LAHORE                    -                  Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that devolution was a key to face the challenges of nationalist and separatist movements in the country.

Speaking at a dialogue on 18th Constitutional Amendment at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) on Friday, he said that federalism was the best system for a country like Pakistan where people were from diverse background.

“We tried one unit that unfortunately cost us half of the country,” he said.

“Pakistan is a fantastic mixture of cultures and ethnicities, languages, religions and a multitude of people. For me, the Pakistani identity is just as much as Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his struggle for Pakistan as much as the Indus Valley Civilization that stretched from the coast to the northern areas of Pakistan. Somebody in Gilgit Baltistan or Skardu, is just as much a Pakistani as I am and the people in Gwadar are,” he said.

“If you see a headline about bomb blasts, you also had a follow up headline about Pashtun or Baloch nationalists.

These challenges have been addressed through devolution and the 18th amendment,” Bilawal said, adding, it was in 2010 that PPP developed consensus like in the 1973 for constitutional amendments.

When asked about the consequential changes, he said that right to education, information and fair trial were not part of constitutional rights until the 18th amendment.

“Restoration of supremacy of the parliament and system for appointing judges was due to 18th Amendment,” he said, adding, 19th Amendment was made due to judiciary blackmailing. He said that this amendment would be revisited in future.

He said that all provinces had the same commitment to devolution but not had followed the same path. Devolution was supposed to get into effect by 2015 but there was apathetic government at the time. “Now we see a hostile government,” he said.

“We can argue about the power and scope and how much local government set ups should have. There is definitely room for improvement but still Sindh is the only province with a local government,” he said.

When being asked about student-led initiatives and student unions and politicizing campuses, he said that “we as civilization and people used to fight over everything and then we decide to have elections and elect representatives to avoid disputes and not to fight as much, and this is a democratic theory which is studied. So, historically it is a dispute resolution mechanism.”