The Constitution

The Constitution of 1973 -- The Existing Constitution

After gaining power, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto invited the leaders of the parliamentary parties to meet him on 17 October 1972, which resulted in an agreement known as the 'Constitutional Accord', after an intensive discussion. As per consultations floated by PPP, the National Assembly of Pakistan appointed a committee, of 25 members, on 17 April 1972, to prepare a draft of the permanent Constitution of Pakistan. Mohammad Ali Kasuri was the elected chairman of the Committee. On 20 October 1972, the draft bill for the Constitution of Pakistan was signed by leaders of all parliamentary groups in the National Assembly. A bill to provide a constitution for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was introduced in the Assembly on 2 February 1973. The Assembly passed the bill unanimously on 19 April 1973 and endorsed by the acting President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on 12 April 1973. The Constitution came into effect from 14 August 1973. On the same day, Bhutto took over as the Prime Minister and Choudhary Fazal-e-Elahi as the President of Pakistan.

This constitution represented a compromise consensus on three issues: the role of Islam; the sharing of power between the federal government and the provinces; and the division of responsibilities between the President and the Prime Minister, with a greatly strengthened position for the latter.

The Constitution provided for federal system. The Federal Legislature is to function like the British Parliament. In order to allay fears of the provinces concerning domination of the Centre, the constitution established a bicameral legislature with a Senate (the upper house), providing equal provincial representation, and a National Assembly (the lower house), allocating seats according to population.

Islam has been declared as the State religion. The Constitution named Pakistan as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Only a Muslim could become the President or the Prime Minister of Pakistan. No law repugnant to Islam shall be enacted and the present laws shall also be Islamised.

The President must be a Muslim not less than 45 years of age, elected by members of Parliament. He is to hold office for a term of five years. The President could be removed by the resolution of parliament of not less than two-thirds of the total membership. The President could issue ordinances when the Parliament is not in session. The President has the power of granting pardon and the right to be kept informed by the Prime Minister on all matters of internal and foreign policies.

The Constitution sets-forth the Parliamentary System of Government. The head of the Government, according to the Constitution, will be the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet is accountable to the National Assembly for his actions. The Prime Minister would be elected by the majority of the National Assembly.

The Constitution of 1973 introduced a new institution known as the 'Council of Common Interests' consisting of Chief Ministers of the provinces and an equal number of Ministers of the Federal Government nominated by the Prime Minister. The Council could formulate and regulate the policy in the Part II of the Legislative List. In case of complaint of interference in water supply by any province the Council would look into the complaint.

Another major innovation in the Constitution of 1973 is the establishment of a National Finance Commission (NFC) consisting of the Federal and Provincial Finance Ministers and other members to advice on distribution of revenues between the federation and the provinces.

The Principels of Policy includes Islamic way of life, promotion of Local Government institutions, full participation of women in national life, protection of minorities, promotion of social and economic well being of the people, and strengthening the bonds with the Muslim world and to work for international peace.

Under the 1973 Constitution, Fundamental Rights include security of person, safeguards as to arrest and detention, prohibition of slavery and forced labour, freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom to profess religion and safeguards to religious institutions, non-discrimination in respect of access to public places and in service, preservation of languages, script and culture. The judiciary enjoys full supermacy over the other organs of the State.