The inglorious Eighth

The greatest polluter of the constitution (Ziaul Haq’s 8th amendment) remains very much a part of this nation’s...

Amina Jilani October 01, 2010

Headlines in the press on September 28 proclaimed that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, during the continued interminable hearing of the 18th amendment case, had remarked the previous day that the constitution under which this country flounders “retains many dictatorial remnants.”

Indeed it does. The inept authors of the 18th amendment to the mangled and mashed already much amended incomprehensible document, obviously confused, joyously informed the nation that the 1973 Constitution had been restored. Well, it has not, not in any way. The CJP is right. It has a goodly number of leftovers of Musharraf’s 17th amendment which suited this lot of parliamentarians, importantly allowing them to maintain their numbers, and other little bits and pieces which are to their individual advantage.

And, the fact is that the greatest polluter of the constitution and the largest number of dictatorial remnants come from Ziaul Haq’s 8th amendment which remains very much a part of this nation’s life. It is the parent of all constitutional evils, and the killing of the once famous Article 58(2)(b) in no way eradicates the mischief of that amendment and the toll which it has taken and continues to take upon this country. There was only one way in which the 1973 Constitution could have been restored and that was to simply declare that the constitution had reverted to what it was on July 4, 1977 — as simple as that.

Not amazingly, over the years since the mango incident of 1988 all those including the political parties we now have, plus the failed dictator Pervez Musharraf, all who have had a chance to tinker with the constitution have never had the nous, the will or the guts to tackle the 8th amendment which so drastically changed the nature and shape of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s constitution. The religious right, unrepresented as it is politically, holds as much, if not more, sway behind the scenes as does the mighty Pakistan Army. The wish of the clerical fraternity is everyone’s command. And the 8th amendment suits them down to the ground.

For those vaguely interested in the constitution which orders their lives and the state of the nation let us revert to an editorial printed in the press on March 2, 1993 headed “8th amendment: a document conceived in sin, adopted in shame.” Excerpts from the text: “Let us recall the political environment in which the 8th amendment was conceived and adopted. We had a military dictator … he employed the obscurantists to provide him with a cloak of Islamic revivalism… he used his assembly composed mostly of individuals without any conscience [many still linger in this present parliament] to destroy the 1973 Constitution. He employed some of the most diabolical legal tricksters to draft what was called the 8th amendment... Threats, blackmail, bribery and every evil stratagem was used to convert the members of the assembly to the General’s point of view. It was this perfidious alliance between a military dictator and a supine assembly which drove the country into the quagmire of the 8th amendment. It remains a document of abiding shame, a lasting scar on our body politic, and an enduring indictment of those who call themselves representatives of the people.”

The Supreme Court, the parliament and the people of Pakistan live on with the “abiding shame,” “the lasting scar” and the “enduring indictment” of all who even now call themselves representatives of the people. The constitutional reforms committee, as with all the politicians in and out of uniform who have played games with the constitution for their own profit, once again refused to be shamed by their shamelessness, and Ziaul Haq’s 8th amendment lives on merrily.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2010.


Foqia Badr | 11 years ago | Reply Oh, the infamous second amendment.
Sharjeel Jawaid | 11 years ago | Reply Why July 04, 1977 ? Was the Original 1973 Constitution not mutilated within hours of its promulgation ? If we go back to square one, we go back to the Original Constitution and not the one with seven amendments made by the then government; not by consensus but brute majority.
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