18th Amendment, not the be all and end all


A conference, titled ‘Federalism in Pakistan after the 18th Amendment’ organised by the Lahore University of Management Sciences Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Hanns Seidel Foundation was held at LUMS. The first session of the day was ‘Sub-provincial identities and local government’. The speakers included Maryam Khan, a professor at LUMS Department of Law and Policy, Dr Aasim Sajjad of Quaid-e-Azam University and Zafaraullah Khan, centre for Civic Education, Islamabad. Professor Charles Kennedy, who was scheduled to present, was unfortunately unable to do so due to ill health. Maryam Khan reviewed Pakistan’s ethnic federalism, focusing particularly on the Sindhi-Muhajir conflict and the rise of Muhajir identity in the early 1970s. “We need to move away from entirely ethnicity based rhetoric and get representation from different minority groups,” urged Maryam. Zafarullah Khan explained the working of the Council of Common Interests, highlighting its performance before and after the 18th amendment. Dr Aasim Sajjad spoke about the local government, considering the support or lack of it for devolution in Pakistan. Dr Farooq Sattar was also present for the session and raised a number of points during the question answer session, focusing on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s stance on the 18th amendment.
The second session, ‘Impact of devolution on governance: Educaiton and Health’, featured presentations by Dr Ali Qazilbash, gead of Department of Law and Policy, LUMS, Dr Marie Lall, reader, Institute of Education, University of London; and Dr Faisal Bari, senior advisor for Pakistan, Central Eurasia Project, Open Society Foundation. Dr Qazilbash discussed the implications of the 18th amendment on health and labour in Pakistan, emphasising the need for standardisation and regulation. “There are roughly 115 constitutions in the world and all have the right to health, Pakistan does not. I hope for health and life for everyone not just a particular segment of the society that sometimes seems more equal than others!” He also emphasised on the need to have a central framework to regulate lifesaving and the need to have a national health policy to streamline diverse local interests and tackle and prevent epidemics like Dengue fever.
Dr Marie Lall elaborated on the impact of the 18th amendment on education, raising the question of whether or not devolution has been a good thing for the education sector in Pakistan. Dr Bari focused on Article 25A, the right to education, and the intricacies of interpreting and implementing it.
The final session of the day, ‘Federalism in domestic and international perspectives’ focused on federalism in comparative perspective. SJ Burki, chairman of the Institute of Public Policy, BNU, emphasised on federalism as a constantly evolving process that requires time and patience. He discussed the case of the US to highlight this point. Professor Balveer Arora discussed the Indian federal model, focusing on territorial recognition, the party system, and asymmetrical federalism as an accommodation mechanism. Dr Christian Wagner, head of the Asia Research Division, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin, presented on the German federal model, focusing on party competition, the institutional set up, and the bureaucratic nature of the model. Dr Wagner stressed that ‘federalism is a work in progress and always evolving.’ He defined Germany as an ‘executive federalism’ and a ‘bureaucratic undertaking.’ Regarding the 18th amendment in Pakistan he said “The 18th amendment is not an end point; it’s a starting point.” Advocate Salman Raja was also present at the session and raised many interesting points during the question answer session, especially relating to the fiscal aspect of the 18th amendment. The conference saw a number of issues being raised and debates being conducted regarding the interpretational implementation of the 18th amendment. The conclusion reached by the speakers was that while the 18th amendment is an important first step, the process of devolving power and resources must continue in order for there to be meaningful change in the system.


  1. Shahid Javed Burki a former employee of the World Bank anda US national now heads the Institute of Public Policy in BNU. Without ever having lived in Pakistan he holds forth on local government issues here.He is fond of citing details of the US example time and again. I wish LUMS would get some individuals who have a greater insight into the LG system in Pakistan, to participate.Who is "Professor" Charles Kennedy?

    • Comment of Mr. Aminullah Chaudhary … if the nation has not forgotten…a former bureaucrat (and Waada Muaaf witness in the fraud hijacking case against Nawaz Sharif) .. reflects the mindset of baboos of the country.. thinking as if the baboos are high level intellectual specy and the masses are just to meant to be rules by these baboos. Whenever any khaki bureaucrat takes over the civil society terms it an act against civilization but what to say of the act of associates of Mr. Chaudhry who have appointed civil service baboos as Administrators of the local governments ejecting the elected representatives and a recent shameful event when ceremonial dress of Mayor of Lahore was worn by Ahad Cheema -another baboo to welcome the mayor of Istanbol. If baboos are fit for administratorship of Local Govts why not the Chief Secretary be made administrator of the province and COAS as administrator of the country? criticizing SJ Burki and feeling pain for his good words about elected local governments by a retired bureaucrat is reflection of the mindset of baboos.

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