Late Wednesday night the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR) led by PPP’s Mian Raza Rabbani signed the draft text of the “18th Amendment” to the Constitution of Pakistan.
The News reports that some are describing this as “the best constitutional thing to happen since the 1973 consensus Constitution. It is, indeed, a major – even a ‘historic’ – development.
However, given that this is Pakistan politics, it will be wise to wait until this actually passes through Parliament, actually becomes reality and its provisions are actually made clear. After all, we are quite used to things changing – dramatically at that – at the last minute, and sometimes even after the last minute!
I have been searching for a full text of the current draft but have not found it yet, meanwhile as I wade through the various reports of just what thsi means, here are a few salient points that seem to be clear. Will appreciate if readers can add more on exactly what changes are included and what they will mean for Paksiatn and its Constitution (from various news sources):
- Reportedly the draft of what is to become the 18th Amendment itself includes 95 amendments to the 1973 Constitution. These 95 amendments will effect 70 Articles of the existing Constitutions. There are three “schedules” and one “Annexure” in the draft package.
- In particular, the 18th Amendment will undo the impacts of the 8th Amendment (enacted by Gen. Zia ul Haq) which had altered over 90 Articles of the Constitution, and the 17th Amendment (enacted by Gen. Pervez Musharraf) which had altered 26 Articles of the Constitution.
- The famed article 58 (2) (b), which had first been inserted into the Constitution by Gen. Zia ul Haq and allows the President to dissolve Parliament, and which was re-enacted by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has been removed from the Constitution in the draft.
- The new name of the NWFP is to be Khyber-Pakhtunkwa. The PML-N which had long held out on this issue has reportedly agreed to this name change, although PML-Q has maintained some reservations to it as has PPP-Sherpao.
- On the other controversial issue of the composition of the Judicial Commission, the PML-N proposal of adding a seventh member who is a retired Supreme Court Judge has been accepted.
- The draft proposes removal of many past amendments added by military rulers, including the 17th Amendment.
- The draft abolishes the “concurrent list” and gives much more provincial autonomy than is now available to the provinces. The Council of Common Interest has been given additional powers and the provinces have been given more say on national matters by enhancing their representation in the council.
- Reportedly the draft “purges” the name of gen. Zia-ul-Haq as President from the Constitution (it is not yet clear what this means in practice).
- The next step in the process is for the draft to be now presented to the National Assembly after which the Government is expected to move the 18th Amendment for Parliamentary approval. It is expected that the draft will be tabled in Parliament within the next couple of days.
- The committee which worked on this draft for nine months includes representatives from all the political groups having representation in the two houses of parliament. It included: Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi, Syed Naveed Qamar, Babar Awan, Haji Lashkari Raisani, Ishaq Dar, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi, Wasim Sajjad, S M Zafar, Humayun Saifullah, Farooq Sattar, Haider Abbass Rizvi, Ahsan Iqbal, Afrasyab Khattak, Haji Muhammad Adeel, RehmatUallah Kakar, Abdul Razaq Taheem, Mir Israr Ullah Zehri, Professor Khursheed Ahmed, Hasil Bizenjo, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Abdul Rahim Mandokhel, Shahid Bugti, Munir Khan Orakzai, and Mian Raza Rabbani.
- The original Constitution was passed in the first PPP government, which has also been the architect of the first amendments to it.