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You can not rollback the 18th Amendment – Peja Mistry


Pakistan’s urban educated class particularly those newly turned anti-establishment liberal democrats, have no idea about how constitution and later on amendments are made in it. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto used to boast how he was able to give not one but two constitutions in two years. And both of them with complete consensus from all the stakeholders.

I have seen people (very learned people) making fun of this, asking me how difficult is it to frame a constitution. You can just take any constitution from the world and use it. Some of these Einsteins also talk about proportionate voting system, presidential elections and some conservative talking about imposing Sharia in the same context.

For these people constitution is imposed just like a general can impose martial law. For them just General Ayub, General Zia, General Musharraf gave the “constitution” in the shape of 8th Amendment and LFO, similarly Prime Minister (be it Imran Khan or Nawaz Sharif) can give a new constitution, can give a new amendment within no time. In fact Nawaz Sharif had attempted multiple times to do the same once when in 1999 he wanted to become Ameer-ul-Momneen in the garb of Sharia bill.

Our mainstream media has downplayed the importance of 18th Amendment since 2009, this amendment was indeed a remarkable achievement by PPP government under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari. It was almost a complete constitution, the largest amendment touching all aspects of constitution of 1973. It not only restored the 1973 constitution in its original shape but also completed those unfinished agenda of the 1973 constitution which first PPP government could not get the consensus.

Today I was listening to Ishaq Dar talking about how 18th Amendment was discussed and approved. And since he was the bad guy during these discussion acting on behalf the military establishment. It is worth listening his interview with Talat Hussain, in which he actually confesses all the crimes of PML-N during these discussion.

He confesses that it was PML-N who at each step in the discussion of this amendment played on behalf of military establishment. He acknowledges that they opposed the dilution of power and distribution of budget. PML-N wanted to keep all the main areas like education, drugs, revenue collection in the federal ambit.

He confessed that it was PML-N who forced PPP to withdraw proposal for customs collection going to the province from where its collected (which meant that all three provinces Sindh, Balochistan and KPK could collect their customs).

He also confessed that it was PML-N who forced PPP to withdraw proposal for allowing the provinces to keep fair share of the natural resources with them which meant that Balochistan, Sindh and KPK could own their own natural resources.

He also confessed that PML-N opposed making the education as provincial subject, which PPP was able to take stand and ensure that provinces can define their own education policy. But even then PML-N managed to bring the higher education under the federal domain.

He also confessed that PML-N opposed making health as the provincial subject and in the garb of Federal Drug Regulatory Authority, PML-N did not let provinces own their own health policies.

He also confessed that PML-N did not want the NFC award that changed the distribution of resources from 60-40 in favor of Federation to 60-40 in favor of provinces. And he said that in the next NFC award they will support PTI government if they want to revert this distribution.

It is a shame that such important topics are not discussed in the mainstream and social media. Even when they are discussed, such aspects are not highlighted.

18th Amendment and 2009 NFC award is a big thorn for the military establishment, they would like to roll it back. But I can tell them that just like despite all their effort they are not able to get rid of 1973 constitution, they will not be able to roll back 18th Amendment.

Long live Constitution of Pakistan.