Why is Pakistan's Constitution weak?

8 Nov 2022  Read 4444 Views

Despite coming into existence more than 75 years now, Pakistan is yet to wait for real democracy. If we have to reveal the truths behind Pakistan’s failed attempt to establish democracy, it will be a complete roller coaster ride with fewer ups and more downs leading its path towards the country’s weak Constitution. This article discusses the constitutional history of Pakistan, Why is it difficult to become a Prime Minister in Pakistan? How it's a weak Constitution lead to the failure of democracy? and several occasions of martial law being imposed in the country. Let’s get started!

History of Pakistan’s Constitution

When World War II ended in 1945, the British imperial authority gave independence to its Indian colony. Concerning this, the British Parliament adopted the Indian Independence Act of 1947 (1947 Act). On 14th August 1947, the British Crown surrendered its sovereign rights over the entire territory of India, and those powers were moved on to the newly constituted dominions of India and Pakistan. 

  • Until the newly constituted India & Pakistan produced their own Constitutions, the combination of GOI Act, 1935 & the Independence Act,1947 operated as an interim constitutional order for both countries. 

  • January 26, 1950, is the day the Constitution of India came into effect, but this is not the case with Pakistan's Constitution as the first Constitution of Pakistan was drafted in 1956 after three Governor Generals, four Prime Ministers, and two constituent legislatures (1947-1954 & 1955-1956).

  • All Hindu minority parties and the major Muslim political party (the Awami League) from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) voted against it on the last day of its adoption (February 29, 1956) resulting in political instability & eventually to its abrogation and the imposition of the country’s first martial law on October 7, 1958, due to a lack of consensus (mainly because of the Islamic character of the state and federalism)

The current Constitution of Pakistan, enacted by the third constituent assembly in 1973, was suspended twice by military coups led by General Zia-ul-Haq (from 1977-1985) and General Musharraf (from 1999-2002). But when it was restored in 1985 and 2002, the military regimes changed it fundamentally, modifying its Islamic and federal character and giving power to the President to dissolve the lower chamber of the federal legislature both times.

Emergence of Pakistan

  • The roots of Pakistan's varied problems date back to 1940 when the All-India Muslim League formally demanded a Pakistan comprising Muslim-majority provinces in the northwest & northeast of India.

  • The demand was backed up by an assertion that the Indian Muslims were not a minority, so the Muslim League and its leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, aspired to negotiate a constitutional arrangement which provided an equitable share of power between Hindus and Muslims after British removal from India. 

  • With this, now we know that the demand for a "Pakistan" was Jinnah's, but the League claimed to become the spokesman of all Indian Muslims.

  • There were contradictions in a demand for a separate Muslim state (by Jinnah) and the claim to speak for all Indian Muslims (By League). 

  • This is because, during the remaining years of the British Raj in India, neither Jinnah nor the Muslim League deliberated how Muslims in the minority provinces in India back then could be benefitted from a separate country Pakistan, based on an undivided Punjab, North-West Frontier Province Sind, & Baluchistan in the northwest, and an undivided Bengal & Assam in the northeast. 

  • During that time, the reconstitution of the Indian Union should be then based on treaty arrangements etc., between Pakistan and Hindustan. 

  • Jinnah also stated that this separate country, Pakistan, would have to include an undivided Punjab and Bengal. The non-Muslim minorities in both these provinces were the best assurance that the Indian National Congress (INC) would see some sense in such demands as it was for safeguarding the Muslim minorities' interests in Hindustan.

  • Despite Jinnah's claims, the Muslim League failed to establish effective party machinery in the Muslim-majority provinces. 

  • Ultimately, Jinnah was left to go for a Pakistan stripped of the non-Muslim majority districts (where Hindus were more) of the Punjab and Bengal and to abandon his aspirations of a settlement that might have secured the interests of all Muslims. 

So, they succeeded in forming Pakistan with Muslim-majority provinces but failed to secure non-Muslim majority districts of the two provinces (Punjab & Bengal).

Partition into India and Pakistan 

 According to Congress, partition meant that certain areas with Muslim majorities were 'splitting off' from the "Indian union." But it was stated that if Pakistan failed to survive, the Muslim areas would have to return to the Indian union. 

How Pakistan’s Constitution cannot save its democracy? 

Let’s look at the attempts made to secure democracy in Pakistan or the failure of democracy in Pakistan.

  • Jinnah believed that Islam did teach the values of democracy like equality, justice, & tolerance almost 1400 years ago. Since independence, Pakistan has experienced various forms of government, including Parliamentary, Presidential systems, martial law, and democracy. 

  • Under the First 1956 Constitution, Pakistan had a parliamentary system, but just within two years, the constitution was suspended, & martial law was imposed in 1958, as discussed above in our article. 

  • Then in 1962, Ayub Khan introduced the presidential system under the 1962 Constitution, in which he launched the system of basic democracies in Pakistan. But due to election problems or corruption, this system failed in Pakistan. 

  • Again, after the martial law imposition, the new civilian government introduced the new 1973 constitution. Under this, a Parliamentary form of government was implemented again. Also, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the first elected Premier of Pakistan who had finished his five years tenure. 

  • But, this democratic process was again frustrated by Zia-ul-Haq, who imposed martial law in Pakistan in 1977. Thus, Pakistan again remained under the non-democratic government's control from 1977 to 1988. 

  • After the death of Zia-ul-Haq, the election was conducted in 1988 & Benazir Bhutto (PPP) became the premier of Pakistan. But in 1990, the Pakistan people party (PPP) government was suspended under allegations of corruption and poor governance. 

  • From 1993 to 1996, PPP again stayed a ruling party but could not finish its tenure & got dismissed because of corruption charges, whereas the Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) ruled from 1991 to 1993 & 1997-1999.

  • Once again, the elected government of PMLN could not finish its tenure & in October 1999, General Musharraf imposed martial law in the country. 

  • So, ultimately President Musharraf claimed that he would maintain a sustainable democracy set-up in Pakistan that would stop military takeover in the future and create job opportunities, human resources, etc., but no such promises were fulfilled. 

  • So, every government since then could not cope with the basic issues of common citizens. It is hard for a party to get a clear majority because of the multi-party system in Pakistan. Consequently, a coalition government has to be established most often, and many parties remain in government despite their fewer seats in elections.

  • So, from 1988 to 1999, from 2008 to 2013, PPP and PMLN ruled.

So, from this, you could say that every time the process of democracy had been derailed, it had been a complete roller coaster ride. The record of elections in Pakistan has been very poor.

Why is the Constitution of Pakistan weak?

  • Lack of Leadership

Due to a lack of Leadership, Pakistan never found a way to develop and implement the parliamentary system. 

  • Lack of Political Training

Many political parties were made without any political goal. Their fight against one another was mainly to gain power somehow. 

  • Unicameralism

The 1956 constitution introduced a unicameral legislature which created many problems & ultimately, martial law was imposed in the country.

  • Delay in Elections

Elections were delayed, and such delay caused the failure of the parliamentary system under the first constitution of Pakistan.

  • Non Existence of Economic Equality

Nepotism and feudalism checked the constitution from implementing those principles. Finally, the parliamentary system under this constitution failed. 

  • Lack of State Parliamentary System

The first Constitution of 1956 provided those principles that never proved convenient for developing the parliamentary system.

Constitution v. Martial Law

Martial Law is a set of laws administered by the military. In cases of crisis or emergency, martial law may be declared to hold control over the situation. It is a short set of regulations issued by military authorities in a designated area during a crisis when the civil government cannot function. (may be due to war, rebellion or natural disaster)

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 110 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Curator at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) & she is a patent analyst. She has pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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