May Issue 2010

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 9 years ago

Will the 18th Amendment usher in a new phase in the chequered history of our land? The euphoria that greeted its passage has already given way to more sober reflection.

There is no doubt that the passage of the amendment is a landmark in our democratic history. For once, opposing political forces in Pakistan chose to set aside their differences to move towards a common goal, that of the restoration of the Constitution to its rightful state, shorn of the distortions imposed upon it by a succession of men in uniform.

Although the historic accord was almost scuttled more than once, good sense and reason won the day.

The 18th Amendment augurs well for the federation as it takes the just demands of the provinces into account. It recognises their rights over their own natural resources and looks towards a more equitable distribution of the common pool. The Concurrent List stands deleted, shifting the balance of power between the centre and the provinces.

No longer will the sword of Damocles hang over an elected prime minister’s head, as the president’s power to dissolve the assembly, an outcome of the notorious 8th Amendment, stands withdrawn. The 18th Amendment also affirms the citizen’s right to freedom of information and makes it obligatory for the state to provide free and compulsory education for children from five to 16 years of age.

However, some changes brought about by the amendment have proved more welcome than others. While the ANP rejoiced at the acceptance of its long-standing demand to change the name of the erstwhile North West Frontier Province to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Hazara burned as its Hindko-speaking population protested the move. The changes proposed in the mode of judicial appointments may once again bring the tussle between the executive and judiciary to a head.

Prime Minister Gilani announced an increase in the minimum wage on May Day, but sceptical workers waited for the day when official policy would translate into action on the ground. The right to form or join a union remained out of reach for agricultural workers.

The resurgence of suicide attacks was a grim reminder that our troubles with the Taliban are far from over. While some militant leaders declared dead or missing resurfaced, the ferocity of the attacks raised the ante.

Were we celebrating a silver lining while the clouds continued to hover?

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Tehmina Ahmed is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. She is a senior editor at Newsline and head of Newsline Films.