There is fear among political society that the 18thamendment to the Constitution, a piece of landmark legislation which lent greater autonomy to the provinces and divested the president of all his executive authority, might be rolled back. The trepidation has been furthered by former President Asif Ali Zardari, who recently stated that he is being “attacked from all sides” as part of a larger conspiracy to reverse the 18th Amendment, which is often seen by many as an important cornerstone for democracy in Pakistan.

The debate over a potential repeal of the 18thAmendment is missing some key questions- most importantly- why shouldn’t there be repeal? With so much fear-mongering and conflating rollback of the amendment with rollback of democracy, it has been impossible to have a discussion on the benefits and disadvantages of the amendment. The fact is that legislation- like human beings- is not perfect, and need to improve and adapt with the passage of time.

It is indeed true that the 18th Amendment was an extraordinary accomplishment of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has done great favours in safeguarding Pakistan’s often fragile democracy. However, talk of repealing or at least reforming the 18th amendment does not mean allowing strands of dictatorship to slip in. The clauses of the 18thamendment which take away the power of a President to declare emergency unilaterally, have been imperative in the successful transition of democracy and must still be held in place.

However, some aspects of the 18th amendment have proven to be more problematic than beneficial, most glaring of those is the NFC award, and the abolishment of the Concurrent Legislative List. With the deletion of the Concurrent Legislative List, the federal government has lost its power to legislate for the entire country as the said powers would have devolved to the provinces- which in hindsight- has lead to the country missing out on adopting uniform and impactful legislation- especially when it comes to health, human rights and education sectors. The NFC award has also proven to be a menace to navigate through for Finance Ministers- who find themselves helpless to allocate the budget properly due to the provincial limitations placed on them.

The 18th amendment, while historical for Pakistan, isn’t Holy Scripture, and if certain parts of it are withholding the government from functioning properly, then it should be reformed. Or at the very least, a debate on it in the parliament would not be a bad idea.