Tinkering with the truth

Amina Jilani April 24, 2010

Befooling the people by politicians is universal practice — after all, half their purpose is to fool as many people as they can for as long as they can and thus keep themselves in place. It is nothing to worry about, it is normal. But when politicians fool themselves it is time to start worrying. Now, when the president, prime minister and assorted brands of ministers announce to the people with great pride that the 18th constitutional amendment has ‘restored’ the original 1973 constitution promulgated by their hero, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, we can accept the utter lack of truth as, poor chaps, they know no better.

Their sole interaction with the constitution is possibly when they take their various oaths and catch a glimpse of that highly mutilated document — though the prime minister was very much a part of dictator General Ziaul Haq’s travesty of a parliament and should therefore have some familiarity with the constitution’s historical developments. But when a man like Senator Raza Rabbani, who chaired the committee that has presented to the nation the 18th amendment, says with a straight face that this amendment has ‘restored’ the original 1973 constitution, he is either purposefully telling a blatant lie or he is fooling himself.

He may fool some of the people but he is certainly not fooling all the people and if he is indeed fooling himself all we can do is feel rather sorry for him. How come our great parliamentarians who fancy themselves as constitutionalists only rant and rave about the wicked dictator General Pervez Musharraf’s even more wicked 17th amendment (though they have retained parts of it that suit their purposes) and not even vaguely allude to the wicked dictator General Ziaul Haq’s highly polluting 8th constitutional amendment, the parent of all constitutional ills, many provisions of which continue to plague us thus ensuring that the constitution is in no way restored to its original form? In fact, there are parts of the 18th amendment very much in line with the dictatorial 8th amendment, such as the elimination of elections for office-bearers and party heads within the political parties rendering them undemocratic in themselves. Then there is the added provision that the prime minister must be a Muslim (the president is already covered), negating the objectives of the country’s founder who made it abundantly clear that all citizens, regardless of creed or belief, are equal citizens of the country.

The minorities have once again been firmly put in their place by the neodemocrats of our undemocratic political parties. Democracy has for sure taken its revenge. (The phrase ‘democracy is the best revenge’ is fast becoming as nauseous as the last dictator’s phrase ‘enlightened moderation’ which he urged everyone to adopt). Had this parliament the slightest intention of restoring the 1973 constitution to its original form it would have acknowledged the existence of the 8th amendment, that abiding shame, and not found it necessary to form a committee of constitutional nonentities, (including a minister who looks after our post offices and is on record as having upheld in the Senate the tribal-feudal right to bury women alive stating that it was a timehonored tradition) which sat closeted from the public eye for almost a year.

All that had to be done, to repeat the wise words of the sage of Chakwal writing elsewhere, for a one-liner amendment to be presented for the presidential signature stipulating that the constitution “stood restored to its shape as on the evening of July 4 1977, the eve of Zia’s coup.” What could be simpler or more direct? But perhaps the guts were lacking as the opponents to such a move are now myriad — thanks to the 8th amendment. No, people are not dancing in the streets celebrating our parliamentarians’ achievements; they are stomping our cities objecting to what their elected representatives have not achieved.


C.M.Sarwar | 14 years ago | Reply I have been a devoted reader of Amina Jilani for decades.I am glad I have rediscoverd her in Express Tribune.I remember her for integrity,consistency and clarity of thought,the qualities which have disappeared ,at a rapid speed,from the intellectual horizon in Pakistan. Nothing could be more pertinent than what Amina has said about the 18th amendment being celeberated by our ruling mafia.What shocks me is there are no potent opposing voices to this dirty trick played on the masses in Pakistan.I remember once upon a time the sage from Chakwal ,when he was writig in the Dawn,during Benazir's second stint as Prime Minister,commenting on the intellectual pursuits of our leaders, wrote something to this effect.He said that we in Pakistan are so unlucky that there is no light at both ends of the tunnel.On the one side is Benazir,who has read nothing other than Mills and Boons.On the other side is Nawaz Sharif,the only book he has in his house is the telephone directory.Definitely,Benazir's loss is great.But what did we get as replacement,Zardari and Gilani? And I totally agree with Amina about Raza Rabbani.I had thought he had survived the shock of Naik and would keep his head.What a sad deterioration of a good man. My best wishes to Express Tribune.May it flourish
Naushad Shafkat | 14 years ago | Reply Ms. Jilani in her piece "Tinkering with the truth" is perhaps being a bit too harsh. And nothing could be more naive than saying "a one-liner amendment to be presented for the presidential signature stipulating that the constitution “stood restored to its shape as on the evening of July 4 1977, the eve of Zia’s coup.” What could be simpler or more direct?". The devil must be given his due. The seats reserved for women in Parliament were a part of the 17th amendment and had to be retained. Moreover the people of the NWFP had been demanding the renaming of their province since long and only recently had spoken again through their elected representatives, to quote just 2 examples. Constitutions, being drawn by humans, are not perfect documents and are also susceptible to change with the times. And one would think that now was the most opportune time for the amendments to be made because a. For the first time all the political parties were on the same page and b. All said and done it has given a signal 'to whom it may concern' that politicians can look beyond their party interests - this second being important at least as an arguable point in case of the apple cart being upset by we know whom. (Although personally having seen how the Asma Jillani case was overturned only 5 years after it was hailed as a watershed, I do not think any argument would do.) One still feels that the 18th amendment is commendable in that it has at least made the Constitution look much better than it was and that we now have a Prime Minister who has all the powers and responsibilities that inhere in the office in Parliamentary democracies and is accountable to Parliament. Of course with all the responsibilities that go with such powers
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