Certain forces are conspiring to roll back the 18th Amendment and the subsequent devolution of powers — these are the people who do not want to see Pakistan as a strong federation. This was stated by Senator Raza Rabbani on Wednesday during the launch of his latest book “A Biography of Pakistani Federalism; Unity in Diversity”.
“I will not name them for the moment, but foremost among them are politicians and the civil bureaucrats,” Rabbani said.
“You are playing with fire. There is no margin of error now,” said Rabbani, a veteran politician and the author of the 18th Amendment, warning that this time the Baloch, the Punjabis, the Sindhis and the Pakhtuns will not tolerate a roll back of “what has been constitutionally made theirs”.
He said the parliament realised in time that the people of Pakistan will not allow any further delay in making the most important amendment in the constitution. Transfer of powers to the provinces with the idea of making them strong federating units was the need of the hour, according to the author of the book.
Contemplating possible foreign meddling in the roll back conspiracy, Rabbani asked the diplomats present to urge their respective governments and their colleagues to help Pakistan become a strong federation.
“There are certain people who still think it is the ‘white man’s burden’ to rule. No Sir! Pakistan has amended its constitution. The people have spoken,” said Rabbani, adding that, “We are a nation that respects your rules when in your countries and we expect that you do the same when in our country.”
Rabbani said Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the founder of PPP, gave the 1973 Constitution with the idea to make Pakistan a strong parliamentary democracy. “This democracy has survived despite military dictators’ repeated turns at derailing the system and harming the federation.”
The senator said the 18th Amendment would not have been possible without the support and participation of representatives from all political parties who collectively deserve credit.
Praising his PPP colleague, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said, “I found nothing to criticise Raza Rabbani on except his occasional stubbornness on principle,” while adding that the book was a timely piece on federation, which Pakistan needs.
“You should not expect democracy without federalism in a plural society like Pakistan,” said Ahsan.
He said that the federation was synonymous with tolerance. It was the idea that Quaid-i-Azam believed in and always preached. “We cannot have our daughters being treated like Rimsha Masih,” said Senator Ahsan.
Referring to Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, Ahsan said Quaid-i-Azam always wanted Pakistan to emerge as a strong federation where the centre does not determine the rights and duties of the provinces as long as the provinces do not threaten it.
Appreciating Rabbani’s book, Senator Afrasiab Khattak said the 18th Amendment’s passage came as a pleasant surprise as he never believed it would become a reality when the process began.
“It was something that me and my party (Awami National Party) have been fighting for and demanding for 60 years. We have witnessed times when even speaking of such things would put you in jail,” said Khattak, adding that Rabbani holds a unique distinction for initiating, writing and then steering the amendment through parliament.
The person whom Rabbani termed “rudder of the ship” in the last chapter of his book, Senator Ishaq Dar, also lauded the acumen of the author. Dar was all praise while describing Rabbani’s ability to build consensus among people of diverse viewpoints. “It was not just a single amendment, it required 40 per cent of the constitution to be rewritten, a huge achievement,” said Senator Dar.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazal, Haider Abbas Rizvi of the Mutahida Qaumi Movement, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo of the National Party and former senator Wasim Sajjad also spoke during the event.
Raza Rabbani thanked well-known short story writer Mazharul Islam for motivating him to write and publish the book.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.
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