By: Shahid Umar
The 18th constitutional amendment was passed on 20th April, 2010. Every member of the parliament unanimously agreed to the new constitutional changes. The 18th constitutional amendment has reformulated the structural outlines of the state through a paradigm shift from a highly centralized to a substantially decentralized federation.
Federalism refers to the mechanism through which power is divided among the constituent units and the federal government, in order to reduce the likelihood of an authoritarian or over centralized government (Hafeez, 2011) . In federalism power and resources are shared among constituent units, where every constituent unit has the autonomy to spend and collect revenue on its own behalf. Autonomy of each province is defined in constitution and the interference of federal government is limited up to an extent where constituent units can make certain decision on its own behalf related to spending and collection of resources. In this new constitutional framework Pakistan has introduced multilevel governance system by extending the autonomy of provinces through the process of decentralization at the lower layers of the local governance.
In this new amendment the power of the president of Pakistan was dissolved in order to eliminate the chances of military coup in future. Pakistan became a parliamentary republic from a presidential system, because presidential system caused political instability many times, in the case of military regimes, where civil powers were demolished. It was a first time in the history of Pakistan that a president himself transferred powers to the parliament and to the Prime Minister (Hafeez, 2011). The 2008-2013 term is often stated to be the first compete democratic change of power without a military president or a coup (Hafeez, 2011).
Implications of 18th amendment for federalism
Pakistan’s parliament has passed the 18th Amendment’s that, among other changes, gives the provincial governments greater autonomy under the constitution by abolishing the concurrent list and other related provisions. The full impact of the amendment’s many changes has yet to be fully analyzed and discussed by key stakeholders (Nabi, 2013). The 18th amendment eliminates the “Concurrent List,” i.e. ascertain of areas where both federal and provincial governments may legislate but federal law prevails. Laws governing marriage, contracts, firearms possession, labor, educational curriculums, environmental pollution, bankruptcy, and in 40 other diverse areas the provinces would have exclusive jurisdiction and each provincial assembly will be responsible for drafting its own laws on the issues. The 18th constitutional Amendment potentially impacts the mandate of several Federal Ministries and by implication increases the roles and responsibilities of the related institutions and administrative structures at the provincial level (Nabi, 2013).
The 18th constitutional amendment was a positive step towards the decentralization process in a country like Pakistan. It brought some positive implications for federalism in Pakistan. In this new amendment powers were dissolved to constituents units, which is the beauty of federalism. The bill enhanced provincial autonomy, where the president will no longer be able to unilaterally declare emergency rule in any province (Najam, 2010). The new amendment brought some remarkable changes which made the roots of federalism stronger than ever in Pakistan. The size of the cabinet was restricted to 11 percent of the members of parliament and respective provinces in order to ensure good governance. In federalism proper care for minorities are ensured, thus in order to protect the rights of minorities, four seats, one from each province are allocated for the minorities in senate. This initiative increases the strength of minorities in senate and say in general. Council of Common Interest’s formation was revised and Prime Minister was appointed as chairman. The council will be obligated to meet once in 90 days. The Council of Common Interest has been given additional powers and the provinces have been given more say on national matters by enhancing their representation in the council. The reformation in the Council of Common Interest was a step forward in the decentralization process, because provinces will bring their common issues on one table which will be address on time, and provinces would be able to pressurize federal government for their common needs and requirements (Najam, 2010).
In the new constitution provinces are required by law to establish local government systems, devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to elected representatives. The two major pillars of federalism which are the devolution of political and economic powers/rights to the constituent units. Provinces are provided with more political and economic autonomy in 18th amendment. Federal government would have less interference in the process of revenue spending, although federating unites still have no full autonomy of revenue/tax collection. Local government system is the beauty of federalism, where elected representatives hold offices. They are more aware of local issues, thus they can more easily address those issues as well. Amendment to article 157 says federal government must consult provincial government before installing hydroelectric power stations in any province (Najam, 2010). It means provinces are more autonomous in matters of developmental projects, and they will be consulted before the implementation of any project, even if it is related to national interest.
18th Amendment potential impact on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s political and economic progression
The name of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) was replaced by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the 18th constitutional amendment. Apart from this Council of Common Interest was made stronger in order to ensure regional autonomy and to reduce the autonomy of federal government on different issues. Each province was made more autonomous regarding their resources and certain tax collection/ spending, and other different developmental programs. Every province would have now balanced development and regional equity. Each province will be provided with balanced allocation of developmental spending, where no overlapping of spending will be ensured. Through NFC Award which is a constitutional body set up for the distribution of financial resources among the provinces by federal government on annual basis, called National Finance Commission Award. Certain types of taxes collected in each province are pooled, and then redistributed according to the NFC formula (SADAQAT, 2006). Regional equity was ensured under NFC award, where a less systematic approach has been adopted to decentralize the financial matters in Pakistan since the 6th NFC award. Population was the sole distribution criteria, adopted in all NFC awards from the divisible pool. This has raised friction among other provinces, demanding inclusion of other potential variables evolved from international best practices. Like other provinces, KP demanded distribution of resources and grants-in-Aid on the basis of their poverty level and backwardness (Hashmani, 2010). The demands were accepted under the 7th NFC award where amendment took place. Other amendments regarding empowerment of KPK contain, to have full control of social and production sector, which is related to economic independence of each province. KPK will ensure larger role in electricity, water sector and natural resources. Now the government of KPK will determine the distribution and transmission of electricity within the province and also to levy to levy tax on the consumption of electricity within the province. In case of any dispute between Federal Government and a Provincial Government in respect to any matter may move to the Council of Common Interest for resolution of the dispute. Federal Government will spend more money on provincial public sector development programs than Federal Government. KPK like other provinces are free to contract domestic and external debts for their development (Hashmani, 2010).
Different clauses were mentioned in the 18th constitutional amendment to ensure provincial political autonomy and long term progression. Clause which states that’ Provinces required by law to establish local government systems, devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to elected representatives. The devolution of political power to provinces was ensured under this clause. The provinces were provided autonomy to establish a fully functioned elected local government system. It is a positive aspect of a Federalist state to reach to the masses and answer their demands. It plays a very crucial role in KPK’s political progression, because citizens of KPK will elect their people who will represent them in local governments. The person whom they elect will be from their community, thus he will be answerable to his community. They will also have a say in political issues as well as in the allocation of funds for the key problems of the area. Local government also helps bringing political awareness among people, where they are able to elect people who they know they will work for their betterment and sound future. People can easily meet and discuss their issues with the elected representatives as they are from their community. Further Governor should be a resident and registered voter of his/her province, he/she would be appointed by president on prime minister’s advice, which also ensures provincial autonomy.
18th amendment has a positive potential impact on Khyber PakhutunKhwa’s political and economic progression. It plays a very crucial role in strengthening political process and economic progress by giving more autonomy to the Province.
Hafeez. (2011, june 25). 18th Constitutional Amendment and Provincial Autonomy. Retrieved from www.cssforum.com: http://www.cssforum.com.pk/general/news-articles/50945-18th-constitutional-amendment-provincial-autonomy.html
Hashmani, K. (2010). 18TH AMENDMENT AND PROVINCIAL AUTONOMY: AN UNFINISHED JOB. iaoj, 5-10.
Nabi, P. D. (2013, september 8). HIgher Education. Implications of 18th Amendment , pp. 1-3.
Najam, A. (2010, june 7). Highlights of the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Retrieved from dailytimespakistan.com.
SADAQAT, N. B. (2006). NFC Award Commentary and Agenda. Pakistan Economic and Social Review, 209-234 .