A point that even his bitterest rivals would have to concede to Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is that he does make some very principled arguments, even if the talk may not translate into the walk. The young leader’s press conference yesterday held merit, as he emphasised upon the importance of the 18th Amendment. Bilawal stated that “voices” were coming from the government quarters that the 18th Amendment will be scrapped and that his party, the PPP, would do everything in its resolve to make sure that would not happen.

Bilawal is not wrong in claiming that the future of the 18th Amendment is uncertain. Even at the start of the year, there was fear among the civil society of a possible pushback of the 2008 constitutional provision that did leagues for Pakistan’s democracy. Those fears are not helped by the silence of the PTI government on this issue, as well as the predicaments it faces in the promulgating of an NFC award, which severely restrains the government’s fiscal space. The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) Chairman Muhammad Aslam Khan’s recent attributing blame of problems in the taxation system to the 18th amendment further propels whispers that a possible rolling back, if not reversal, of the constitutional amendment is not far off.

There is much we, as citizens of Pakistan, owe to the 18th Amendment. Passed in the April of 2008, it sought to answer why Pakistan’s democracy has historically been overwrought- by leaving no legal room for abrogation of the constitution in the legal structure, the 18th amendment acts as a safe-guard for the supremacy of parliament and the upholding of democracy. Granting provincial autonomy is a further step in ensuring a fairer more representative democratic structure for a country with highly diverse provinces.

That is not to say that the 18th Amendment does not come with problems. A huge-impact constitutional change is bound to take time to allow institutions to grow and adjust. The 18th amendment does create some hurdles when it comes to the budgetary allocations, as well in tax determination. However, the answer to that is not the overhaul of an amendment which has been a landmark for democracy in Pakistan. If the federal system is not strong, and provinces are being left behind, then we only need better economic policy and sharing of resources.

This is not a partisan issue; it is a democratic one. We urge other parties to take a principal stance on this.