Clearing the first hurdle

Editorial April 09, 2010

The first hurdle has been cleared and there is now the senate left, and of course the president’s signature, before the 18th amendment becomes a reality.

Though the voting was delayed to ensure the quorum met for the amendment to pass, the process was done in a few hours. The amendment was read, as all laws are, clause by clause, and voting was taken individually.

The highest number of votes was for the amendment to Article 6 on ‘high treason.’ The PML-Q tried to introduce a change in the clause that seeks to rename NWFP Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa but its lower strength in the house meant that its objections were brushed aside.

Perhaps the only clause that has the potential to become controversial – in fact it may already have – is the once concerning renaming, since sections of the province’s population, particularly in Hazara, have already expressed strong disagreement. It could well be that in the days to come, or perhaps even sooner, this might grow and swell into a much larger protest.

Hopefully, the government will have a contingency plan to deal with this, and one aspect of it should be to ask the PML-N to use its good offices to mollify the protesters. This, however, may be asking too much of the party given that it has a strong and reliable votebank in Hazara and may not want to alienate it.

In overall terms, however, the smooth and swift passage of the amendment in the lower house augurs well for Pakistan’s democratic system, which may yet be able to come out of its prolonged infancy and be able to act and assert itself in the manner mandated by the constitution. This would mean a president who, while being a symbol of the federation, is also a figurehead and a prime minister who is armed with considerable powers. But then that is the way it is supposed to be in a parliamentary democracy, and one has to credit the president with playing his part in the amendment’s passage.

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