An Unlikely Catalyst For Change

Published in Tehelka this week

AFTER 37 YEARS OF POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY, PAKISTAN’S CONSTITUTION HAS BEEN RECAST ON ZARDARI’S WATCH. WILL IT HELP REKINDLE DEMOCRACY, WONDERS RAZA RUMI

BRANDED A ‘failed state’, Pakistan has become notorious in the global media. Political change is often a result of the notorious 111 Brigade (the Rawalpindi-based army contingent which leads any military coup) moving on the streets of Islamabad and capturing the derelict PTV (Pakistan Television) headquarters. News-worthiness is defined by the number of suicide blasts that take place in a single day within what has been termed as the “most dangerous country” in the world. Pity that such stereotypes have prevented a nuanced understanding of Pakistan, as well as the fact that it is a fast changing country with a strong yearning for the rule of law and constitutionalism.

These days, Pakistanis, when they are on a break from the next suicide bomber, are rejoicing over a major political shift brought about by the April 8 approval by parliament of the 18th Amendment to fix the truncated Constitution. Thirty seven years ago, for the first time in its existence, Pakistan’s political elite was able to reach a consensus on the scheme and shape of the Constitution. An earlier version was the 1956 Constitution, which was abrogated even before its implementation by Field Marshal Ayub Khan in 1958. There were two other military “gifts” to the nation in 1962 and 1970, which were hardly democratic and barely representative of what citizens actually wanted. […]