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CONSTITUTION OF 1973

CONSTITUTION OF 1973 Pakistan’s constitutional history was complicated by its geography, but the situation was not eased by the secession of Bangladesh in December 1971 The new Pakistan that emerged in 1971 was reasonably homogeneous; it was geographically contiguous; its people, although speaking several different languages, shared a common history and were culturally more alike than was the case with the people of East and West Pakistan The dramatic political change that occurred as a result of the breakup of Pakistan did not resolve the differences among the provinces in what was once the western wing of the country, however A number of problems that had inhibited the writing of the constitution in the 1950s resurfaced The question of defining the role of Islam in Pakistan’s economy and polity became even more difficult to resolve than in the earlier period Religious parties had always been more powerful in the provinces of West Pakistan than in East Bengal With East Pakistan no longer there to lend a moderating hand, the religious parties demanded the establishment of an Islamic state in what was left of PakistanThe issue of the sharing of power between the federal and state governments that had occupied the attention of the politicians when Bengal was a part of Pakistan did not disappear with the departure of the eastern wing To these two perennial problems, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto added a third: the role of the head of state Bhutto was now the president



He had inherited all the political power that his military predecessors-Generals Ayub Khan and Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan-had accumulated since 1958 He was not disposed to dilute the power of the presidency for as long as he could occupy the office The task of devising a new constitutional arrangement was entrusted to a Constituent Assembly-the Third Constituent Assembly in Pakistan’s history Its membership was made up of the people who had been elected to the National Assembly from the provinces of West Pakistan in the elections held in December 1970 The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had a clear majority in the assembly, and it proceeded to elect Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as the assembly chairman In keeping with the tradition established by the First and Second Constituent Assemblies, the third assembly also functioned as the national legislature It took the assembly six months to draft a new constitution; an agreement was reached between the PPP and the smaller political organizations represented in the constituent body because of Bhutto’s willingness to yield ground to them on most of the important issues On 20October 1972, leaders of the parties represented in the National Assembly agreed on a new constitution that provided for a two-chamber federal parliament, a president, and a prime minister The president was to be elected by a joint sitting of the National Assembly, the Senate, and the four Provincial Assemblies The president was to invite the member of the National Assembly or the Senate most likely to command a majority in the national legislature to become the prime minister The prime minister was required to choose his ministers from among the members of the parliament

The four provinces were to have unicameral legislatures, with chief ministers chosen from among the members of the assemblies Provincial governors were to be appointed by the president, on the advice of the prime minister The new constitution took effect on 14 August 1973, Pakistan’s 26th anniversary The constitution of 1973 established a parliamentary system in which the prime minister was responsible to the National Assembly The provincial legislatures, like the National Assembly, were to be elected directly by the people on the basis of adult franchise Provincial chief ministers were to be responsible to the provincial legislatures The president and provincial governors had very limited powers; all of the executive authority was in the hands of the prime minister and the provincial chief ministers Islam had a more prominent presence in the 1973 constitution than had been the case in the constitutions of 1956 and 1962 Apart from making reference to the “sovereignty of Allah” in the preamble, Article 2 declared that “Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan” This phrase had not appeared in the earlier constitutions Article 40 declared that the state “shall endeavor to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among the Muslim countries based on Islamic unity

” In defining the power to be exercised by the provinces, the 1973 constitution was more explicitly in favor of the federating units than the constitutions of 1956 and 1962 It was because of these provisions that Bhutto was able to obtain the support of the political parties that had a stronger provincial base than the PPP The 1973 constitution made one significant departure from the traditions established in 1958 and 1962: it defined the role of the military and proscribed any intervention by the armed forces in the political life of the state Article 245 stated that the military’s role was to “defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and subject to law, act in aid of civil authority when called upon to do so” Article 6 defined the subversion of the constitution “by the use of force or show of force or by other unconstitutional means” to be an act of high treason and authorized the Parliament to provide punishment for those who ignored this provision On 14 September 1973, the National Assembly passed a law that prescribed the death sentence, or life imprisonment, for the subversion of the constitutionThe 1973 constitution remained in force in its original form for four years It remained suspended for eight years, from 1977 to 1985, when Pakistan was under martial law The president’s Revival of the Constitution 1973 Order of 1985 restored the constitution after amending 67 out of 280 articles While the constitution remained in force after the military takeover that brought General Pervez Musharraf to power on 12 October 1999, it was amended by the adoption of the seventeenth amendment in January 2003 The amendment gave the president some extraordinary powers including the power to dismiss the prime minister and dissolve the national assembly

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