SDF wants draft of amendments made public
HYDERABAD, April 2: The Sindh Democratic Forum has praised show of ‘unprecedented unity’ among parliamentary parties on the draft of 18th amendment to the Constitution and urged the government to immediately make the draft public.
The leaders of the forum, a think tank, said at a meeting here that the work was half done because some critical clauses of the 17th amendment relating to discriminatory laws against women and provinces’ right to control their natural resources and the very critical issue of recognition of Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi and Punjabi as national languages had not been removed yet.
Despite that, they said, the historic consensus had given nation hope that form now onwards constitutionalism and democratic norms would rule the country.
The nation feels a breath of fresh air in the form of democratic dispensation after 10 years’ undemocratic and authoritarian rule by a military dictator, they said.
They said that the 18th amendment would undo impact of the eighth amendment (enacted by General Ziaul Haq) which had altered over 90 articles, and the 17th amendment (enacted by Gen Pervez Musharraf) which had altered 26 articles of the Constitution.
The draft recommends removal of the infamous article 58 (2) (b), which had first been inserted into the Constitution by Gen. Zia ul Haq allowing the president to dissolve the parliament, and which was re-enacted by Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
The forum leaders also welcomed abolition of concurrent list, giving relatively more provincial autonomy and additional powers to the Council of Common Interest.
The draft reportedly “purges” the name of Gen Ziaul Haq as president from the Constitution although it was not yet clear what it meant in practice, they said.
They described it as a great achievement by a democratic government after 1973 Constitution but stressed the need for implementation of the proposed recommendations.
They said that more than half the population of the country lived below poverty line, unemployment had attained catastrophic levels, all indices of human development including education, health, provision of safe drinking water, sanitation and transport had nosedived and the level of corruption had skyrocketed from millions to billions.
Above all, danger to life and property had become so acute that even President Zardari was inaugurating mega projects in the most ludicrous way, uncovering plaques while sitting in his safe confines miles away from the project sites, they said.
Even this day, they said, most of the government departments and corporations, including educational institutions, were being run by former military men. On the external front, friendly neighbours had turned hostile because of irrational policies of Musharraf, they added.
They warned that if these issues were not resolved on priority basis, the country would fall deeper and deeper into the abyss of irreparable crisis. The convener of the forum Zulfiqar Halepoto chaired the meeting, which was attended by Mohammad Ibrahim Joyo, Abrar Kazi, Nazir Memon, Professor Aijaz Qureshi, Dr Nazir Shaikh, Saeeda Bashir Chandio, Aslam Baloch and others.
STP: The Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party has expressed reservations over the draft of constitutional amendments and said the amendments alone could not extricate the country from the present crisis.
The central committee of the party chaired by Dr Qadir Magsi said the party believed the 1973 Constitution had lost its importance and become redundant.
The meeting stressed the need for drafting a new constitution, guaranteeing equal rights to the federating units on the basis of 1940 Resolution.
The meeting rejected the NFC award signed by President Asif Ali Zardari and said the award was incomplete and it had failed to give due share to Sindh. The meeting warned that the award in its present shape would not be acceptable to people of Sindh and demanded that Sindh should be given complete control over its own financial and natural resources.
The meeting also rejected value-added tax and said it would further add to inflation.