Inayatullah The Eighteenth Amendment has sailed through the National Assembly and the Senate. Nawaz Sharifs eleventh hour intervention was misconstrued and attracted a lot of flak. What has happened in Hazara has vindicated his concerns although PML-Ns image has suffered a lot. The episode has served to highlight the deficiencies of our political parties. No requisite homework. No indepth analysis of issues. No desired consultations with stakeholders. Adhoc decisions and press conferences It was PML-N, more than any other party, which had pressed for scrapping of the 17th Amendment. The Charter of Democracy was invoked. PPP had included its provisions in the party manifesto. Zardari, however, was reluctant to surrender the inherited powers. He kept dragging his feet, finally agreeing to the appointment of a Parliamentary Constitution Committee. Cleverly, the committee was asked to include in its agenda scores of issues raised by various political parties including provincial autonomy and a new name for NWFP. It took the committee more than nine months to hammer out an agreed document. Its recommendations were kept a closely guarded secret although bits and pieces did get aired in the media. Amazing that 102 changes in the countrys constitution were rushed through the National Assembly and the Senate in a matter of hours. Even an ordinary law takes a considerable time and is debated for weeks affording stakeholders the opportunity to discuss its pros and cons. Yes, the Constitutional Committee represented all political parties. But why deprive the bulk of peoples representatives of their right to examine the proposed amendments? These amendments were not even released to the media. The civil society thus remained in the dark. This almost-clandestine approach obviously was meant to pursue certain designs and explains distortions and black spots. Of course, 18th Amendment restores parliamentary supremacy and enhances the scope of certain fundamental rights. For this, the Constitutional Committee and especially Raza Rabbani deserve congratulations. At the same time, one cannot overlook certain questionable changes - additions and omissions. Taking away the constitutional requirement of intra-party elections for instance, on the ground that there is another legislation to take care of it, just does not convince. Obviously, there is a difference between ordinary legislation and a constitutional imperative. The change is designed to strengthen dynastic hold on political parties. This design is further exhibited by conferring unquestioned powers on the heads of parties to get rid of MNAs and senators who dare express their independent opinion. The combined weight of these two provisions will add to arbitrary power wielded by political party chairmen (who in the case of PPP is also the incumbent president). Here one may recall that under the constitution, the president represents the unity of the nation. Another display of the committees undemocratic approach may be seen in the way the provision for issue of ordinances will extend the life of ordinances from four months to a year through resolutions of the two Houses. As for abolition of the Concurrent List, it appears the committee had not done its homework as is to be seen in a belated addition of a new clause in Article 142 stipulating that provincial assemblies and both federal houses will have power to legislate on criminal laws, criminal procedures and evidence. Also a new item has been entrusted to the federation namely international treaties and international arbitrations. This was done on March 19 when discrepancies were eloquently brought to the notice of certain members of the committee. If complex implications of abolition of the Concurrent List had been allowed to be aired and time taken to address the issue by opening a national debate, I am sure many more aspects of the matter would have been sorted out to avoid later difficulties. It was desirable that provincial governments and civil society organisations had been consulted in the matter. Notice may further be taken of the changes made in Article 63 which nullify earlier provisions regarding those convicted for various offences (by relaxing restrictions after lapse of two, three or five years). For instance, Article 63(g) permits convicts after a lapse of five years of their release to contest elections. Similarly a civil servant dismissed for misconduct will now become eligible to contest election after the lapse of five years under 63(i). The first two fallouts of the 18th Amendment are: One, the growing violent unrest in Hazara triggering demand for more provinces. Two, the questioning in the Supreme Court of the new method for appointing senior judges. There is already talk about the 19th Amendment. As for the new way of appointing judges, it remains to be seen how the Supreme Court views it and arrives at a verdict. In case it declines to approve of the new process, there is bound to be a sharp reaction from parliamentarians with media revelling in putting one viewpoint against another. In all this hullabaloo, the net winners so far, have been the PPP, ANP ad MQM. More than others, it is Mr Zardari and his close associates who have on the one hand won credit for achieving a consensus amendment of the constitution, while on the one hand and on the other, succeeding in deflecting attention from spotlight on the NRO cases opened up by the historic Supreme Court judgment. For ANP Pakhtunkhwa is an enormous windfall. For PML-N the 18th Amendment is a mixed bag - achievement of certain objectives and a considerable loss of face. The writer is a political and international relations analyst.