The constitutional debate is on. The political circles, the media and the intelligentsia have been debating the issue since the advent of the new government a year ago. A new constitution needs not only the two-third majority of the parliament but also the approval of the people at a referendum which together means a high degree of consensus in the country.
However, the current position is that that there is no general consensus even on the need for a new constitution. That became evident when some sections of the opposition opposed the idea of drafting a totally new constitution compelling the prime minister to drop the word ‘new’ from the resolution that was to be presented in the parliament.
What all this means is that there is no agreement on this matter even between the two main political parties that are jointly governing the country. If the idea of a new constitution is to become a reality, there has to be consensus on why we need it. As everyone knows, one of the main issues to be dealt with in a new constitution is resolving the northern issue.
The two most sensitive issues arising out of this debate are the extent of devolution and whether to retain the presidential system of government or not. On all other matters such as electoral system or crossovers, there seem to be some consensus among most political parties and they are not stumbling blocks on the way to a new constitution.
It’s often fashionable for politicians to talk about adopting a constitution ‘acceptable to all the people’ and so on when they jolly well know that it can never be a reality until they themselves come forward and express honest views on these sensitive matters irrespective of political advantage.
It is not the ordinary people who are the greatest impediment for resolving some of these issues, but the politicians who privately speak the truth but do the opposite in public in order to win over votes by whipping up communal feelings. Politics is the only reason for some of these issues to remain sensitive forever.
There has to be a broad public debate on important subjects such as devolution of power, federalism, executive presidency and use of language etc. before embarking on the tedious task of drafting a new constitution. Such a debate will clear the ground compelling the politicians who play hide and seek to speak the truth and face the reality. The bull has to be taken by its horns and mere beating about the bush will not help in this vital issue affecting the whole nation.