ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Progressive Step

In a significant move, political parties in Pakistan legislate on building a genuine parliamentary democracy.

Initiating a reversal of the mangling of the original 1973 constitution by military dictators Zia ul Haq and Pervez Musharraf, a package of constitutional reforms, collectively called the 18th amendment has been agreed to by representatives of all the major political parties in Pakistan. The package has a slew of progressive measures, the most prominent being the stripping of the president’s powers to dissolve the elected National Assembly – through the dreaded Article 58(2b) that is to be repealed. The reforms also include transferring executive powers from the president to the prime minister, granting of genuine provincial autonomy, enacting legislation that should discourage military coups, and providing for the institution of local government systems. The package, which has been unanimously approved by the National Assembly, would bring Pakistan’s political system closer to a genuine parliamentary democracy, as was envisaged in the 1973 constitution that was enacted under the stewardship of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. As we write this, the amendment still awaits endorsement by the Senate in order for it to become law.

The measures effecting a greater decentralisation of power through the abolition of the “Concurrent List” and giving provinces the power to be directly responsible for various affairs were needed in a nation that has seen much grievance at the regional level and has experienced many degrees of strife on the centralisation of power in the federal structure. The package of reforms has set a deadline of 30 June 2011 for the transfer of various subjects under the Concurrent List to the provinces from the centre. The 1973 constitution had envisaged doing away with the Concurrent List after 10 years to provide for greater provincial autonomy. Within the aegis of the 18th amendment, that intent has now been more or less realised. The renaming of the North West Frontier Province as “Khyber-Pakhtoonkhawah” provides for the recognition of the Pathan identity in the region. The provision for the establishment of a caretaker government – both at the provincial and national levels – just before elections is another important measure that attempts to create a strong neutrality during the conduct of elections.

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