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.