Main purpose of the Group is to play an active role to cultivate and promote democratic culture in the country and to examine developments that impact supremacy of the Constitution.
Barrister Adnan Kassi-Principal Law College, Quetta
Mr. Shahzada Zulfiqar, Journalist
Islamabad (Federal Capital):
Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa
Dr. Fouzia Saeed-Women rights Activist
Mr. Aniq Zafar- Entrepreneur
Mr. Zafarullah Khan-Civic educator
Dr. Ijaz Khan-Educationist
Dr. Khadim Hussain-Educationist
Dr. Sarfraz Khan-Educationist
Mr. I. A. Rehman-Human Rights Campaigner
Dr. Saeed Shafqat-Educationist
Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais-Educationist
Mr. Iftikhar Ahmed-Journalist/Anchor
Mr. Raza Rumi, Journalist/Researcher
Mr. Amjad Bhatti-Researcher
Mr. Mohsin Aziz-Entrepreneur
Prof. Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed-Educationist
Dr. Muhammad Ali Shaikh-Educationist
Ms. Fauzia Shaheen-Journalist
The first meeting:
Some leading civil rights activists, academicians, independent constitutional experts and journalists from four provinces and the federal capital areas in a meeting held on February 26, 2011 agreed on formation of the Citizens’ Group on Constitution (CGC). Organized by the Centre for Civic Education the Citizens’ Group defined its role for creating informed and active citizenry to promote Constitutionalism and Rule of Law in Pakistan.
Purpose of this Group is to play an active role in order to cultivate and promote democratic culture in the country, to examine developments that impact supremacy of the Constitution, to review the pace of implementation of the 18th Amendment from citizens’ perspective, identify gaps and offer policy suggestions to the Implementation Commission.
Sharing views on low level of public awareness about the Constitution and fundamental rights the Group members identified following gaps: lack of participation and input from the citizens in the representative institutions and functional aspects of Pakistani democracy. Attributing this disinterest to the lack of civic education curriculum in Pakistan’s public education system the Group agreed to make efforts to fill the gap.
To achieve this purpose the Group agreed to hold meeting after every three months, to issue public statements and articulate policy positions, to produce periodic performance cards and monitoring reports and to interact on regular basis with the relevant institutions.
The Group also proposed to publish simplified versions of the selected parts of the Constitution in all major languages of the country so that to expand peoples’ understanding of the Constitution and its relevance as a vibrant contract between the citizens and the state. It was also proposed to make the Public Service Broadcasters and independent private media organizations to fulfill their public service obligations by devoting a fair amount for civic education messages and programs.
The second meeting:
The Citizens’ Group on Constitution (CGC) held its second meeting on May 29, 2011 to review the progress on implementation of the 18th Amendment, to plan for public awareness campaign on the 18th Amendment, to demand for declaring first of July as the Day of Provincial Autonomy and to discuss the impact of recent developments on the rule of law in Pakistan.
The meeting resulted in a detailed discussion to understand and examine the process of devolution the group members shared views based on their observations and identified challenges posed by the centrist mindset, certain vested interests and a lack of ownership among the provinces. The CGC members observed that the provincial governments, civil bureaucracy, media and civil society organizations had yet not realized the role they were expected to play in the on-going process of democratic devolution. To address these multiple challenges, the Group proposed forming of a coalition of civil society organizations to initiate efforts to sensitize the media about different aspects of the devolution process.
It was also decided to expand the scope of public awareness campaign on 18th Amendment and design it in a way that could engage different audience groups in the debate on Constitution. For this, the groups proposed to organize different activities to engage different audience groups such as national and provincial decision-makers, youth, students, politicians, civil bureaucracy and the media. The CGC also announced to hold week-long festivity beginning from the first of July to rejoice the process of devolution of powers to the provinces which started after the 18th Amendment and is set to be completed by 30th of June, 2011. For this, the CGC decided to send a letter to the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan demanding to declare first of July as the ‘Day of Provincial Autonomy.’ “The centralized One Unit was dissolved on 1st July, 1970. Now after 41 years, provinces will be getting autonomy after abolition of Concurrent list,” observed the members of the Group.
The process of devolution shall not suffer due to any political expediency and the hollow concern of provincial capacity, said the members terming transfer of policy, planning and resources to province ‘making of a new federal Pakistan.’ The Group observed that only adherence to rule of law and constitutionalism can hold Pakistan together and offer better future to its 180 million citizens.
“Provinces were yearning for provincial autonomy and time has come to exhibit ownership of the devolution under the 18th Amendment,” urged the group comprised of leading academicians, civil society activists and media professionals. “The provinces have to become proactive in crafting new policies, enacting effective laws, rearrange institutions and taking the spirit of democratic devolution down to districts,” they highlighted and urged the universities, professional and civil society organizations to join hands with the provincial governments to realize this transformation.
The third meeting:
The third meeting of the Citizens’ Group on Constitution was held on July 31, 2011 in Lahore and the participants reviewed the implementation of the 18th Amendment. The Group noted with a sense of satisfaction that for the first time a Constitutional deadline has been adhered to. However, the Group expressed its concern over the creation of three new federal ministries. “This development negates the spirit of democratic devolution. New federal ministries shall be created only after consensus among the provinces or at least an endorsement by the Senate,” the group observed.
The Group viewed that in absence of Local Government in the country the state of Pakistan is constitutionally incomplete. Provinces appear to be least interested to fulfill the constitutional command regarding the local government. The Charter of Democracy, article 140-A of the Constitution that calls for fiscal, political, administrative devolution to districts, and the manifestos of all political parties promise local governance, still people are deprived of vibrant local government. The Group asked to translate the multiple criteria for resource distribution of National Finance Commission in the Provincial Finance Commissions to offer equitable development to districts.
The group proposed to prepare a comparative analysis of 1979 and 2000 Local Government and design an effective system.
The group also stressed that politics must define the national political discourse. Today neither politicians, nor intellectuals are framing it rather electronic media has assumed this role. The pattern of electronic media is to perpetuate conflicts by highlighting differences. The points of consensus are rarely highlighted. The Group examined reports from the provinces about the steps being taken and examined various concerns and confusions prevailing in provincial capitals.
Members of the CGC also met Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa, senior Advisor Punjab at the Chief Minister secretariat. The Senior Advisor briefed the participants about steps being taken by the Punjab Government to make democratic devolution a success. He also responded to the questions and concerns raised by the members of the group. He informed that Punjab has written to the federal government to complain about the incomplete devolution.