By Ijazul Haq
1. A lot has been written and said in the last few weeks on various aspects of the 18th Amendment, its enactment and efficacy. The Government functionaries and party fan-farons are beating drums and blowing their trumpets claiming
as if the said piece of legislation will turn this Land of Scarcity into an worrying about shortage of water and water related issues. The Parliament, in fact, the Eden with streams of milk and honey flowing from North to South. Every breathing soul would be served and satiated to full satisfaction. The nation is thus assured and well-advised to stop poor people themselves would be powered, empowered and enriched to the extent that they would cease to brave through the summer nights with power outages and energy crisis.
2. The public is confused about the wisdom for keeping the Public Law and Act of Parliament affecting their destiny away from public eye. It is fundamental right of the Electorate to be kept informed on such issues. The shrouded secrecy, in-camera sessions of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms and the reported Affidavits and Affirmations by its Members not to divulge any shred for public consumption and public scrutiny is not a democratic norm.
3. The Committee has transgressed by proposing such a large scale amendments to the Constitution almost altering Basic Structure. Dictates of democracy would have demanded the recommendations to be referred to the Electorate via a Referendum to seek popular approval. The Government and Friendly Opposition in mutual back-scratching have agreed to act in unison in ignoring public opinion and popular aspirations – manifestation being the fatal unrest in Hazara and deafening demands of similar sorts across the country. The Pakhtoons in Balochistan have also raised their voice for ethnic recognition never heard of earlier. Naming and demarcation of motherland on the basis of parochial leanings, ethnic, linguistic, racial and regional entities and identities would be a severe blow to the Federalism, national cohesion, unity and unanimity. After a calculated and determined move by Ruling Party to de-throne its faithful and sincere ally in Hyderabad, it should surprise no one if MQM demands demarcation of a new Province to comprise and consist of Karachi and Sukkur only. All Branches of Earth knowledge-Geology, Geography, Oceanography would fail to carve out the physical boundaries of such a geographical unit. The farrago of Jay Bangla, Sindhudesh, Pakhtoonistan and Greater Balochistan should serve as an eye opener. The Parliament has acted beyond its mandate to have assumed the functions of a Constituent Assembly.
4. We all applaud and appreciate the provisions strengthening the Parliament and Parliamentary Democracy. But the self-congratulating and jubilating Jiyalas must mourn the fundamental changes of far-reaching fatal consequences that have been stealthily incorporated. Knowing the infancy of our leaders and the system, I had advocated retaining of provisions and powers like appointment to Higher Defence Organization and 58(2) b with The Presidency. These sensitive matters required a national and apolitical approach. An insinuating and disguised move appears to have been made by amending the procedure for appointment to Higher Judiciary. This is highly dangerous a move to politicize the sensitive national Institutions.
5. Most of the Political Parties and more so the PML(N) stand for rule of Law, Independence of Judiciary and the whole edifice of Administration of Justice. The confusing and mixed signals and statements emanating from PML(N) quarters on ongoing debate of Judiciary v/s Parliament have flabbergasted the common man. Nation seems to be standing squarely behind the Judiciary.
6. Through Amendment to Section 62 and 63 of the Constitution 1973, relating to Disqualification of the MPs, the said disqualification has been made temporary and conditional as opposed to the earlier position. This is outright manure to mockery of the justice and rule of law. Originally it was ordained that a person convicted for ridiculing and defaming Judiciary, Armed Forces, and Ideology of Pakistan would cease to be an MP. The Framers of the Constitution wanted to ensure that law violators of such conduct and character are kept away from representing the masses. By insertion, such individuals have been made eligible to gatecrash and re-enter the August Houses after a brief whiling away, outside. They will do so with a triumphant air and intention for repeat performance of bravado and the mindset they represent. “Khareed Lo” and “Chheen Lo” are the reflections of mindset hard for the rulers to resist. This mindset has been at play at the highest level. Five months back, the full court Bench of the Supreme Court ordered the Rulers to try their hand in a letter-writing bid. Having failed the test, they are flexing muscles opting for a duel. It is no denying the fact that these ragamuffin rogues are behind this insertion and now out to attain retention of this clause. This will be an embarrassment for sensitive national Institutions of Judiciary and Armed Forces.
7. In Pakistan where a few powerful families and individuals rule the roost, the contemptuous conduct, or such and similar attitude is an entertaining pastime and a picnical excursion. Such a display is repeated with regularity for personal ego and authoritarianism. NOT too distant judicial history can be revisited to prove the point, where even the Highest Judiciary was assaulted and intimidated.
8. The Party in power and its Allies have done a great service to Democracy by substitution of clause 63A introducing and imposing Dictatorship in the peoples representation. Our unanimously elected Prime Minister and seasoned politicians are now at the whimsical mercy of our student Chairman. Same and similar should be the situation for other eminent political personalities at the hands and pleasure of their political supremos and “Party Heads”.
9. For most of Pakistan, a Feudal, Wadera, Khan and Nawab is the Court. Lower judiciary is already under pressure and influence of local Lords. Policing system on which the whole judicial system is dependant is already under severe strain and striving to prove its neutrality and true functions. It is incapable to be an effective instrument of the State. The national institutions have been rendered redundant to the extent that they have lost credence and credibility for the citizenry. This has eroded governance. Today, there exists a Government. There are the Royals and the Masters. There are the subjects and the slaves. There are the Rulers and the ruled. But the State has collapsed and the State Institutions have disappeared. The corruption and misrule have eaten into the vitals of the State. We need to re-build these Institutions afresh.
10. The most important aspects seem to have been overlooked or deliberately shelved ie Transparency in Accountability Laws and Independence and Neutrality of Election Commission and Electoral Process. This could have been achieved by placing both these Institutions beyond the orbit and maneuverable reach of both the Government as well as the Opposition – leaving their vital functions to the Judiciary. It would have brought some measure of transparency, neutrality, Accountability, honest Administration and good governance.
11. Without any fear of being refuted or a contradiction, I state that these so-called land mark democratic amendments cleansing the Constitution have NOT at all been discussed at any of the intra-party of Inter-party fora before being bull-dozed through Parliament within a few hours.
12. The Parliament, Judiciary, Executive and other Organs of the State are all products and off-shoots drawing their strength and sustenance from the Constitution. Each and every one of them has its own defined and definite role and functions to perform. The Superior judiciary cannot be denied and deprived of its mandated function and power of a Judicial Review.
13. We know the emptiness of the most stated hollow argument that the Parliament is supreme and sovereign. It only states the myopic mediocrity of those making such a statement. We all know the myth and the reality. It is deceptive and inaccurate to say that one Organ or the other has sovereignty and supremacy or either is subservient. For supremacy and sovereignty, Constitution, (whether written or otherwise), should be the Bible, and NOT the off-shoots or its off-springs.