In recent days the media have been replete with commentary on “Bajwa Doctrine” – Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Qamar Bajwa’s analysis of global affairs and his understanding of a ‘peaceful and prosperous’ Pakistan. The print media is full of articles either in support of or opposition to his doctrine which is ‘for a better and secure world’, of course, Pakistan is included. What stands out the most in his ruminations is the military’s belief that the 18th amendment is damaging the federation.
Should one be surprised to hear such comments from a military man on constitutional amendments that in reality strengthen the federation? No, one should not be. Should the doctrine’s understanding of the said amendment being more dangerous than Mujeeb’s ‘six points’ irk the believers in the constitutionalism? It certainly seems so. The fact that the doctrine has not being disavowed despite the fierce criticism that has followed the news means that the military still stands behind it. More problematically, it is clear that the military is not hesitant in stepping outside its constitutional bounds.
Now that the cat is out of the bag – and will likely stay there – there is no harm in reiterating the actual motive behind legislating the amendment in the first place – the amendment guarantees a stable federation contrary with necessary provincial autonomy, contrary to the opinion expressed by the Bajwa Doctrine.
However this contention only seems to be coming from journalists, commentators and legal experts – the people most affected by the proposed scrapping of the amendment – the people and politicians from the provinces – have stayed out of the debate. That needs to change and with the latest speech by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman, it seems that it has.
In a rally at Bannu, Bilawal has stated that the PPP would not allow rolling back of the 18th Constitution Amendment and changes in the National Finance Commission (NFC) award. He also criticised the adviser to the prime minister on finance for a statement in which he said that financial powers delegated to the provinces under the 18th Amendment should go back to the Centre.
Bilawal Bhutto’s resistance to any such plans should transform into a larger political talking point. He has shown courage in opposing such desire of military. All political parties should extend their support to Bilawal on the matter, as he is speaking for securing the interests of all provinces. At the very least they should acknowledge that such a doctrine, and add their voices to the debate. This is a matter on which political parties need to set aside their differences and focus on the issue at hand.