Features of the Constitution of Pakistan (1956)

Constitution of pakistan
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After a through struggle of about nine years the first constitution was framed for Pakistan that replaced the government of India Act-1935. That constitution had the following characteristics:

Written and Lengthy: The constitution of 1956 was written and bulky constitution. It had a preamble reflecting the Islamic and democratic spirit, equality, freedom, fundamental rights, sovereignty of Allah, representative democracy, federal parliamentary setup, protection to minorities, social justice and independence of judiciary etc. There were 234 articles spread in thirteen parts and six schedules dealing with the election of the president, division of powers and judiciary etc. It was framed by the second Constituent Assembly in the leadership of Muhammad Ali, the then Prime Ministry and was enforced on 23rdMarch, 1956. It was a lengthy constitution as compared to the constitution of USA and China etc. All its components were well explained.

Partially Rigid: A partially rigid constitution is that which is neither too rigid like the constitution of USA not too flexible like the constitution of UK but a balanced method is adopted to amend it. The constitution of Pakistan of 1956 was partially rigid. Article-216 provided the majority (51%) of the total or two third (66%) of the present members of the National Assembly could amend the constitution. Provincial Assemblies were powerless in the process of amendment. It was less rigid as compared to the constitution of Pakistan of 1973.

Federal: The constitution of Pakistan of 1956 was federal. There are two provinces i.e. the West Pakistan and the East Pakistan with their separate provincial assemblies and executives. Powers were divided between the center and provinces. There were three lists of the powers i.e. Central Legislative List, Provincial Legislative List and Concurrent List. Both the governments can enact laws from the concurrent list but in case of contradiction between the central Legislature and any provincial Legislature on a particular law from this list, the law of central government was valid. All the residuary powers were vested in the provinces. The constitution fulfilled all the important requirements of a federation i.e. a written constitution, central and provincial governments, distribution of powers and a supreme court. Thirty subjects were in the control of the federal parliament and ninety-four items in the provincial list. There were nineteen subjects in the concurrent list.

Parliamentary: Like the government of India Act-1935, the new and the first constitution was parliamentary in nature. The Prime Minister and his cabinet would be taken from the national assembly and could remain in office as long as they would enjoy the support of the majority in the National Assembly. There was an exhaustive debate on the floor of the house to adopt parliamentary system or not. It was finally decided to introduce a parliamentary setup. The Prime Minister would nominate ministers from the legislature and the cabinet could participate in the legislation and debates. They were collectively responsible before the legislature.

Unicameral: Although a federal state requires a bicameral legislature where in the upper house equal representation is given to the provinces to ensure protection of right of the small units. That constitution provided for unicameral system and there was one house in the central legislature known as the National Assembly. Its total strength was 300 half from each wing and ten seats for women for ten years. In this way parity was given to both the wings of the country. Five women seat were to be elected by the constituencies in the East and five in the West. People were to elect the members of the national Assembly for five years and it could be dissolved earlier.

Independence of Judiciary: The constitution ensured independence of judiciary. Judges of the higher courts were to be appointed keeping in view the constitutional requirements. Their services were protected and they couldn’t be removed. Their pay could not be reduced. Supreme Court was at the top of the judicial pyramid and there were high courts in the West and the East Pakistan. Constitutional safeguards were provided to the judges of the superior courts in order to protect their services and to enable them to work in a safe and independent environment. Judicial structure was explained in detail by the constitution itself.

Principles of Policy: Principles of policy provides guidelines for future planning and policy formulation. These principles make government institutions and state personnel bound to perform their duties within the limits of the principles of policy. The system was taken from the Irish Constitution. It included that Pakistan is to respect UN-Charter, fraternal and friendly relations with others, to strengthen bonds with the world of Islam, equal opportunities to all, protection of minorities, social and economically justice, provisions of an environment to enable the Muslims to spend their lives in accordance with the provisions of Shariah, to discourage regionalism dangerous for national integration, separation of judiciary and executive and parity in civil services etc.

Islamic Provisions: The name of the state was Islamic Republic of Pakistan> the constitution presented Islam as synthesis of modern needs and Islamic Principles. The objective resolution was imparted in the preamble. All sovereign powers belonged to Allah and the rulers were to exercise those powers within the limits of Shariah. The president of the state was to be a Muslim. No law could be made against Islam. A safe and favorable atmosphere was proposed to be ensured for the citizens to spend their lives in accordance with the provisions of the Holy Quran and Sunnah and to ensure observance of Islamic moral standards. All un-Islamic activities were to be prohibited.

Emergency provisions: The constitution of 1956 empowered the president of Pakistan to declare emergency. Undr Article-191 if the president was satisfied that a grave emergency existed and the provincial government was not in position to control the situation, the president could declare emergency.

Fundamental Rights: The constitution of 1956 unlike the interim constitution of 1935 emphasized on the fundamental rights. Any executive order to fundamental rights given in the constitution could be declared null and void by the Supreme Court. The constitution provided for numerous rights which included right to live, right to property, right to creed and religion, right to speech and writings, right to free movement, right to private life and privacy. All the citizens had the powers to challenge any legislation against the basic rights. The judiciary was empowered to protect the fundamental rights.

Republican System: The constitution was republican in nature. The head of the state was an elected Muslim President. He would be elected by the National Assembly and provincial assemblies for the term of five years. Minimum age for the candidature of the office of the president was fixed at forty years age and the president could be elected. He could be impeached by the legislature. He could dissolve the National Assembly on his own initiative and could appoint new government.