13 Years Of The 18th Amendment To The Constitution

13 Years Of The 18th Amendment To The Constitution
LAHORE: Today marks the 13th anniversary of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan that was signed into law on April 19 2010, marking a significant milestone in the country's political history. The Amendment was the outcome of a long struggle for devolution of power, better governance, and strengthening democratic institutions. One of the key figures in the passage and implementation of the 18th Amendment was none other than Asif Ali Zardari, the former president of Pakistan.

The 18th Amendment was perhaps the most significant constitutional change in the history of Pakistan since the adoption of the 1973 Constitution. It aimed to address some of the systemic problems that had plagued the country's governance structure for decades. The Amendment abolished the concurrent legislative list, devolved power from the federal to the provincial governments, and introduced the concept of local government. It also provided for judicial reforms and increased economic autonomy to the provinces. The amendment was a reflection of the aspirations of the people of Pakistan for a more democratic, equitable, and prosperous country.

Asif Ali Zardari, who became the president of Pakistan in 2008, was a strong advocate of the 18th Amendment. He realized that the concentration of power at the federal level had led to neglect of the provinces and an unaccountable government. He believed that empowering the provinces and reducing the role of the federal government would lead to greater efficiency, better service delivery, and more responsive governance. Zardari worked tirelessly to build consensus among the political parties, civil society organizations, and stakeholders for the passage of the amendment.

Zardari's role in the passage of the 18th Amendment cannot be overstated. He played a pivotal role in negotiating with the political parties to secure their support for the amendment. He also engaged civil society organizations and provincial governments to obtain their feedback and suggestions. Zardari's personal commitment to the cause of devolution of power and democratization of Pakistan was a driving force behind the amendment's adoption.

Once the Amendment was signed into law, Zardari turned his attention to its implementation. He understood that the real challenge was to translate the provisions of the amendment into tangible outcomes on the ground. Zardari worked closely with the provincial governments to ensure that they had the capacity and resources to implement the new reforms. He also supported the establishment of local government structures to bring government closer to the people.

Zardari's efforts paid off, and the 18th Amendment ushered in a new era of devolution and decentralized governance in Pakistan. The provinces were able to exercise greater autonomy, and the local government structures ensured that the needs and priorities of the people were addressed at the grassroots level. The judiciary also became more independent and effective in upholding the rule of law. The economic benefits of the amendment were also apparent, with the provinces being able to control their resources and plan their own development strategies.

However, the 18th Amendment and Zardari's legacy are not without controversy. There are those who argue that the Amendment has weakened the federal government and made Pakistan's federation unworkable. Others claim that the Amendment has entrenched the power of feudal elites and further marginalized disadvantaged communities. There are also those who criticize Zardari for using the Amendment as a tool for personal gain and for ensuring his own political survival.

The 18th Amendment and Asif Ali Zardari's role in its passage and implementation are important landmarks in Pakistan's political history. The Amendment was a significant step towards decentralized governance, participatory democracy, and economic empowerment of the provinces. Zardari's leadership, vision, and perseverance were instrumental in overcoming the political hurdles and achieving this historic milestone. While there are valid critiques of the amendment, its overall impact has been positive, and it remains a beacon of hope for those who seek a more democratic and equitable Pakistan.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.