Constitutional Amendments

Once again, there has been discussion regarding the 18th Amendment in the corridors of powers and warning from the opposition over any attempts to switch over to a presidential system.
Federal Minister Asad Umar said changes in the 18th Amendment must be discussed with an open heart as there have been gaps among coordination with provinces. The PTI has shown it displeasure over the landmark legislature and said to make changes in the constitution.
An attempt was made in the Senate to amend Article 160 with regards to the NFC Award, another sticking point between the government and provinces. The amendment sought to take into consideration the requirement and liabilities of the federation in the NFC Award. This was stopped as the PTI does not have a majority in the Upper House.
The opposition has warned the government from fiddling with 1973 Constitution and any attempt to roll back the 18th Amendment that ensures provincial autonomy and introducing a presidential form of government. The PTI claims there is a provision for making changes to the Constitution and such issues should be discussed in parliament.
It needs to be seen whether the PPP or PML-N would continue their inflexible stance on the 18th Amendment and reach political consensus on the matter. The law was the signature achievement of the PPP era and the party has maintained that there shall be no compromise as it could alter the essence of the Constitution.
Under the 18th Amendment, the president handed over powers to parliament including a controversial law that allowed him to send an elected government packaging. It devolved power to provinces, removal from the concurrent list and granted complete autonomy on educational policies.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has a differing opinion and wants to remove the anomalies from the 18th Amendment. He said that some federal subjects were wrongly devolved and should be returned, while there were few resources left behind for vital subjects such as defence and debt repayments.
The parliament has the right to make changes to the Constitution which is an adaptive document subject to change with socio-political realities. The government does not intend to repeal the amendment and has the prerogative to bring amendments in the Constitution.
The government should also ensure that years of legislative effort is not undone and provincial autonomy which strengthens democracy is not curtailed. Whether lawmakers need to revisit the landmark legislature still remains a contentious issue.
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