Importance of Restoring the 1973 Constitution

Senator Raza Rabbani presents the amendment in the Parliament— Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms presented the draft of the 18th Amendment to Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza on Thursday. (Dawn.com)

According to the latest developments in the Pakistani politics, the National Assembly (NA) is now ready to take on the 18th amendment to the 1973 constitution. If passed, this amendment will do away with the de-facto presidentiial system of Government, initiated by Pervez Musharraf, and restore the original version of the 1973 constitution. There is a lot at stake here.

Basically, if the constitution stays as it is, it tends to delegitimize the power of the electorate. Under the current system, the parliament members, including the Prime Minister, are elected through a direct vote, who then elect the president. But at the end of the day, the indirectly elected president ends up holding the most power. In the original constitution, the office of the president was only a ceremonial office with limited advisory powers. The power rested with parliament with the prime minister as the head of the executive. This process enabled the people to be directly responsible for election of their representatives and eventually the chief executive, the prime minister.

But every time a dictator comes to power, he must amend the constitution to concentrate power in the presedency, as the idea of a dictator presenting himslef as the prime minister would be ludicrous. What is also funny about our generals is that they can very easily command their junior officers to avoid any kind of “civilian” political activities, but they have, for four times in our short history, seen no problem with being political leaders themselves while still wearing uniforms. Mr. Mushrraf is a good example of this double-faced policy.

Quite a lot of people see these constitutional squabbles as useless and want the parliament to focus on real-life issues that affect the every day lives of the people. But steps like these, long-term as they are, are also important as they will eventually affect the future of the nation and the people. These steps must be taken to strengthen our democracy and to let the armed forces know that there is no room for military dictatorships in our future. Restoring the true spirit of the 1973 constitution will do just that–stop any further military adventurism.