The 18th amendment passed in April 2010 was billed as the most comprehensive reform package after the passage of the 1973 constitution ever since the return of the civilian rule 2008, there was a popular demand of the whole spectrum of political leadership to repeal the 17th amendment passed under Musharraf and reform the constitution.
The parliamentary Committee for Constitutional reforms (PCCR) was constituted last year for freeing the constitution from impediments certain dictators. The task assigned to it was to undergo a through probe of the constitution, abolish the 17th amendment and strike a balance between the authorities of the Prime Minister and the President. In this way, all the aberrations in the constitution of 1970 are now done away.
Salient Features Of The 18th Amendment:
The 18th Amendment made almost 100 changes, including.
- Abolishing the concurrent list in principle, transferring the residual powers to provinces. In this way the parochial, secessionist and centrifugal forces will be given a severe blow.
- Restoring parliamentary sovereignty, by repealing Article 58 (2 (B), 17th amendment has been abolished. 58-2(b) has been done away with. The President will have the authorities bestowed upon him by the constitution of 1973 All the rest of the authorities will go to the Prime Minister.
- For declaring emergency a unanimous resolution of national and provincial assemblies will be a must.
- Restricting the space for issuing presidential ordinances.
- The President will be able to dissolve assemblies on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The appointments of the Chiefs of army, air force and navy, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Governor will be done on the advice of the PM. The PM will appoint the Chief election commissioner after consultation with the opposition leader.
- Expanding the jurisdiction of the Political Parties Act to FATA, thereby encouraging political parties to field their candidates from that region in future elections.
- Making the CCi a more substantive body.
- Providing for the Chief Election Commissioner's appointment on the basis of agreement between the government and the opposition.
- Establishing a Judicial Commission comprising 7 members, including 4 judges, the law minister, the attorney general and a representative of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
- Re-naming NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
- Raza Rabbani, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms said it was a unique peace of legislation in many ways.
- The most important feature is that an incumbent President himself has given away his powers to the parliament and the people of Pakistan.
- Moreover, the bill will seek to repeal LFO as well as 17th amendment which were the symbols of dictatorial regime. General Zia-ul-Haq's name has also been stricken out from the Constitution, he said.
- He further said that the passage of the bill will take the nation back to original constitution of 1973.
- This legislation has enjoyed maximum consensus of political parties on the issue of provincial autonomy.
- Prime minster yusuf raza gilani said 18th amendment was a dividend of politics of reconciliation that would strengthen institutions and create balance of power between the president and the parliament.
- “politics of reconciliation not only made us achieve this great goal but also paved way or Aghaz – e Huqooq Baluchistan with full might.” He added.
- “the amendments, this parliament is going to make are for strengthening the institutions, and not any individual as the dictators did in the past.”
- Two critical perspectives surfaced even before the passage of the bill into law. The PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif objected to the composition of the Judicial Commission and renaming of NWFP. PCCR accommodated him on both counts by including a 4th judge in the Judicial Commission as a direct nominee of the Chief Justice and adding Khyber to Pakhtunkhwa. However, both issues later sparked a wave of protest. Renaming of NWFP laid out the turf for a demand for new provinces. Traditionally, this demand was underlined by administrative reasons such as good governance in the backdrop of demographic pressure, geographical diversity and strategic requirements.
- After passage of the 18th Amendment, several political parties asked the federation to reinvent itself by creating new provinces, such as four out of Punjab, two out of Kyber Pakhtunkhuwa, two out of Sindh and three out of Baluchistan, Nawaz Sharif preferred administrative rather than linguistic provinces, Prime Minister Gilani gave a positive nod to the demand for the Siraiki province in south Punjab, his own area, but through that this was not the right time for it, President Zardari was not a wait and see policy. language as an instrument of federalization is not acceptable in Pakistan.
- Critics of the 18th Amendment pointed to the failure to meet the agenda of the Charter of Democracy. For example, there was: no provision for a Federal Constitutional Court; no merger of FATA in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; no independent accountability commission to replace NAB; and no accountability of ISI and Ml to civilian authority Some claimed that the 18th Amendment, much like the 1973 Constitution itself, did not provide for an independent Election Commission, an independent judiciary, an independent commission for accountability and a mechanism for a third tier of government at the local level. The lobby for provincial autonomy, especially in Sindh, criticized the Amendment for.
- completely ignoring the Senate in terms of power sharing.
- Making NEC unrepresentative of the federation by giving prime minister the power to nominate four members on his own instead of providing for representatives of four provinces, and continuing with Article 62 carrying the Islamic provisions for eligibility of electoral contestants and thus alienating religious minorities and secular-minded people in general Some found that the Amendment diffused the demand for provincial autonomy more than addressed it frontally, averting the re-opening of the thorny issues of administrative and fiscal decentralization.
“today all stakeholders are on one pitch”.
- Official circles objected to what they considered to be dismantling of large parts of the federal government by depriving it of legislative powers through abolition of the concurrent list There were fears about the absence of a modus operandi for shifting various ministries from the Centre to provinces and the problem of implementing 35 international protocols dealing with subjects ranging from environment to quality of life.
- The transfer of ministries from the federal to provincial governments before 30 June 2011 may be a difficult job. The provinces lack capacity to tackle the situation immediately.
Legal and Judicial Response:
- Article 175A of the 18th Amendment provided for a majority of judges in the judicial commission and 8-member parliamentary committee with equal representation of the treasury and opposition benches from the two houses of parliament for confirmation of the commission’s nominees as judges.
- Sections of some lawyers, jurists and the media felt the Commission superseded the Chief Justice for appointment of judges. 16 petitions were filed in the supreme. Court against the Amendment in the midst of a nation-wide controversy about whether the judiciary could declare the Amendment unconstitutional Some found the judiciary struggling to secure the discretion of the Chief Justice for appointment of his colleagues, while others found it a test case of independence of judiciary.
The fact remains that the 18th Amendment now should be implemented in real sense, only then it can bring good changes. On the whole the 18th Amendment has revealed the forward looking approach of the government he committee has tried to give a real essence of democracy. The dictators have been barred, not to trample over the constitution and no unconstitutional force will exercise a threat to it the constitution is no more mutilated. It is now up to the ruling leadership to give the positive results over this amendment. It should not be another futile exercise by the ruling elite to fulfill their vestige interests by narrow or irrelevant interpretations the 18" amendment. All the parties & forces in the must join hand to restore the original spirit of democracy.