Statement of Syed Qalb-i-Hassan,
President, Supreme Court Bar Association on
During initial turbulent political events, right from the independence, unfortunately, we could not have the Constitution for our Homeland for a long time. Although the Constitution of 1956 was framed but was not allowed to remain in the field and that of 1962, having been made by the Military Dictator Gen. Ayub Khan, without backing of chosen representatives of the People was never accepted by the people of Pakistan. However, it was after more than two decades and that too after 1971 debacle, that our Homeland was able to get the Constitution of 1973, unanimously passed by the Parliament comprising of chosen representatives of all the Federating Units based on Federal democratic system of Government. The Constitution of 1973, remained in practice for about little more than four years when as a result of Martial Law of Gen. Zia Ul Haq, the same, unfortunately, was held in abeyance and as such the Country was governed undemocratically during a long military Rule of Gen. Zia Ul Haq. During his dictatorial Rule the Constitution was entirely de-shaped and its democratic characteristic was altogether converted into authoritarian document by the military dictator. More or less the same position of the Constitution continued during the military regime of Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf. However, only after his departure, the Parliament comprising of chosen representatives of the people was able to restore the democratic and Federal characteristics of the Constitution of 1973 by bringing about the 18th Amendment which paved the way for Pakistan to become a true Federation by granting effective legislative and financial autonomy to the Provinces whereas previously the strong centralized rule was the substantial cause of political instability in the Country. It is heartening that the 18th Amendment has strengthened the democratic dispensation by ensuring political transitions through electoral process. It is the high time for all, across the power spectrum, to realize that greater autonomy to Provinces has ensured strengthening of the State by providing greater dynamism to the system. As the Provincial Governments are actually responsible to serve people at grass root level by setting up infrastructures for good governance, it is imperative that the Provinces, under the original scheme of the 1973 Constitution, enjoy maximum autonomy to serve the people and safeguard their rights and interests, for which it is necessary that all the stake holders, may be at the center or at Provinces, should also make concerted efforts for strengthening and empowering the local Government system across the Country.
However, unfortunately, of late, a calculative move has been launched against the 18th Amendment purportedly claiming that as a result thereof, a large amount of financial resources stand transferred to the Provinces thus confining the monetary space for the Federal Government that is responsible for servicing debt and expenditure of defense. This argument, prima facie, does not look to be convincing as after paying for defense and debt servicing, the Federal Government still has surplus to meet other expenses. Moreover, the Federal Government could improve its financial situation by increasing its tax base and revenue collection.
It is, therefore, imperative that democratic process and the Provincial autonomy as ensured after bringing about the 18th Amendment, in line with original scheme of the 1973 Constitution, must not be compromised only for the sake of economy, rather it be safeguarded by all democratic forces in the larger interest of the Country and continuity of the Federal democratic system of Government as enshrined in the Constitution of 1973. Of course, there is no doubt that greater autonomy of the Provinces ensures strengthening of the State rather than weakening it.