Constitution of Pakistan

Constitution of Pakistan
State emblem of Pakistan.svg
Created19 April 1973
Ratified14 August 1973
Author(s)12th Parliament
Signatories12th Parliament
PurposeTo replace the Constitution of Pakistan (1962) and LFO Order No. 1970

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Urdu: آئین پاکستان), also known as the 1973 Constitution, is the supreme law of Pakistan.[1] Drafted by the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, with additional assistance from the country's opposition parties, it was approved by the Parliament on 10 April and ratified on 14 August 1973.[2]

The Constitution is intended to guide Pakistan's law, its political culture, and system. It identifies the state (its physical existence and its borders), people and their fundamental rights, state's constitutional law and orders, and also the constitutional structure and establishment of the institutions and the country's armed forces.[3] The first three chapters establish the rules, mandate, and separate powers of the three branches of the government: a bicameral legislature; an executive branch governed by the Prime Minister as chief executive; and an apex federal judiciary headed by Supreme Court.[3] The Constitution designates the President of Pakistan as a ceremonial Head of State who is to represent the unity of the state.[4] The first six articles of the constitution outline the political system as federal parliamentary republic system; as well as Islam as its state religion.[5] The Constitution also encapsulates provisions stipulating the legal system's compliance with Islamic injunctions contained in the Quran and Sunnah.[6]

The Parliament cannot make any laws which may be repugnant or contrary to the Constitution, however the Constitution itself may be amended by a two-thirds majority in both the houses of the bicameral Parliament, unlike the previous legal documents of 1956 and 1962.[7] It has been amended over time, and most recent impulses for political upgrades and reforms has been amended. Although enforced in 1973, Pakistan, however, celebrates the adoption of the constitution on 23 March—when the first set was promulgated in 1956—each and every year as Republic Day.[8]

Origins and historical background

In a radio talk addressed to the people of Pakistan, broadcast in February 1948, Jinnah expressed his views regarding Pakistan's constitution-to-be in the following way:

The Constitution of Pakistan is yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, I do not know what the ultimate shape of the constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam. Today these are as applicable in actual life as these were 1300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of man, justice and fair play to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan.


Pakistan was founded in 1947 as a Dominion (an independent realm or kingdom) within the British Commonwealth. The same was true in independent India. During its first few years of existence the British monarch was also Pakistan's head of state, as is still the case in Canada, Australia etc. Before writing a constitution, a Constituent Assembly passed the Objectives Resolution, on the insistence of the ulama and Jamaat-e-Islami, in March 1949 to define the basic directive principles of the new state and to declare state recognition of the sovereignty of Allah over the universe. The Objectives Resolution affirmed the role of democracy and contained religious provisions to enable society to adhere to the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. The Objectives Resolution has henceforth been inserted as a preamble into each of Pakistan's subsequent constitutions.[10]

The country became a republic when its first constitution was approved in 1956 but this was abrogated in 1958 after a military Coup d'état.[11] Pakistan's second constitution was approved in 1962. It granted executive power to the president and abolished the office of the prime minister. It also institutionalised the intervention of military in politics by providing that for twenty years, the president or the defence minister must be a person who had held a rank not lower than that of lieutenant-general in the army.[12] The 1962 constitution was suspended in 1969 and abrogated in 1972.[11]

The 1973 constitution was the first in Pakistan to be framed by elected representatives. Unlike the 1962 constitution it gave Pakistan a parliamentary democracy with executive power concentrated in the office of the prime minister, and the formal head of state—the president—limited to acting on the advice of the prime minister.[12]

The Constitution states that all laws are to conform with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah.[6] The 1973 Constitution also created certain institutions such as the Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology to channel the interpretation and application of Islam.[13]

After another coup d'état in 1977, the constitution was held in abeyance until it was "restored" in 1985 but with an amendment (the Eighth) shifting power from the parliament and Prime Minister to the president. Another Amendment (Seventeenth) in 2004 continued this shift, but in 2010, the Eighteenth amendment reduced presidential powers, returning the government to a parliamentary republic.[citation needed]

Previous legislation as Source

The successful independence movement led the establishment of Pakistan, independent from the British Raj in 1947. The British Empire divided the Raj into two parts, India and Pakistan.[citation needed]

The provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935, had greatly influenced the state and served as its basic legal document until 1956. In 1950, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan authored the first annexe that would pave a path to the drafting of the Constitution. Elected in 1947, the first Constituent Assembly drafted and adopted its first constitution in 1956.[citation needed]

1956 Constitution

Following the adoption of a constitution in India in 1950, Pakistan's lawmakers were incentified to work on their constitution. Prime Minister Muhammad Ali and his government officials worked with the opposition parties in the country to formulate a constitution for Pakistan.[14]

Finally, the joint work led to the promulgation of the first set of the constitution on 23 March 1956—a day when Pakistan celebrates its Republic Day over the adoption of the constitution. The constitution provided for parliamentary form of government with a unicameral legislature.[14] It officially adopted Pakistan as "Islamic Republic" and the principle of parity was introduced. Its features were:

By the constitution, Iskander Mirza assumed the presidency but his constant involvement in national affairs, as opposed to Constitution, dismissed four elected prime ministers in two years. Under public pressure, Mirza upheld the coup d'état in 1958, thus virtually suspending the constitution. Shortly afterwards General Ayub Khan deposed Mirza and declared himself president.[15]

1962 Constitution

General Ayub Khan appointed a Constitution Commission to draft another part of the constitution under Chief Justice Muhammad Shahabuddin.[16] Submitted its considerations on 6 May 1961, Ayub Khan altered the entire version of the constitution which was entirely different from the one recommended by Chief Justice Muhammad Shahabuddin.[16] It was promulgated on 8 June 1962. Main feature of this set was the introduction of the Presidential system and more consolidated powers to the President. No further changes were carried out to oppose the 1956 document.[16] Its features includes:

1970 Legal Framework Order

President Ayub Khan invited Chief of Army Staff General Yahya Khan to enforce the martial law in the country. On assuming the presidency, General Yahya Khan acceded to popular demands by abolishing the one-unit system in West Pakistan and ordered general elections on the principle of one man, one vote.[17][18]

The military government and President Yahya himself made no efforts to frame a constitution, aside from issuing the extrajudicial order in 1970.[18] Across the country, the expectations were that a National Assembly would be set up by holding a free and fair election. To hold the proposed elections, President Yahya promulgated a Legal Framework Order on 30 March 1970 that also spelled out the fundamental principles of the proposed constitution and the structure and composition of the national and provincial assemblies.[18]

In December 1970, nationwide general elections were held simultaneously for both the national and five provincial assemblies. The nationalist Awami League (AL) secured the mandate of East Pakistan but failed to perform in any four provinces of Pakistan.[18] The socialist Pakistan People's Party (PPP) under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gained a mandate in Punjab and Sind but failed in East Pakistan, NWFP and Balochistan.

1970 constitutional crises

Constitutional crises grew further when the AL refused to make concessions over its six points to draft the constitution and instead maintaining that the AL was able to frame a constitution and to form a central government on its own.[18]

The PPP was not willing to dilute the authority of the federal government in spite of assuring full provincial autonomy for all the provinces of Pakistan.[18] Negotiations on framing the work on constitution were held between January and March 1971 between leaders of the PPP, the AL, and the military government of Yahya Khan, which turned out to be a failure.[18] Under the LFO, the President was to decide when the National Assembly was to meet.[18] By 13 February 1971, the President Yahya announced that the National Assembly was to meet at Dhaka on 3 March 1971. By this time the differences between the main parties to the conflict had already crystallized.[18] Over the six-point issue, the PPP was convinced that a federation based on the six points would lead to a feeble confederation in name only and was part of a larger Indian plan to break up and destroy Pakistan.[18] These fears were evidently shared by the military leaders in the west, including President Yahya Khan who had publicly described Sheikh Mujibur Rehman as the 'future Prime Minister of Pakistan' on 14 January 1971. Bhutto announced on 15 February that his party would not attend the National Assembly unless there was 'some amount of reciprocity' from the Awami League. Sheikh Mujib replied at a press conference on 21 February, asserting that "Our stand is absolutely clear. The constitution will be framed on the basis of the six points".[18]

Such an announcement led the PPP to demand the removal of the National Assembly session, or the opening session to be postponed.[18] The PPP threatened to stage a large scale general strike all over the country. Under pressure by the PPP, President Yahya postponed the National Assembly session on 25 March which came as a shattering disillusionment to the AL and their supporters throughout East Pakistan.[18] It was seen as a betrayal and as proof of the authorities of the Pakistan to deny them the fruits of their electoral victory.[18] This resulted in the outbreak of violence in East Pakistan. The Awami League launched a non-co-operation movement as they virtually controlled the entire province.[18] Due to disturbances in East Pakistan, no National Assembly session was called and the military moved into East Pakistan to control the situation.[18] The civil disobedience movement turned into an armed liberation movement backed by India.

With India successfully intervening in the conflict, the Pakistan military surrendered to the Indian military and almost 93,000 military personnel were taken as prisoners of war on 16 December 1971.[18] Demoralized, gaining notoriety in the country, and finding himself unable to control the situation, President Yahya ultimately handed over the national power to the PPP, of which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was sworn in on 20 December 1971 as President and as the (first civilian) Chief Martial Law Administrator.[18]