18th Amendment:
Pros and Cons

The 18th Amendment is supposed to have removed the basic cause of friction among the provinces.

By S.R.H. Hashmi | June 2020

Judging by Imran Khan’s political views, one is left in absolutely no doubt that he favours the presidential form of government. In fact, he is even accused, and not unjustly, of trying to run the government in a way which is much nearer to the presidential form of government, instead of the parliamentary system that is currently followed, in which provinces exercise autonomy. I remember, defending the array of his unelected advisors. He had once said that half of President Donald Trump’s cabinet was from outside. However, what he failed to mention was that the appointment of those unelected persons in top positions was subject to scrutiny and approval by the US Senate.

As an admirer and supporter of the presidential form of government, it is only natural that Imran would want the same for Pakistan. Such a form of government would give him a freer hand, coupled with vast powers, which is somewhat similar to the lifestyle he has been accustomed to. After all, we have not heard much about his past except captaining the national cricket team, heading the Shaukat Khanum Board, starting the Namal University and of course establishing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. In all these capacities, he had worked virtually as his own boss, with no questions asked, and no objections raised about his conduct. In a way, I do not even blame him for the work style he displays. Having spent decades living and working in that style - which has now become his second nature - he would naturally feel uncomfortable in a system that demands his compliance with rules, regulations, policies and procedures and, sometimes, forces him to curb his ambitions in the face of opposition from others, which he almost certainly regards as unnecessary constraints and does not react to them gracefully.

Unfortunately for Imran Khan, the realization of his dream of sort of unbridled power has become an impossibility in the presence of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which was enacted after much discussion and with the consent of all political parties. That this was all done in undue haste is another story.

Overall, the 18th Amendment may have been beneficial in certain aspects. Providing autonomy to the provinces has brought some stability to the country but it has not met all expectations. The biggest disappointment is that while power and funds were devolved from the centre to the provinces, the provincial governments mostly failed to devolve the same further down to the grassroots level. Worse still, Sindh clawed back even the powers that the Musharraf government had given to the local governments and has placed these in the hands of a Local Government minister. As for Punjab, it has wound up the existing local government system while its own version as envisaged under the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 and the Punjab Village Panchayats and Neighbourhood Councils Act 2019, is expected to be put these in operation later this year.

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The writer is a free-lance contributor with interest in regional, South Asian and international affairs. He can be reached at

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