The 18th Amendment can be seen as a turning point in Pakistan’s political and constitutional history, since the consensus expressed by all parties to 18th Amendment was a rare phenomenon. Previously, this example was recorded at the time of the adoption of the 1973 Constitution, with an extraordinary consensus of all parties.
It should be noted that the 1973 Constitution is much better than the previous two constitutions in terms of social, economic and political rights, provincial autonomy and identity, and the distribution of economic resources between the centre and the provinces.
The 18th amendment was adopted by the National Assembly on April 8, 2010, and was adopted by the Senate on April 15, 2010, and became an Act of the Parliament when President Asif Ali Zardari, on April 19, 2010, signed this amendment.
The main tension of the 18th Amendment was the diminution of the powers of the President, since the 1973 Constitution was originally in parliamentary form. However post-Zia Pakistan has had many power struggles, mainly between the prime minister and the president of Pakistan.
Take former President Ghulam Ishaq Khan as an example. Khan used his powers to block both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from declining the powers of the president, and eventually used the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan to remove them from power on separate occasions. This highlights the difficulty of repealing the Eighth Amendment in the past, since a law could not be passed without the President’s signature, and Presidents in general do not accept to reduce their own power.
This changed when the PPP came to power in 2008, and Asif Ali Zardari became president. Now he was ready to let the government diminish its powers. And, therefore, we come to the 18th Amendment.
The Eighteenth Amendment eliminated the power of the President of Pakistan to unilaterally dissolve Parliament and force the Prime Minister’s opinion for such action. It converts the Islamic Republic of Pakistan from a semi-presidential republic into a parliamentary republic.
Other characteristics of the amendment are: The name of the former president of Pakistan, General Zia, has been removed from the text of the Constitution; The Province of the Northwest Frontier has been renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; The 17th Amendment and the order of the legal framework presented by Musharraf have been repealed; The ban on third time Prime-Ministership and Chief-Ministership was lifted; The Council of Common Interests (CCI) was reconstituted with the Prime Minister as President and the body had to meet at least once every 90 days; A judicial commission had to recommend the procedure for the appointment of superior judges and the final names of the judges were decided by a parliamentary commission; A senior election commissioner has been appointed by consensus between the Treasury and the Opposition; Establishment of the Superior Court of Islamabad and the superior courts of Mingora and Turbat.
So, in a nutshell, Amendment 18 was the leap from Musharraf’s dictatorship to a parliamentary republic that Pakistan desperately needed. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan is an important step forward for the parliamentary system in the country. It promises more autonomy to the provinces than a popular demand presented by a series of political parties.
In addition to the political restructuring it mandates the amendment also has some important implications for the country’s education system. Through it a new article, 25A, has been inserted in the constitution that says: “Right to education: the state will provide free and compulsory education to all children between five and 16 years of age in the manner determined by law.” This is an important company of the state since education, in contemporary times, is considered an important tool to improve the possibilities of socioeconomic development.
In Pakistan, a large number of students do not have access to schools or drop out before reaching fifth grade. An important reason behind the high dropout rate is poverty, and as a result, a large number of children remain illiterate and cannot be part of the group of literate human resources, which is vital for the development of a country. An effective implementation of this article of the constitution would undoubtedly pave the way to enrich the national human capital.
Another important implication of the 18th Amendment for education is that the curriculum, the curriculum, the planning, the policies, the centers of excellence and the education standards will fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces.
This is a great step forward for education. The 18th Amendment, passed unanimously by the parliament, was the result of a rare consensus among all the major political parties. However, after forming part of the constitution, strong voices of dissidence emerged from different parties, including the Ministry of Education.
A campaign has been launched to spread the idea that the provinces are not prepared to take on the massive challenge of dealing with the provision of education. This claim is based on the assumption that the provinces do not have the capacity or financial resources to face the enormous challenge before them.
It has been argued that the content of the curricula should remain in the federation, since the provinces can take liberties that can put at risk the unity and ideology of the country. Critics have asked how the standards would be maintained in the provinces and how quality would be guaranteed. What if all the provinces introduced regional languages in schools? Would this weaken the federation?
Looking at the points above, one can understand the federation’s concern about the future of education once it becomes a provincial responsibility. However, this concern seems to come mainly from the lack of confidence in the capacity and capacity of the provinces.
However, it is interesting to note that the provinces already offer school and university education and have the capacity (in terms of intellectual resources) to manage the work. With respect to the funds, the provinces fund education with their budgets. The federation only grants partial grants to universities.
Provinces should have the autonomy to design curricula based on students’ needs and contextual requirements. If the federation is very concerned about the subject of the program, it can keep Islamiat and Pakistan Studies under its control. Curricula for other subjects should be designed by interested provinces. Education standards can be monitored by provincial quality assurance departments and the interprovincial coordinating committee. Similarly, provinces can introduce regional languages as a subject in their respective provinces, as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa tries to do.
This right was already there, even before the 18th Amendment. Linguistic diversity is more likely to strengthen the federation than to weaken it. Recall that the refusal of the request to name the Bangla as a national language in addition to Urdu played an important role in the separation of East Pakistan.
A glance at the above points tells us that all problems can be solved without much noise. However, it seems that the concerns about the provinces’ inability to fulfill their educational responsibilities stem from a lack of trust in which the center, in its attitude of self-justification, doubts competence and integrity provinces. Why is this like that? Why this reluctance on the part of the federation? Why are they worried that the provinces could ruin the education system?
To understand this, we must realize that education has a strong connection to power. Education, as suggested by Gramsci, a political theorist, can play an important role in controlling minds. Historically, education has been used to take and maintain control of marginalized countries and groups, so if education becomes a provincial problem, some powerful groups and organizations see it as a change of power that is beyond their reach favor. The result is a lot of noise and tears, and the offer of unconvincing excuses.
What is needed at this stage is a positive attitude of the federation, a confidence in the competence, integrity and patriotism of the provinces.
As has been suggested, there are two types of federations in the world: hold-together and come-together. We must stop holding the provinces together to persuade them to join us. The 18th Amendment offers an excellent opportunity for a similar paradigm shift.
The writer is an Advocate High Court Islamabad and teaches at the Best Law College, Rawalpindi.