Ghafoor clarified the much-hyped Bajwa Doctrine and described it as a doctrine with limited scope restricted to security measures only. DG ISPR addressed the media in Rawalpindi and denied the stories published in newspapers regarding the Bajwa doctrine. He labeled it as irresponsible journalism.  

He pointed fingers at the journalists who held an informal gathering with the chief and ended up writing pieces interpreting his remarks based on their own subjective judgment and understanding, which contradicts the stance of General Bajwa on country’s political dynamics and issues surrounding the incumbent rulers.

He denied the existence of any such doctrine and said even if such doctrine does exist, its scope is not beyond security measures. Earlier, DG ISPR had confessed the existence of ‘Bajwa doctrine’, but, has categorically denied the existence of any political agenda in the doctrine.

He played a video clip of his interview recorded in Arshad Sharif’s program, where he said, “The basic objective of this doctrine is to take Pakistan towards a peace which was present in Pakistan earlier [before 9-11 and Soviet-Afghan war].

Can miffed Nawaz come on board with the establishment, if spared in accountability court, on a promise that provinces are capable of making the decisions appropriately and implementation is guaranteed to avoid any economic management in future?

The army chief is not against the 18th amendment, but implementation remains an issue because wants to ensure that provinces can make decisions aptly. Decentralization is appreciable in certain aspects as long as provinces can equip itself with decision-making mechanism and take up the responsibility in key aspects.

Basically, the capability of provinces of making those decisions is questioned. Otherwise chief has no problem with 18thamendment since it only helped bridges the gaps in the incomplete constitution. Nevertheless, capacity building of the provinces remained an issue.

Now, this is where the reservations against the certain aspects of the 18th amendment related to economic management of the country come, on which chief has objected the policies of the government and showed concerned in a seminar in Karachi last year.

Read more: Mian Raza Rabbani: Rudder of the Constitutional Ship

The switch from centralized to the decentralized structure through 18th amendment in April 2010 provided Pakistan a platform to reinvent its provincial autonomy. The bill was passed unanimously by 292 members of the 342- parliamentarians in favor of the legislation called 18th constitutional amendment

But, at the same time, failure in the desired implementation of the amendment in case of economic squeeze risked an institutional response.  It was claimed by certain anchorpersons, after a meeting between COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa and a group of journalists and TV anchorpersons, that the Bajwa doctrine depicts that “18th Amendment has become a major cause of unbalance between Federation and the provinces.”

It termed the 18th amendment more dangerous than the six points of Sheikh Mujeeb u Rehman, and a week of speculation regarding it led to this response from ISPR. 

Now, this is where the reservations against the certain aspects of the 18th amendment related to economic management of the country come, on which chief has objected the policies of the government and showed concerned in a seminar in Karachi last year.

At the face of it, establishment’s concerns are more economic rather than against the sovereignty of the parliament. That is because the president of the country can no longer dismiss Parliament unless advised by the Prime Minister. A poly which many dictators used is no longer an option for the military to dismantle the civilian rule.

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) allegedly became a party to these amendments primarily as it paved way for Nawaz Sharif to become a Prime Minister for the third time. Without a doubt, this legislation strengthened the parliament weakened by the long periods of the military dictatorships of Zia and Musharraf.

Veteran chief of the Awami National Party said Asfandyar Wali Khan had said at the time, “From now onwards, there will be no excuse for parliament in general and the prime minister in particular that we cannot deliver. If we still cannot find solutions to the common man’s problems, then, I am sorry, we will have no right to sit in this house.”

Despite the much-publicized initial takeoff in 2013, from the government-retiring circular debt, it aimed big to solve the financial issues facing the countries. But, things did not seem to go as planned.

Read more: Does the constitution allow the judiciary to review amendments?

Ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar’s complained over an extraordinary expenditure of Rs100 billion which was later reduced to Rs90 billion had come up due to “security-related expenditure and repatriation of IDPs” put forward the incumbent governments complain against the 18th amendment in a rather subdued tone.

Ishaq Dar complained over the lack of fiscal space, followed by Mifta’s claim that “over 57.5% of total taxes collected by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) were allocated to the provinces, the federal government’s revenues were not sufficient to meet its day-to-day expenses and the remaining 42.5% was only sufficient for debt servicing and the government was meeting the needs of defense, development, pensions and running its affairs through borrowing.”

In another occasion, during the meeting of National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on March 7, Mifta told the members that “a faulty resources distribution formula under the National Finance Commission (NFC) award was the reason behind the growing public debt”. In other words, the government believes that mounting debt pile which, if rupee continued to depreciate is expected to reach $100 billion in June is not incompetency of the government but, due to unfair NFC awards.

The capability of provinces of making those decisions is questioned. Otherwise chief has no problem with 18thamendment since it only helped bridges the gaps in the incomplete constitution. Nevertheless, capacity building of the provinces remained an issue.

The incumbent government is apparently hitting on the 18th amendment, and establishment sniffing a chance to remind the government of its failure in managing the economy and provinces of their inability to make apt decisions promoted a discussion on possible changes in the 18th amendment.

The government opted to support the PPP’s amendments in exchange for Nawaz’s third term, and its inability to manage the economy has brought the country on the brink of financial crises unless adequate measures are not taken to avert the catastrophe.

Read more: Lawmakers using the constitution for legitimizing forgery !

Government’s inability to address the rising concerns related to declining exports, ballooning external borrowing, and worrisome debt management along with failure to improve government revenues have put the government in a difficult position.

Rather than taking responsibility for its epic failures, government officials are blaming the faulty NFC award formula and establishment fearing the upward trajectory in military budgeting questioned the provinces role and capacity to deal with challenges of security, health, and education. So Mifta and establishment are on the same page according to this aspect of the Bajwa doctrine.

Dar is bashing Mifta continuously over his treatment of economy amid depreciating rupee. It means, this civilian government has lost the plot and apparently has no moral right to continue its rule. Can miffed Nawaz come on board with the establishment, if spared in accountability court, on a promise that provinces are capable of making the decisions appropriately and implementation is guaranteed to avoid any economic management in future?

Waqas Shabbir is a Derby Business School graduate in Finance, currently working as a freelance writer. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect GVS editorial policy.


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