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The following was written to a law student approaching matriculation.

The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan became the law of the land when it passed from the Majlis-e-Shoora to receive the signatory approval of the president on 19 April 2010. With this amendment Pakistan made massive movement toward being a progressive state with the welfare of the citizens a primary concern.

One of the greatest accomplishments, one whose benefit is as of yet not fully realized nor wielded as a legal tool for social justice is the following clause:

“Every citizen shall have the right to access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.”

Let’s break this down into smaller parts to show both the beauty and strength of this carefully crafted sentence.

“Every citizen . . . ”

Yes! Every citizen must have equal status under the law. Minus equality there is injustice. So the baker seeking an explanation as to why the price of his wheat flour has risen to quadruple the price in six months is as worthy an explanation as the landowner who grows and sells the wheat for a reasonable profit margin. Between the farm and the bakery lie the roads in between. It is there, that the answer can be found. The answer to this question (extortion for right to passage) requires access to information through legal channels.

“Every citizen shall have the right….”

The rights of the one are the rights which belong to all. You are called to be a community – al-jama’ah. It is the duty of government to assure that all dealings and responses toward the community are uniform and binding.

Guardianship of the constitution is the beginning point for societal cohesion.

“Every citizen shall have the right to access to information…”

Modern governmental bodies are dependent on chain of command and chain of custody for information. While all citizens are not part of a formal chain of command they must be included in various chain of information regarding issues of state. It was one word – Recite – which opened up a chain of information which eventually brought about a nascent Islamic state in Madinah. Information is important because minus information we cannot make the important decisions.

“Every citizen shall have the right to access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.”

Let’s explore the complete sentence a bit further by placing the burden for the adjudication of this clause of the Eighteenth Amendment firmly where it belongs.

This adjudication belongs within the hands of the holders of authority – ulu-‘l – amir. In the truest sense, those entrusted with authority are those which are known to be of noble character. Within the annals of Islamic history it can be seen that there are those who lay claim to noble lineage and others who lay claim to noble character. While not all can be categorized as the former, all, who are vested with the authority of the state must be of the latter category.

To be anything less is to be base, corrupt, and incompetent.

Perhaps this thought can be best expressed with the words of Muhammad ibn Yazdad, a minister of al-Ma’mun:

“Whoever is a guardian of this world, it is not fitting that he sleep while all the people are asleep; and how can there be rest for the eyes of the one who must address the difficulties of his affair; resolving and contracting (the affairs of others).

In the case of the Eighteenth Amendment and the issue of access to freedom of information for the public you are distinctly admonished to intervene in the affairs of others.

When a mighty upheaval brought about the birth of Pakistan, Muhammad Asad wrote an essay titled “Islamic Constitution-Making” and it was published in Urdu and English under the auspices of the Government of the Punjab in March of 1948. These early thoughts were later penned in his book, “The Principles of State and Government”. In Chapter I, he has this to say:

“In the life of every nation there comes, sooner or later, a moment when it seems to be given a free choice of its destiny; a moment when the decisions as to which way to go and what future to aim at, seem to be freed from the pressure of adverse circumstances, and when no power on earth is able to prevent the nation from choosing one way in preference to another. Such historic moments are extremely rare and fleeting, and it may well be that if a nation fails to avail itself of the opportunity thus offered, it will not be offered for centuries to come.”

On 19 April, 2010 the nation of Pakistan was gifted with a unique opportunity in the form of a wisely crafted Constitutional Amendment.

I continue to wish for you the best in your struggle to consider the merits of the law with regard to the health which it brings to your nation.

Corruption is never the “best kept” state secret nor is it meant to be so.

Clear lines of communication, fairness toward all, and public accommodation of requests for information strengthen the state and her standing with the citizens.