18th Amendment defies ZAB’s principles: law minister

Farogh Naseem says PPP founder wanted a strong federation


​ Our Correspondent May 15, 2020
Farogh Naseem says PPP founder wanted a strong federation. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem on Friday maintained that by throwing its weight behind the 18th Amendment and provincial autonomy, the PPP’s Sindh government was actually going against the principles set by the party’s founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had strengthened the federation.

“It is necessary to revisit the 18th Amendment in terms of jurisdiction in the areas of healthcare, education and the National Finance Commission,” he said while talking to Express News.

“The flaws in the 18th Amendment can be rectified by holding talks with the opposition,” he added.

“Through the NFC, much of the resources go to the provinces and that leaves the Centre weak.”

The minister noted that the federal structure could not be altered as per the judgment of the Supreme Court. “The 18th Amendment is creating a deadlock in some matters.”

Naseem said the PPP raising hue and cry over the issue of the 18th Amendment made little sense considering that it did not even enjoy a two-third majority in the National Assembly.

“The PPP has tried to damage the federal structure by enacting the 18th Amendment,” he claimed.

The 18th Constitutional Amendment was passed unanimously by all political parties present in both houses of the parliament in April 2010 during the tenure of the PPP-led federal government.

Centre wants provinces to pay for defence, debt servicing

The minister said the 18th Amendment created the impression that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's 1973 Constitution was flawed.

“[ZA] Bhutto made the country a federation through the 1973 Constitution. We don’t want a confederation.”

Speaking on amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance, the law minister opposed the opposition’s proposal to strike off the clause that empowers the National Accountability Bureau chairman to issue arrest warrants.

“I don’t agree with the opposition’s suggestion to roll back the Nab chairman’s power of arrest,” he said.

“Are court orders necessary to arrest someone after the filing of an FIR?” he added. “If that’s not the case, then why should law be different for NAB?” he argued.

“We don’t want the NAB law to be misused and want a clear and transparent accountability process.”

The law minister said a strategy had been chalked out to prevent use

of money for floor crossing in Senate.

“Elections in Senate will take place through a show of hand policy so that money isn’t used to switch loyalties.”
For electoral reforms, the minister said a cut-off date would be made clear for the scrutiny of nomination papers.

The president has recently notified the 10th National Finance Commission and debate under way about the shortage of funds with the federal government after the distribution of shares to the provinces in view of the 7th NFC Award and effects of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

The biggest challenge for federal government is that the provinces’ share cannot be reduced. Currently, provinces take 57.5% share. Article 160 3A of the Constitution says that the share of the provinces in each award “shall not be less than the share given to the provinces in the previous award”.

If the federal government wants to increase its share then it has to amend the Constitution, which will not be easy in the prevailing political situation. Likewise, no NFC award can be finalised without the consent of all members.