HYDERABAD: A group of civil society leaders has made quite a critical evaluation of 18th constitutional amendment bill and said that Sindh remained the major loser once again because neither the issue of provincial autonomy nor of natural resources was properly addressed under the package.
Sindh Democratic Forum (SDF) convener Zulfikar Halepoto and former vice-chancellor of the Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam Dr Rajab Memon, who has now joined the Sindh Tarraqi Passand Party and former bureaucrat Hashim Leghari, blamed the PPP government for once again failing to represent the people of Sindh on such matter of importance.
Mr Halepoto and Mr Memon spoke of their assessment of the 18th constitutional amendment almost clause by clause at a discussion on “Does 18th amendment ensure provincial autonomy”, held at the Sindh Participatory Organisation in Qasimabad.
Crux of SDF convener’s presentation was that important articles were not either touched deliberately or properly defined. It was described that the amendment was gender blind.
Consultation between the prime minister and the president over strategic issues and appointments (Article 243) is not explained precisely. Eligibility of a citizen to become a member of parliament (Article 62) is not touched and minorities have recorded their reservations over it always. Article 23 which deals with right to vote remained untouched while issues pertaining to the Concurrent List remained ambiguous.
Mr Halepoto was quite critical that not a single dissenting note had been incorporated by the PPP or those representing Sindh, whereas on the contrary the MQM had given proposals that were progressive in nature and it was from their own political viewpoint.
The Senate has been ignored on question of power sharing and the National Assembly will have the sole authority to do whatever it deems fit, implying that if there is absolute majority of one party it can go ahead with Kalabagh Dam’s construction.
“Stage is all set for a Punjab’s prime minister to have absolute powers in future and Sindhi-speaking president stands deprived of his powers, but he himself is also responsible for it too,” Mr Halepoto added.
He said that on the curriculum issue the PML-N sought to undermine lingual diversity by seeking curriculum’s outlook.
Presentation by Dr Memon targeted Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar of the PPP for not making any input to it from Sindh’s perspective.
“Unfortunately this has been the track record of his (minister’s) family in Sindhi right from Meeran Mohammad Shah to Naveed Qamar as far as Sindh is concerned,” he said.
He discussed the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR) numerically to say that Sindh-speaking people remained under-represented and the committee had transgressed its authority by taking upon itself to reform entire constitution which was not its mandate.
The PCCR made terms of reference on its own which otherwise should have been come from the National Assembly Speaker. It was to only strike down the 17th constitutional amendment and Article 58(2)b, but appreciated that the seventeenth amendment had been struck down.
On provincial autonomy, the PCCR met with an utter failure as it didn’t adhere to commitments made on some points of the Charter of Democracy that called for formation of truth and reconciliation commission, independent accountability commission, national democratic commission, scrutiny and review of military and cantonment lands.
Composition of the National Economic Council (Article 156) remains questionable as it will have four chief ministers and four others to be nominated by the prime minister. Nominees could be from one province to undermine Sindh’s interests.
Resources’ ownership has been attributed to the centre instead of the provinces.
Letters to the Editor ; 18th Amendment: do more
Friday, 16 Apr, 2010
This is apropos of your editorial ‘Historic’ (April 9). It is significant that after many decades a parliamentary committee composed of different political parties and ideologies has done a great job of removing anti-people amendments to the Constitution by the military, but there is still space to do more.
If we look at the terms of reference, the committee was supposed to deal with three main areas, namely the 17th Amendment, the Charter of Democracy (CoD) and the provincial autonomy.
Although they have done justice with the 17th Amendment repeal except some clauses related to women’s seats, joint electorate and voters’ age, many important articles were either not touched deliberately or properly defined related to the CoD and provincial autonomy.
Basically, the committee had transgressed its authority by taking upon itself to reform the entire constitution which was not its mandate.
On the other hand, the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR) made terms of reference on its own which otherwise should have been done from the National Assembly Speaker’s Secretariat.
The CoD had promised to establish a truth and reconciliation commission, independent accountability commission, national democratic commission, and scrutiny and review of military and cantonment lands, and inclusion of Fata into Pakhtoonkhwa.
But the PCCR met with utter failure as it didn’t adhere to commitments made by Benazir Bhutto.
In Article 243, consultation between the prime minister and the president over strategic issues and appointments is not explained precisely. Article 62 regarding the eligibility of a citizen to become a member of parliament is not touched and it is a clear threat for minorities and other progressive and secular people of Pakistan.
In Article 156, the composition of the National Economic Council remains questionable as it will have eight members from each province, including chief ministers and four others, who will be nominated by the prime minister.
Sindh is under heavy migration influx, but Article 23, which deals with the right to vote, remained untouched while issues pertaining to the Concurrent List remained vague.
On the other hand, resources’ ownership has been attributed to the centre instead of the provinces. The issue of provinces’ right to control their natural resources and recognition of Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi and Punjabi as national languages had not been addressed.
Pakistan is a bicameral parliamentary system. But the Senate has been ignored on question of power sharing and the National Assembly will have the sole powers to control all decisions of the federation.
Unfortunately, all 100 changes are mostly related to the power-sharing formula between powerful lobbies sitting in Islamabad.
‘Democracies must necessarily be forward-looking’ but not at the cost of denial of centuries’-old national identities and deprivation of control over natural resources.
Sindh Democratic Forum
Source ; Dawn