Giving by one hand, taking away by other
It is quite clear that under the illusion that the Committee was going to delete such articles as 58 (2-b) from the Constitution, and power was being transferred from the President to the Prime Minister and the Parliament was being made the seat of all decisions, the smart people revised about one third of the 1973 Constitution to give in place of the previous system Amendments with a blue print of a Wadera dynasty democracy. This system would be one tier higher than the new system of an empowered Prime Minister and empowered Parliament.
So, at first glance at the Amendments an impression is gathered that by removing the obnoxious articles which had made Prime Minister an errand boy of the President and made the Parliament like a rubber stamp a “democratic” order is being established, but only till some vital ifs and buts are discovered in reading the text further.
Briefly, to avoid technical language of the Amendment: Prime Minister can be elected by a minority and will not be required to get a vote of confidence. This is most unusual because it is universal practice in all parliamentary form of governments for the Prime Minister to get a vote of confidence even if he does not enjoy majority but only plurality in the House. It seems that this provision has been provided for the eventuality that PPP gains plurality but is denied majority in any future elections and retains its Sind vote bank but gets slim support in other provinces.
Another provision which is most unusual – in fact does not exist in any democratic system in the world is Article 63 A of the Amendment which gives power to the Party Head to disqualify virtually any (dissenting) member of the Parliament of his party as member . Senator S M Zafar was right in objecting to this clause to unseat a party member even if the Party Head is unelected, or even exiled or residing abroad permanently. It is this provision and deletion of the requirement of the annual elections in the Political parties which change the nature of the Constitution from democractic to Wadera or dynastic democracy, if such a thing can be called democratic.
By removing the constitutional requirement of having annual elections in the Party , it is permitted that the same party bosses remain in power and have the power to be the Qabza Group. Normally such persons are the waderas with dynasty claims to be in control of the Party. It negates democracy and allows dynastic control and in practice keeps wadera power base in tact.
An interesting explanation of who the Party heads are, since it omits mention of the Chairman or President of the Party as its head but just uses a broad description. It is defined in the Constitution Amendment as follows” Explanation: “Party Head” means any person by whatever name called, declared as such by the Party”. This seems to have been put to make Mr Zardari as the Party Head since the Chairman of the Party is Bilawal and too young to assume this responsibility. His over all control over the Government is thus ensured.
Let us take the implications of this provision on democracy. Since the Party Head can remove even the Prime Minister it retains in fact the power to control the Members of his party in the Assembly and Senate. He can pull strings in the Parliament sitting outside it or if President in the same manner as he did through Art 58 (2b). Hence it takes away the freedom given to the Prime Minister not to be removed by the President . This is where this provision takes away the empowerment of the Prime Minister other wise granted by repealing Art 58 (2b). Come to consider the effects of this provision of powers of the Party Head, this means that there will be another tier of unseen players of politics controlling the deliberations of the Parliament . A tier above the Parliament where super deliberations will and can take place making Parliament subordinate to the inter-Party Heads parleys, etc. In other words the Parliamentary system will be for mundane issues but vital issues will be at this super leadership level. This is not parliamentary democracy, as it is understood and practiced in all democratic rules.
Another objectionable element of this Amendment is to introduce a divisive concept of ethnic nationalism, that is by giving the seal of approval to the name of Pakhtunkhawa even though with a feeble suffix Khyber to the new name of the NWFP or Sarhad Province. After all, the province had been known for a long time as Sarhad and no other area was identified by this description. This name has a historical connotation and associated with a failed project when it had become manifest that Pakistan was coming in existence. Abul Kalam Azad in his “India Wins Freedom” had described how it was raised in the Congress by the founding father of ANP. Pakhtunkhawa is not just a description, it has a history. In fact in Hazara area, in public demonstrations this very fact was raised. It is surprising that Muslim League with any alphabet should not be mindful of these facts. It is the custodian of Pakistan idea, ideology and history. It a mistake when Nawaz Sharif became double minded on naming the Province as Pakhtunkhawa. At first he rejected the name and then in three days he changed his stand. He should have known what the Quaid had said on ethnicity. He had said if you start thinking as Balochis, Pakhtuns, Punjabis, Bengalis, Pakistan will disintegrate. The excat word he used was “disintegrate” A national leader should decide firmly what is good for the country and national cohesion and having done so, he should stick to his stand. This can be done softly without adopting a confrontationist posture but firmness on basic issues is essential.
Future will be the judge whether the fears that acceptance of Pakhtunkhawa has opened a pandora’s box for decimation of the present state quo. One must remind politicos that one should be very careful in disturbing the status quo which has existed for quite a long time for it becomes time tested. To resort to an excuse that the name or practice was creation of the “colonial” days of British rule is hardly logic. No doubt the British were colonialist master but they have done many good things. Would one like to dismantle Guddu Barrage because it was built by the British and so on so forth. For wadseras who flourished under colonialist patronage, and were bestowed Jagirs for services to the British Raj this charge is quite amusing. India whose democratic credentials are accepted by the world, is six times bigger in population and area than Pakistan, but it has kept in tact many British practices like District administration. One must say the Administration during the Raj was hundred time more efficient than we had after independence. This is just to underline the record of administration in the past.
To end the article, in concept the 18th Amendment has tried to consolidate the hold of the Wadera-dynasty leadership , created a higher tier of Party Leaders who will in fact determine the role of their MPs. The Party Leaders can unseat them , even the Prime Minister of he is from their party, for not toeing the party line. This used to be the authority of the Party in Communist countries and for this reason they were described as “delegates” not Member Parliament . So our MPs are now delegates not MPs. An MP has considerable freedom but a delegate has none. The worst fear is that it will give boost to the demand of creation of a number of new provinces. The ethnic approach is a negation of Pakistan ideology. The control of the Parliament by Party leaders is an anathema to democracy. It was alright under communism not in liberal democracy.
However, we have to approve the 18th Amendment for at present nothing better can be expected. This is all we can do and no more. This is the end result of the giving time , talent and expertise. Nothing better is possible. Since this 18th Amendment serves the interests of a particular political party and its ideas of what Pakistan should be, it does not have the long range view of what Pakistan’s Constitution should be. The framers of the Constitution should have the broad perspective of the country’s future demands so that the Constitution lasts longer. Durability of the Constitution is a measure of political matyrity of a country. The 1973 Constitution had that vision. In all likelihood demands will be made for amendment to it . It remains to be seen what future will tell.
— The writer is a PhD in Political Science from Ottawa University,Canada (1952-55).