Revoking 18th amendment- Does Imran Khan wish to repeat 1971 saga?
It is of no doubt that 18th amendment was a need of time after democratic government was elected as this fulfilled the constitutional requirement. The Pakistan Peoples Party has always been busy in making federation strong by giving provincial autonomy to the federating units.
The debate regarding revoking the much appreciated 18th amendment is the talk of the town. In a bid to make changes to the much-debated 18th Amendment and the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, the federal government has contacted several political parties and has been able to get some support on its decision, a local news outlet reported on Sunday. The report came a day after the government contacted the opposition parties to take them on board regarding the new National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law.
The 18th Amendment was passed in 2010 to provide the provinces with significant decision-making autonomy, whereas the NFC Award pertains to the resource distribution formula among the provinces.
The NFC Award is a constitutional obligation. According to Article 160 of the Constitution, after every five years the president will constitute the NFC for a period of five years. Last year, President Dr Arif Alvi had reconstituted the ninth NFC to formulate a new resource distribution formula between the Centre and federating units.
Why is the 18th Amendment is important?
The said amendment has brought many significant changes to the 1973 constitution e.g. renaming of N.W.F.P as KPK, end of presidential powers, more fiscal power to provinces and removal of concurrent legislative list from the constitution. It intended to empower the provinces by giving complete autonomy over their respective educational policy.
18 ویں ترمیم پر نہ کوئی بات ہوئی اور نہ ہوسکتی ہے: شیری رحمان
— Geo News Urdu (@geonews_urdu) April 26, 2020
In 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan told media representatives that after the 18th amendment the federation is financially bankrupt. “Provinces are not in a capacity to collect funds and the federation has to pay them, which causes heavy loss to the federal government,” PM Khan said. He pointed out that at the start of every fiscal year the Centre has to face fiscal shortfall to the tune of Rs600 billion due to debt servicing, federal transfers to the provinces, and defense budget that leaves nothing for development.”
However, PTI’s government has repeatedly clarified that there has never been a question of repealing the 18th amendment and that the PPP should stop spreading misinformation. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Speaker National Assembly, Asad Qaiser and Law Minister Farogh Nasim have denied any plans to repeal the 18th amendment. On the contrary Faisal Javed and other PTI leaders have said that government wishes to make changes in 18th amendment. This shows the PTI cabinet and party leaders are confused and they are not clear in thoughts about their own Party decisions.
We will not compromise on 18th amendment & democracy, Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari @BBhuttoZardari’s clear stance since day one. #PPP stands with 18th amendment. pic.twitter.com/lXthA1SiOR
— Sohail Khan Indher (@SohailKPPP) April 27, 2020
The latest move and mind setting of people regarding 18th amendment will further surge the sentiments of sub nationalism which are dangerous for the federation at the moment. Pakistan has already been facing provincialism even in electorate politics, divided on ethnicity basis can not afford any anti-state sentiments. Revoking or mnay drastic changes to the 18th amendment will undoubtedly weaken federation and PTI government is in no mood to value the federating units which would be lethal for the country.
Necessarily, Imran Khan needs to focus on governance, coping with the on going situation against covid-19 and should not take this mayhem as opportunity to disturb the constitutional framework of the country.