Major political parties nominated 30 odd members of the National Assembly and the Senate to represent them in a committee that deliberated for over nine months to produce a document proposing 102 amendments to the constitution. And 292 of the 342 members of the Lower House voted on April 8 in favour of the bill, which was subsequently passed on April 15 by the 104 members of the Senate as the Eighteenth Amendment. Generals Zia and Musharraf had also introduced amendments to the constitution that were presented to Parliament in a similar prescribed manner, albeit under a controlled environment. Those amendments were also passed by the courtesy of the duly elected members most of whom (or their kith and kin) grace our present assemblies. This time the amendments pertained to national issues and were not specifically carved to benefit an individual, although the Sharif brothers stand to gain in case either of them seeks re-election to the office of prime minister or chief minister for the third time. All deliberations were held clandestinely behind closed doors, where participants were sworn to secrecy and political parties bargained for their interests in the spirit of give and take. The amendments made by the military men were skilfully drafted by their legal brains, several (though not all) of which were person-specific inserted to reinforce, legitimise or prolong the dictatorial rule. The dictators had no need to negotiate as the pliant members followed instructions and the opposition was made practically irrelevant. The current scenario was not too different as the ordinary members raised their hands in approval under instructions from the party hierarchy, without openly debating threadbare each of the provisions that will affect our future generations for some time to come. In neither case the public at large was consulted. The democratically elected government chose not to repeal in its entirety the Seventeenth Amendment, made by the military dictator that the democratic parties so despise and has in fact retained or modified many of its provisions. The striking of a consensus on issues of varying nature was celebrated as great political wisdom and the coming of age of our civilian system of governance. However, mass agitation immediately followed in Hazara Division where the people demonstrated their rejection of the renaming of NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and also called for a separate Hazara province. The demands for a Seraiki or Bahawalpur province that were airily dismissed, have now assumed a fresh vigour and certain seriousness. A series of such other demands on ethnic, linguistic or administrative bases are likely to be initiated in all four provinces. Petitions have been admitted in the Supreme Court against certain provisions of the Eighteenth Amendment that has ignited an adverse reaction from the parliamentarians, who consider their law making above the purview of the judiciary. The political consensus is now unfolding as a case of political expediency, where various political parties scored their own victories with a shallow understanding and disregard of the peoples sentiments. Democracy is being put to test yet once again with a responsibility on the politicians not to tread the collision path. They must prove that they represent the people, who elected them, and will not follow their personal agendas. We must initially look upon the merits that are better than being erroneously portrayed. The executive powers of the president have been trimmed in order to achieve a balance of power between the president, who is elected indirectly by the assemblies and the Senate, and the prime minister, who is directly answerable to the people through the National Assembly. It is the first time in our history that anyone has relinquished significant powers voluntarily. The courts will no longer be able to endorse the suspension of the constitution under coercion by the military. And the president will not be able to declare emergency unless advised by the prime minister. Moreover, the superior court judges will be appointed through a judicial commission. Besides this, the right of education to all children of the age between 5 and 16 has been guaranteed. Nevertheless like any other human effort, this document is also not perfect and can be subject to review. The defection clause under which the party head can terminate the membership of a dissenting member, and the exemption of political parties from holding elections, smacks of autocracy and promotion of nepotism. The compromise on renaming of NWFP as Khyber Pakht-unkhwa under the influence of a single political party without putting it to a vote of the affected common people has proved to be short-sighted that has already opened a Pandoras box. Since Parliament has approved it, the onus falls on them to face the public and take care of the pitfalls. This is how democracy works Anyway such a momentous accomplishment, not witnessed since the original constitution was passed in 1973, should have been celebrated most enthusiastically. However, other than mutual compliments by the legislators, the ordinary citizens have just breathed a sigh of relief that this phase has passed peacefully. This is a wake up call to their representatives that the major concern of the ordinary people is the resolution of their everyday problems of inflation, law and order, bureaucratic corruption, energy shortages and lack of basic amenities, for which the people voted them to power. For most people, the constitutional amendments or the restoration of judges are academic. People will understand or care for these niceties only if governance improves and fair and speedy justice is brought within their reach. Will the legislators care to descend to the grassroots from their high ground and solve the common peoples problems with the consensus and speed with which they passed the Eighteenth Amendment? The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur Email: