Constitution of Pakistan

From Academic Kids

There have been several documents known as the Constitution of Pakistan. These will be dealt with here in chronological order. The 1973 Constitution provided for a parliamentary system with a President as head of state and popularly elected Prime Minister as head of government. However, in 1988 the Eighth Amendment made Pakistan's government a Semi-presidential system. Pakistan has a bicameral legislature that consists of the Senate (upper house) and the National Assembly (lower house). Together with the President, the Senate and National Assembly make up a body called the Majlis-i-Shoora (Council of Advisors) or Parliament [1] (http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/constitution/part3.ch2.html).

Contents

Early constitutional beginnings

The first major step in framing a constitution was the passage by the Constituent Assembly of the Objectives Resolution of March 1949, which defined the basic principles of the new state. It provided that Pakistan would be a state:

"wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed; wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Qur'an and Sunna; [and] wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to progress and practice their religions and develop their cultures."

Seven years of debate, however, failed to produce agreement on fundamental issues such as regional representation or the structure of a constitution. This impasse prompted Governor General Ghulam Mohammad to dismiss the Constituent Assembly in 1954. The Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld the action of the Governor General, arguing that he had the power to disband the Constituent Assembly and veto legislation it passed. This preeminence of the Governor General over the legislature has been referred to as the viceregal tradition in Pakistan's politics.

The Constitution of 1956

The revived Constituent Assembly promulgated Pakistan's first indigenous constitution in 1956 and reconstituted itself as the national legislature--the Legislative Assembly--under the constitution it adopted. Pakistan became an Islamic republic. The Governor General was replaced by a President.

...more on the interim between 1956 and 1973 to follow...

The Constitution of 1973

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, President from 1971 to 1977, lifted martial law within several months after his election, and after an "interim constitution" granting him broad powers as President, a new constitution was promulgated in April 1973 and came into effect on August 14 of that year, the twenty-sixth anniversary of the country's independence. This constitution represented a consensus on three issues: the role of Islam; the sharing of power between the federal government and the provinces; and the division of responsibility between the president and the prime minister, with a greatly strengthened position for the latter. Bhutto stepped down as president and became prime minister. In order to allay fears of the smaller provinces concerning domination by Punjab, the constitution established a bicameral legislature with a Senate, providing equal provincial representation, and a National Assembly, allocating seats according to population. Islam was declared the state religion of Pakistan.

Bhutto had the opportunity to resolve many of Pakistan's political problems. But although the country finally seemed to be on a democratic course, Bhutto lost this opportunity because of series of repressive actions against the political opposition that made it appear he was working to establish a one-party state. In a final step, he suddenly called national elections in March 1977, hoping to catch the opposition unprepared and give his party total control of the National Assembly.

...more on the interim between 1973 and the present to follow...

Structure of Government

President

The president, in keeping with the constitutional provision that the state religion is Islam, must be a Muslim. Elected for a five-year term by an Electoral College consisting of members of the Senate and National Assembly and members of the provincial assemblies, the president is eligible for reelection. But no individual may hold the office for more than two consecutive terms. The president may resign or be impeached and may be removed from office for incapacity or gross misconduct by a two-thirds vote of the members of the parliament. The president generally acts on the advice of the prime minister but has important residual powers. One of the most important--a legacy of Zia--is contained in the Eighth Amendment which gives the president the power to dissolve the National Assembly "in his discretion where, in his opinion . . . a situation has arisen in which the Government of the Federation cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and an appeal to the electorate is necessary." The Thirteenth Amendment which was passed in 1997, revoked this power. In December 2003, the President's power was partially restored by the Seventeenth Amendment. In April 2004, the Presidency's influence was augmented by an Act of Parliament that established the National Security Council, a body chaired by the President.

Parliament

The bicameral federal legislature consists of the Senate (upper house) and National Assembly (lower house). According to Article 50 of the Constitution, the National Assembly, the Senate and the President together make up a body known as the Majlis-i-Shoora (Council of Advisers).

National Assembly

Members of the National Assembly are elected by universal adult suffrage (over eighteen years of age in Pakistan). Seats are allocated to each of the four provinces, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Islamabad Capital Territory on the basis of population. National Assembly members serve for the parliamentary term, which is five years, unless they die or resign sooner, or unless the National Assembly is dissolved. Although the vast majority of the members are Muslim, about 5 percent of the seats are reserved for minorities, including Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs. Elections for minority seats are held on the basis of separate electorates at the same time as the polls for Muslim seats during the general elections.

Senate

The Senate is a permanent legislative body with equal representation from each of the four provinces, elected by the members of their respective provincial assemblies. There are representatives from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and from Islamabad Capital Territory. The chairman of the Senate, under the constitution, is next in line to act as president should the office become vacant and until such time as a new president can be formally elected. Both the Senate and the National Assembly can initiate and pass legislation except for finance bills. Only the National Assembly can approve the federal budget and all finance bills. In the case of other bills, the president may prevent passage unless the legislature in joint sitting overrules the president by a majority of members of both houses present and voting. Unlike the National Assembly, the Senate cannot be dissolved by the President.


Federal Government

Prime Minister and Cabinet

The prime minister is appointed by the president from among the members of the National Assembly. The prime minister is assisted by the Federal Cabinet, a council of ministers whose members are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister. The Federal Cabinet comprises the ministers, ministers of state, and advisers. As of early 1994, there were thirty-three ministerial portfolios: commerce; communications; culture; defense; defense production; education; environment; finance and economic affairs; food and agriculture; foreign affairs; health; housing; information and broadcasting; interior; Kashmiri affairs and Northern Areas; law and justice; local government; minority affairs; narcotics control; parliamentary affairs; petroleum and natural resources production; planning and development; railroads; religious affairs; science and technology; social welfare; special education; sports; state and frontier regions; tourism; water and power; women's development; and youth affairs.

Other Offices

Other offices and bodies having important roles in the federal structure include the attorney general, the auditor general, the Federal Land Commission, the Federal Public Service Commission, the Central Election Commission, and the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman).


Judiciary

The judiciary includes the Supreme Court, provincial high courts, and other lesser courts exercising civil and criminal jurisdiction.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has original, appellate, and advisory jurisdiction. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the president; the other Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president after consultation with the chief justice. The chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court may remain in office until age sixty-five.

Other Courts

Judges of the provincial high courts are appointed by the president after consultation with the chief justice of the Supreme Court, as well as the governor of the province and the chief justice of the high court to which the appointment is being made. High courts have original and appellate jurisdiction.

There is also a Federal Shariat Court consisting of eight Muslim judges, including a chief justice appointed by the president. Three of the judges are ulama, that is, Islamic Scholars, and are well versed in Islamic law. The Federal Shariat Court has original and appellate jurisdiction. This court decides whether any law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. When a law is deemed repugnant to Islam, the president, in the case of a federal law, or the governor, in the case of a provincial law, is charged with taking steps to bring the law into conformity with the injunctions of Islam. The court also hears appeals from decisions of criminal courts under laws relating to the enforcement of hudud (see Glossary) laws that is, laws pertaining to such offenses as intoxication, theft, and unlawful sexual intercourse.

In addition, there are special courts and tribunals to deal with specific kinds of cases, such as drug courts, commercial courts, labor courts, traffic courts, an insurance appellate tribunal, an income tax appellate tribunal, and special courts for bank offenses. There are also special courts to try terrorists. Appeals from special courts go to high courts except for labor and traffic courts, which have their own forums for appeal. Appeals from the tribunals go to the Supreme Court.

Mohtasib

A further feature of the judicial system is the office of Mohtasib (Ombudsman), which is provided for in the constitution. The office of Mohtasib was established in many early Muslim states to ensure that no wrongs were done to citizens. Appointed by the president, the Mohtasib holds office for four years; the term cannot be extended or renewed. The Mohtasib's purpose is to institutionalize a system for enforcing administrative accountability, through investigating and rectifying any injustice done to a person through maladministration by a federal agency or a federal government official. The Mohtasib is empowered to award compensation to those who have suffered loss or damage as a result of maladministration. Excluded from jurisdiction, however, are personal grievances or service matters of a public servant as well as matters relating to foreign affairs, national defense, and the armed services. This institution is designed to bridge the gap between administrator and citizen, to improve administrative processes and procedures, and to help curb misuse of discretionary powers.

Amendments

Pakistan's many constitutional changes are reflected by the following key constitutional amendments:

Template:Constitution of Pakistan

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Reference

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