The nation is soon to hear good news, at least that is what we are threatened with by both president and prime minister - and it is to come by the end of the month - within a scant 10 days. And the good news is the doing away with the 17th Amendment to the constitution - an impossibility if this present system is not to come tumbling down and the assemblies with it. One can only wish they would think before uttering, but that of course cannot be expected of them. What change will come with the ushering in of the 18th Amendment which will but amend a few articles of the constitution affected by the 17th? Well, there will for sure be no change to the plight of the people, or to the complete breakdown of law and order and the absence of any signs of governance. Nothing will change as far as the power structure is concerned. Apart from the fact that the army will continue to be the foremost institution of the land which de facto controls all policies, internal and external, transferring whatever other powers there be to the prime minister will in these particular circumstances make no difference. The prime minister is a party member put where he is by his co-chairman (de facto chairman), the president. He is in no position to call the shots and cannot if he is not to endanger his chair. He will have to abide by decisions taken by his boss. So, this 18th Amendment, if it comes about, is but a cosmetic exercise undertaken by a committee to the best ability of its members. No expectations can be raised that it will clean up or render the constitution any more interpretable than it is - in fact it may end up rendering it more of a muddle. What is puzzling to many is the fact that over the years since the mango incident of 1988 which removed one military dictator all those who have had a chance to tinker with the Constitution of Pakistan have never had the nous, the will, or perhaps the guts to tackle the 8th Amendment of the constitution which so drastically changed both the nature and the shape of Zulfikar Ali Bhuttos constitution which his unexpected heir is now so roundly 'hailing, also completely ignoring it and allowing it to remain a large disfiguring blot on the original 1973 constitution. The Bhutto amendments were indeed questionable, particularly the one which affected the fundamental rights of an entire community and those pertaining to the judiciary to render it subservient. Now, in this age when we are told that not only has democracy risen from the dead but that it is the 'best revenge, the best this government which it claims to follow the footsteps of both Bhutto father and daughter, finds itself helpless to deal with the 8th Amendment - incapability and fear may be the factors. They, who dwell in glass houses, and us other mortals claim to hate military dictatorships and all they stand for. Well, the idea for the 8th Amendment was actually approved at a Corps Commanders Conference held at GHQ under COAS General Ziaul Haq, and later was approved by the chiefs of the Air Force and Navy. For a full account of the origins of the 8th Amendment and the skulduggery involved in its making and illegitimate passing by the handpicked partyless assembly put in place by Ziaul Haq recommended reading is the book Poleaxe or Politics of the 8th Amendment (pub 1997) by Hasan Abbas, a former civil servant of Pakistan, a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and now an Affiliate with the Belfer Centre and as of January this year Quaid-i-Azam Chair Professor at Columbia Universitys South Asia Institute. For enlightenment, readers are referred to an editorial printed in a local newspaper of March 2, 1993 under the heading Eighth Amendment: A document conceived in sin, adopted in shame. To quote excerpts: Let us recall the political environment in which the Eighth Amendment was conceived and ado-pted. We had a military dictator and a so-called assembly of persons 'elected on a non-party basis.He corrupted the arm-ed forces and he employed the obscurantists to provide him with a cloak of Islamic revivalism. Unfortunately the Supreme Court of Pakistan sanctified the dictators rule as a 'constitutional deviation and gave him right to introduce such changes in the constitution as he might decide under the 'Doctrine of Necessity. He used this judicial cover to transform the char-acter of every democratic institution in the country ..he used his assembly, composed mostly of individuals without any conscience, to destroy the 1973 constitution. He employed some of the most diabolical legal tricksters to draft what was called the Eighth Amendment. It was this document which the military dictator used as a bargaining lever to perpetuate his personal rule under the screen of a constitutional arrangement. Threats, blackmail, bribery and every evil stratagem was used to convert the members of the assembly to the generals point of view. It was this perfidious alliance between a military dictator and a supine assembly which drove the country into the quagmire of the Eight Ame-ndment. It remains a document of abiding shame, a lasting scar on our body politic, and an enduring indictment of those who call themselves representatives of the people. We live on with the abiding shame and the enduring indictment. So be it. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: