By Mansoor Ahmed Kataria
Pakistan since its birth had been a tough state. The objectives resolution was to set a base for the mechanism of the state. Yet no comprehensive pathway was shown till 1956. Overthrow and get overthrown, has been a favorite hobby of Pakistan’s military rulers along with amending the constitution as per desire. The constitution of 1956 was somehow a ventilator to the newly Born state but Mr. Ayub khan detested the idea and introduced the constitution of 1962. The constitution of 1962 was a presidential one but couldn’t last long. The constitution of 1973 rose as a torchbearer for the strayed nation and was passed with the National consensus. This was the first time in the history of Pakistan that the nation was directed clearly about what to do, what to do, how to do, and when to do. Unfortunately, the civil-military romance has been a never-ending story in Pakistan history. It has cost Pakistan the unbearable loss on the national and international fronts as well.
General Zia ul Haq overthrew the elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and started playing with the constitution. The introduction of the Eighth amendment in 1985 was the major blunder that resulted in the unstable political course for about 12 long years. The Purpose of the amendment was to strengthen the Zia, as a President. The eighth amendment was misused by the General Zia ul Haq to send the then Prime Minister, M. khan Junejo, home on the corruption charges. Actually Eighth amendment empowered the President to dismiss the Prime Minister if the former deems necessary in the National interest. The national interests in Pakistan are very complex because they mostly resemble the personal interests of the rulers. Howsoever, Benazir Bhutto desired to revoke it but she couldn’t get the requisite majority in the Elections of 1988. She was hunted with the same weapon and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan sent her back by dissolving the assemblies. President khan didn’t stop here and did the same with Nawaz Sharif in 1993. Again in 1996, Farooq Leghari misused Article 58(2)b to topple down the government of his party leader Benazir Bhutto.
This all went on like this until Nawaz Sharif amended the constitution with the 13th amendment which was later on amended again with the 14th amendment. The right to dissolve the National assemblies rested with President once more, according to the 14th amendment. The year 2010 was a major turn in the history of Pakistan. On the 8th April 2010, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed the 18th amendment with the 292, out of 342, votes. The Senate approved it on the 15th of April. President Zardari willingly mitigated the presidential powers and held himself just as a ceremonial head of the State. The filthy usage of 58(2)b was given an end.
The eighteenth amendment is the bright light in the constitution of Pakistan and holds the constitution of Pakistan altogether. The provincial autonomy, another great step, effaced the sense of deprivation from the provinces like Balochistan and KPK. The eighteenth amendment also bestowed the Pashtoon region an identity by substituting the name NWFP with khyber Pakhtoonkhawa.
Actually, the eighteenth amendment has blessed Pakistan with a Federal Parliamentary system, which was semi-Presidential before. Pakistan truly emerged as a federation after the passage of the eighteenth amendment. It is all due to the aforementioned step that the province of Balochistan has a complete right over the resources lying within the respective boundaries. The province of Punjab had a sigh of relief as the 18th amendment pulled it out of all the allegations. The amendment speaks about other issues as well but the two remain more significant.
The Corona pandemic has proved the worth of the Eighteenth Amendment with the passage of time. Provinces have done what their dynamics allowed them to do without any control and rulings from the federal. Before that, the punishment inflicted on Musharraf is the ever bold fruit of the respective amendment. No dictator can now throw the constitution paper in the bin and no court could approve it. Nonetheless, the whispers traveling in the air about the revocation of the eighteenth amendment will be disastrous for the integrity of the federation. Imran Khan, dismayed with his limited powers and direct control over the provinces, has to understand the worth of this. He will not be the ruler forever then why set the example that can be harmful to the state in the future.
The stance of other parties, PPP and PML-N are very clear about that. Bilawal Bhutto has strongly rejected any compromise on the eighteenth amendment.
Any step taken to efface it would result in chaos and anarchy. The grievances of the provinces are not over yet and the democracy is far from maturity. Letting the National consensus be will be a better choice for the sake of harmony and stability. The government should get every single stakeholder, benefitting from the eighteenth amendment, into confidence. Pakistan is left with the only two choices, eighth or the eighteenth. There is still a long way to prosperity and stability because we are a democracy and nation in making yet.
Mansoor Ahmed Kataria is the Student LLB Punjab University Lahore and associated with political activism.