Criticism on 18th Amendment?

Jamal Safi

The most important aspect of the 18th Amendment, which was passed by parliamentary consensus in 2010, is that it has transferred many federal powers to the provinces. The amendment repeals the presidential powers enshrined in the constitution by General Pervez Musharraf, which gave the president the power to unilaterally suspend parliament, impose a state of emergency and impose martial law. Musharraf’s amendment was the result of a long-running power struggle between the political and military leadership.

When General Zia-ul-Haq seized power through martial law, he included this provision in the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution. Later in the 14th amendment, Nawaz Sharif repealed it.
In 2000, Pervez Musharraf’s military government reintroduced it into the constitution through the 17th Amendment. Asif Zardari was the first president to voluntarily hand over most of his powers to the Prime Minister and laid the foundation for making Pakistan a parliamentary democracy from a presidential republic.

What is 18th Amendment?

The 18th Amendment not only limited the powers of the President but also played a key role in making Pakistan a truly democratic federation through provincial autonomy.
The 1973 constitution limits the powers of the federal and provincial governments. The 18th Amendment has handed over several ministries from the federation to the provincial government. These include education, health, food and agriculture, youth affairs, tourism and women’s development.

The 18th Amendment has made the provinces autonomous in collecting taxes. Similarly, the share of provinces in the National Finance Commission was fixed in such a way that the federal government could no longer reduce it as it wished.

The 18th Amendment named the North-West Frontier Province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This was a long-standing demand of the region’s Pashtuns in their struggle for cultural and political identity.

The amendment called the suspension of the constitution a “high level of treason” aimed at ensuring that a democratic system of government prevailed in Pakistan.
Similarly, the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court was brought under the purview of Parliament and several restrictions were imposed on the judicial right to uphold the suspension of the Constitution. The establishment of the Islamabad High Court was also implemented through the same amendment and the procedure for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner was also worked out based on the consensus of the government and the opposition.

What is the criticism on Eighteenth Amendment?

The first major challenge to the 18th Amendment was opposition to the Supreme Court, which objected to parliamentary approval for the appointment of its judges, and debated whether the amendment interfered with the independence of the judiciary. Attempt to regulate.
As a result of this objection, the 19th Amendment was passed, which reduced the supremacy of Parliament over the judiciary. Shortly afterwards, the Supreme Court returned control of several hospitals in Sindh and Punjab to the federation through a self-imposed judicial notice on provincial mismanagement, thus halting the transfer of powers to the provinces, which was the main purpose of the amendment.

The PTI federal government has also made criticism of the 18th Amendment part of its political agenda in recent years. It is of the view that giving education and health to the provinces in particular has made it impossible to implement uniform curriculum and uniform standards of education and health in the country. The country is facing difficulties in strengthening its defense and repaying its internal and external debts.

However, the solution to this problem is not to increase the share of the federation by cutting the already limited provincial funds, but to address its failures in collecting revenue, improve tax collection procedures and increase tax collection. Expand the foundation.
Since the 7th NFC Awards, the provinces have shown significant improvement in tax collection on their own, proving that tax collection can be increased if the government so desires and the availability of funds for defense and loans. Can be made possible.

Apart from the government, the bureaucracy also opposes the 18th Amendment. As the amendment eliminates several ministries at the federal level, the number of bureaucrats working there is also likely to shrink. Since the majority of bureaucrats are from Punjab, there is a risk of weakening traditional Punjabi control over the federation.
The most important issue regarding the 18th Amendment is its non-implementation. The promise to devolve power to the lower level through this amendment remained unfulfilled due to inactivity of local bodies. In many areas, power has not been fully transferred from the center to the provinces.

The Ministry of Inter-Provincial Liaison and the Council of Common Interests were set up to oversee the transfer of powers from the federation to the provinces. But successive governments have made these two institutions useless. Similarly, in addition to education and health, the federation has set up several ministries on other provincial issues, which has increased the number and expenditure of the federal bureaucracy instead of reducing it.

Instead of repealing the 18th Amendment, there is a need to intensify efforts to put it into practice.