Issues with the 18th amendment

The 18th amendment was passed under the leadership of PPP in April 2010. Some key features of the 18th amendment entailed:

1. North-West Frontier Province has been renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

2. The ban on third time prime ministership and chief ministership has been lifted

3. Holding constitution in abeyance is tantamount to high treason

4. The Council of Common Interests (CCI) has been reconstituted with the prime minister as its chairperson and the body should meet at least once in 90 days

5. Control over a range of ministries was devolved at a provincial level- these included:

  • Ministry of Education became Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training.
  • Ministry of Archaeology and Culture became Ministry of Culture.
  • Ministry of environment became Ministry of Climate Change.
  • Ministry of health became Ministry of National Health Services.
  • Regulation and Coordination, Ministry of special initiatives abolished at federal level.
  • Ministry of labour and manpower became Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development.
  • Ministry of local government and rural development abolished at federal level.
  • Ministry of minorities’ affairs merged with the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
  • Ministry of population welfare abolished at federal level.
  • Ministry of social welfare and special education abolished at federal level, Ministry of sports became Pakistan Sports Board at federal level and given to provinces.
  • Ministry of tourism’s powers given to Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation,
  • Ministry of women development abolished at federal level.
  • Ministry of youth affairs abolished at federal level and Ministry of Zakat and Ushr abolished at federal level given to provinces.

The list indicates that a vast responsibilities of socio-economic development fall within the scope of the provincial governments. However, the performance at a provincial level especially in certain areas remains highly questionable and ridden with corruption. The CCI was set in place a mediatory body between the federal and provinces- which under the last government was rarely utilized. The legislative harmony is further hampered by political competitions – where various political parties have come to treat their representative provinces as personal power domains- instead of working closely with the center to ensure a unanimous and efficient socio-economic uplift takes place. Ethnic sentiments are then used for political gains which further polarizes the public unity. The center is spending a significant portion on the provinces with dismal results in exchange.

There are two key areas that appear to be problematic in the 18th amendment . One has to do with devolution and the other with NFC awards.

Regarding the vertical part of the NFC formula, some people think that the federation has reduced its share too much. Some have even argued that the current fiscal deficit issues that the federation faces has a lot to do with this vertical arrangement in the NFC. Since the federation keeps too little, while its expenditure needs and commitments are large, it has to run a deficit. If the basis for the NFC could be redone, the deficit issue might be easier to address. The effective utility of this expenditure can be harnessed if the devolution of power is being handled responsibly. In theory, the devolution of power especially in localized matters such as health and education- it is only preferable to delegate the authority to localized governments, but at the same time- who then monitors the effective implementation of governance? The recent past has witnessed a rising judicial activism in Pakistan- perhaps the centralized legal structure should check the abuses of power, poor governance and corruption.

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