The 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s constitution was a historical success after months of deliberations, lobbying, and negotiations. The Amendment was brought by the recommendation of an inclusive parliamentary committee and unanimously passed by members of all political parties in the National Assembly on April 8, 2010. This Amendment, if on the one hand, curtailed the powers of the president, strengthen the Parliament, introducing the structure for election commission of Pakistan, formulating the rules for appointment of Judges then, on the other hand, this Amendment was a fate changer for less privileged, downtrodden classes and small provinces. The power devolution from federal to provinces, regional equity, Council of Common Interests (CCI), National Economic Council (NEC), 8th NFC Award, and recognition of provinces’ identity was the outstanding success resulting from political maturity and unity.

Undoubtedly, the 18th Amendment helped provinces in acquiring political, social, and resource autonomy. The 18th Amendment curtailed emergency powers from Governors and President of Pakistan and brought it to the provincial parliaments. The right to free criminal trial process has been made vulnerable if any arrest or detention is under laws.  The article 142 clause (b) inserted in the 18th Amendment fully authorizes the provincial assemblies with the “power for making laws regarding criminal procedure and evidence.” Hence, “The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sensitive and Vulnerable Establishment and Places (security) Act” was adopted in the provincial assembly in the wake of terrorism, thus making the provincial governments powerful in making decisions. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa “Epidemic Control and Emergency Relief Control Act,” “Code of criminal procedure,” “Code of civil procedure,” “KPK levies force act,” and “KPK Khasadar force act” are various acts obliged from the 18th constitutional Amendment. “The Sindh Rain Emergency” in august 2020 and “Sindh Covid19 emergency relief ordinance 2020” for providing relief and countering challenges amid pandemic emanated from a province-wide lockdown are two recent flickering examples. Consequently, the power to rule and autonomy remains with the local people. Thus, one person cannot suspend, obligate, or impose any illegal act through misadventure.

Moreover, the 8th National Finance Commission (NFC) enacted with a new formula, and article 160 describing NFC was substituted with the insertion of clauses (3A), (3B) in the constitution of Pakistan. The 8th NFC award luckily provided privileges to underprivileged provinces by countering imbalances in finance and development through financial equity. Baluchistan got its larger part hence getting a stronghold over its social, production, and development sectors. Baluchistan was given a total of 122 Billion as gas development surcharge arrears since 1991. “Aaghaz e huqooq Balochistan” was no more a myth but a reality bestowed by the 18th Amendment. Baluchistan got 33% of his part in poverty elevation, the biggest after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that was 35%. The Sindh got its grip over oil with the GDS mechanism’s rationalization and 21% share in Grants-in-Aid. It also got 0.66% of provincial share to compensate for the losses of “Octrol and Zilla tax (OZT) collection.” Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was enriched with a larger role in electricity, water sector, and natural resources. Consequently, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa initiated building dams on its own in which Kundal Dam in our district Swabi is an example. Additionally, according to the 18th Amendment, the federal must ask permission for hydro-electric development from the province. The federal has provided 25 billion per annum in the wake of electricity produced in KPK.

Furthermore, the provincial autonomy promised by the 18th Amendment with an insertion of an article 25A that is “Education for all.”  The education responsibility fell on the state as well as provinces. Unfortunately, since its inception, the 18th Amendment in the education sector has followed systematic propaganda, albeit the Amendment provides the overwhelming indications of better education in provinces. After the 18th Amendment, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa built up nine universities in 3 years with sub-campuses in ANP-led government and nine universities by PTI-led government following the newly built universities’ successes. The standard of education has improved with the inclusion of girls’ education as three separate universities are being established for women and two sub-campuses in KPK. More than 90 post-graduate colleges are established, and hundreds of schools have been built so far after the inception of the 18th Amendment. The campaign of ANP-led government for admitting out-of-school children “Education for all” and then the “Education emergency” of PTI-led government has brought changes in the system of education. Comparing the factual data to the last 63 years where only six universities were present for the entire population of KPK and 18 universities with more than eight sub-campuses newly established in less span of time of 8 years shows the clear difference. The counterargument perhaps is for the reason that the 18th Amendment provides provinces the power to purview the devising and designing the textbook curriculum, planning, policies

The 18th Amendment has substituted the health-relevant Article and clauses such as abolishing the concurrent legislative list, CLL to FLL, insertion of entry Federal Legislative List (FLL), and amendments in the article 144 and 270. The abolishing of CLL has bestowed provinces with autonomy in the health sector. However, it still formulated the exception in regulatory prerogative. The national health subjects included research, regulation, international commitments, national health policy, taxation, health technology, and response in any health-related disaster.  Covid19, if on the one hand, has unfortunately brought adverse effects on our lives; then, on the other hand, it has helped provinces with capabilities to cope with it. The KPK government passed the 2020 epidemic control act and Sindh Covid19 emergency act 2020, allowing its people to counter the COVID19. Still, there was a lack of coordination between provinces and the federal, albeit they had responsibility for ensuring policy coordination and supporting provinces amid pandemic. They had the responsibility to ensure the equal distribution of international medical aid amid the Corona pandemic crisis. The provinces ahs timely passed different acts regulating drugs. KPK government has provided the public with the Sehat cards for free treatment up to 1 million.  Consequently, the provinces play their significant role in providing health care facilities to its people after the 18th Amendment.

Concluding, the 18th Amendment, with all its fruitful implications, has also inserted an article 19A, which is “Right to information” that ensures access of common people to any information in any public offices, thus strengthening democracy. Pakistan is the federation, and the 18th Amendment balances the center and its federating units. This Amendment is a hope and fate changer for millions of people of small and under-privileged provinces. It washes the stains of imbalances and inequalities of 70 long years. It helps citizens giving ownership in government and ensures their participation inclusively in the decision-making processes. It provides a sense of identity to underprivileged classes. The 18th Amendment, in its own version, will ensure the rights of common people, thus making our country prosperous.

The CSPR is not responsible for, and may not agree with the thoughts expressed in any article as it believes in unbiased, independent researched journalism.

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