The pretence of ‘reforms’ will prove counterproductive. Since its inception, Pakistan has been under direct or indirect military rule. Never has Pakistan established itself as a true federal and democratic state, and today’s current constitution has proven completely inadequate in progressing towards that end. Rather than safeguarding the rights of the oppressed Nations, of the religious minorities and of other marginalized groups (i.e. women), the constitution has become the very instrument of hegemonic control and military domination by which the Punjab majority subjugates all other ethnic and religious minorities into a tyrannical majoritarianism.
The current 18th Amendment passed in National Assembly, though a step in the right direction, does not sufficiently address the genuine concerns of equality of all the peoples of Pakistan.
Pakistan Constitution’ s 18th Amendment and Provincial Autonomy: An unfinished Job
by: Khalid Hashmani (cLean, Virginia, USA)
The 18th amendment to Pakistan’s constitution became law after country’s President signed it on April 19, 2010. This historic accomplishment was achieved after many rounds of discussions and compromises. The key achievement of endeavor was restore much of the original 1973 constitution and to shift away the massive power that was given to the Presidency under military dictators General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf. However, the people of small provinces were once again cheated away and the promise of provincial autonomy was largely limited to cosmetic changes and use of buzz words such as abolition of the concurrent legislative list containing subjects where the Federal government and the four provincial had shared jurisdiction prior to the 18th amendment. Indeed, it was the long standing demand of provinces to do away with concurrent list and restore sole provincial jurisdiction as provinces had enjoyed under British before Pakistan was created. What actually has happened under the 18th amendment that the central government has assumed the jurisdiction over most important subjects and let provinces have jurisdiction over less important subjects. On top of this, a provision (Article 143) that before 18th amendment allowed the federal government to enact laws only in the subjects covered under federal legislative and concurrent legislative list have been extended giving authority to the Federal legislature to void any acts passed by a Provincial Assembly. This means that an act passed by a provincial assembly in a subject area that is totally under the jurisdiction of the province can be voided by an act passed by the Federal legislature with simple majority. Before 18th amendment such an act would have required a constitutional amendment. In a country such as Pakistan, where one province had more members in the National Assembly than the combined total of other provinces, this change gives the largest province of Pakistan to override any provincial laws with ease as it could easily muster simple majority from that province alone.
You are invited to attend a meeting in Washington DC Metro Area on 18th Constitutional Amendment and rights of small nations in Pakistan. We encourage you to send us a page or two (Maximum) on your behalf or on behalf of your organization to be read in this session.
Recently proposed constitutional changes through “18th Amendment” cause serious concerns in small nations of Pakistan. Throughout its history, the country has been governed by its elite, under military dictatorship or with selective freedoms for its peoples. As a result eastern wing of the country walked away from the union and remaining stakeholders have very little or no faith in the present setup.
Although the 1973 constitution of Mr. Bhutto imposed a top-down framework on small nations but that document has yet to see the light of the day. People of Balochistan have declared their intent to part ways whereas in Sindhi people are increasingly having doubts about their salvation within Pakistan.
Given the state of the union, the common sense and pro-active statecraft dictate making every effort to create sense of ownership in the constituent units instead of tightening the noose. Even high hopes of gaining individual and collective freedoms in a representative democracy are coming to a screeching halt.
Civic groups, political parties and thought leaders across the country including in the province of Punjab, Pakhtoonkhwa, Sindh, and Pakistani Diaspora in USA and Europe feels a need for sea change the way Pakistani constitution is framed. A consensus is emerging in favor of granting greater national autonomy to save Pakistan from disintegration.
The World Sindhi Institute fully endorses the demands registered at a recent conference of political and civil society representives seeking a new constitution for Pakistan and a new socio-economic and political contract for Sindh and other minority provinces, that took place in Hyderabad Sindh , on August 14th 2009(see below).
Citing the dysmal failure of the current constitution and the historic existence of the covenant of 1940 ( Lahore Resolution ) which already establishes a framework and template for geunine federalism , the consultative body, unanimously agreed that the 1940 Resolution is the only acceptable denominator to base a bew constitution on.
WSI also endorses veteran politician Saieen Rasool Baksh Palijo’s demand to stop the large scale pilferage of Sindh Waters that continues with impunity and that that has destroyed and continues to destroy the livelihood and health of Sindh’s citizens.
Humaira Rahman, General Seretary, World Sindhi Institute
HYDERABAD: Validity of 1973 Constitution has come to an end due to continuous undemocratic interventions, extra-constitutional amendments and its inherent flaws. The current constitution could not resolve the intra-state political and economic conflicts, Sindh political and civil society activists said here on Wednesday while initiating an effective discussion to design what they said a comprehensive list of demands acceptable to all. The 1973 Constitution should work for an interim period leading to a new constitution based on 1940 resolution through a new elected constituent assembly. That constitution would work as a new social contract among the federating units of Pakistan , they said.
TWO months ago an advertisement appeared in leading national dailies in which the ministry of provincial coordination, government of Sindh, solicited civil society to submit proposals and recommendations to the government regarding provincial autonomy. The content of the advertisement gives an impression that provincial autonomy is an important issue and the centre is seriously seeking suggestions from provinces to resolve the autonomy issue. The formation of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and the National Finance Commission to work out for fair distribution of resources are the arguments given by the government about the seriousness of the regime to decentralise powers of the centre. However, during its 15 months in power the government has only demonstrated overcentralisation of power in the presidency.
A new National Finance Commission has been announced. Ishaq Dar has been nominated by the Punjab government to represent them. And from Sindh it is our Kaiser Bengali. It is a constitutional requirement that every five years such committee sits to set the criteria of distributing the revenues from the central pool that goes to the provinces.
The fact is that it was simply a formality sort of exercise if ever previously has been done and the criteria is always the population based. Hence Sindh receives very dismal vis a vis the amount of revenues it generates. Where as Punjab receives the more than it generates.
Not only that the eighty percent of the employees that work in the federation are from Punjab . The very federation is located in the Punjab and any development that takes place in the federal Capital, its benefits go more to the Punjab . The population of the capital has its 80 percent people from Punjab .
Even the taxes that are provincial in nature and characteristic if gauge it under the rule of law, constitutionalism for the matter under 1973 constitutions, such right has also been usurped by the central government.
If this is the spectrum it implies that Punjab and the federation is same and no one can form the government in the federation without having a support of the institutions which have predominantly a Punjab ’s representatives.
The Ex-Servicemen have always represented the best of traditions of the Armed Forces. They have a proud record of sacrifice in stout defence of the country’s national interest. This image has been tarnished by four military dictators and their henchmen comprising coteries of high military officers, a segment of the judiciary and many politicians. General Ayub Khan set the pattern, which was followed by his military successors. The legacy of dictatorial rule has impacted every facet of the society and destroyed the integrity of the institutions of the state. Widespread corruption, rigging of elections, unmerited promotions and a culture of elitism widened splits in the country. The seeds of the separation of East Pakistan were all sown in his period of rule.
General Yahya remained too drunk to apply his mind and faculties to the affairs of the country. He had a small group of incompetent, inexperienced and inept people around him, who were taking all the decisions. They had no foresight or vision and just kept blundering their way through. They took this country towards a war, the conspiracy for which was hatched and planned by India and Sheikh Mujib, years in advance. Given the situation and the circumstances that prevailed, the Armed Forces of Pakistan, or for that matter any other country, could not have fought and won that war. It was forced on Pakistan by India who chose the time as well as theatre of operations (East Pakistan) after a long drawn campaign of subversion. The inevitable result was an ignoble defeat and the separation of East Pakistan.