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Critical Assessment on 1973 Constitution and Amendments

The most sacred document in any democratic country is its Constitution. For an effective democratic
system, the set of guidelines put forward by the various groups in the society and agreed upon by the
selected representative of the society, is very important. The constitution of the Islamic Republic of
Pakistan is the supreme law of the country. Being a successor to two earlier documents, constitution of
1956 and 1962,it is also knows as Constitution of 1973. However the constitutional history of Pakistan
has been very gloomy and dramatic. For the first 9 years after independence, the country had no
constitution, once it did; it was brutally violated by dictators. And finally, the last constitution of 1973
was discourteously treated as 19 amendments were made to it. In this article, we’ll be going through the
whole constitution finding out the major flaws and the problems with the amendments.

One of the basic flaws in the constitution was that it failed to federalize the state majorly. The system is
not truly democratic, not it is genuinely federal. Pakistan is an ethnic, linguistic and culturally diversified
country and federalism was more than a logical choice but the constitution strengthened the centralized
form of government which it inherited from the British era political arrangements. The central
government as per the constitution invoked Islam to deal with the regional and linguistic differences and
would often disregard the concerns of various provinces as there was no proper guidance available in the
constitution. As the Prime Minister was the powerful leader with powers to even meddle with the
provincial affairs, this gave the constitutionmore of a dictatorial touch and this totally went against
federalism. The provinces felt themselves undermined and this developed mistrust.

The Constitution of a country is always without any bias, prejudice or discrimination against any
individual, caste, gender or religion etc. There cannot be discrimination with any citizen on any basis.
However the 1973 constitution is not a secular one, in fact, it has a definite Islamic character as the
office of both PM and the President is reserved to Muslims. Also it never fully states the laws of
minorities and many things are ignored. The status of Ahmadis was also controversial as it delegitimized
them and like this many points in the constitution favored the overwhelmingly dominating Muslim
support by not properly identifying the rights of minorities which made it even harder for authorities to
act upon.

Although the Constitution declared it treason to attempt or conspire to subvert it but it did not stop the
military leaders from Martial Laws. This highlighted many weaknesses of the Constitution including
judiciary. The courts are meant to protect the constitution but due to several laws they have given ways
to the military leaders on matters of constitutional law. This constitutional weakness was always
exploited in the form of coups by military leaders for example Zia-Ul-Haq and Musharraf. Zia staged a
coup in 1977 and dismissed the constitution. The PCO further allowed him to amend the constitution to
stay in power. As the judiciary was weak, Musharraf could easily bring a PCO (Provincial Constitutional
Order). This PCO In return deprived the Supreme Court of all powers to check on the government or
question it in times of emergency.
The 1973 constitution was a parliamentary one giving full power to the Prime Minister as head of the
government and leaving with President with almost no authority. The President cannot act without the
advice of the PM and all of his orders must be countersigned by the PM. This it was a wrong measure
because giving such powers to a single individual considering the corrupt and weak leaders of the
country. The PM was only answerable to NA and all executive members were under him. No proper
check and balance was ensued on the PM and he could carry out anything as long as he has the two-
third majority in the house. By taking powers away from the President, he was made more of ceremonial
figure. Although later amendments restored somewhat power.

In total there were 21 amendments to the 1973 Constitution. Many were a result of already present
flaws the framework but some were done by power-hungry elected democratic leaders to avoid any
check and balance and govern as easily as possible without any intervention. We are going to discuss
several of the important amendments and the problems they carried in them.

The 2nd amendment became part of the constitution on September 7 th 1974 and declared Ahmadis as
Non-Muslims. Many of the members of that community had to go into exile. This amendment clearly
went against the former claims of Pakistan being a more secular country and protecting the rights of
minorities. Many Ahmadis were oppressed and this gave the public a clear license to brand them as non-
Muslims which led to many riots.

The Majlis-e-Shoora amended the Constitution for the 8 th time in 1985. This amendment gavePresident
the powers to individually dissolve the National assemble and elected governments. It was a measure
enforced by Zia to remove the PM Muhammad Junejo which he did in 1988. There was no particular
requirement of this amendment but Zia wanted no hindrances in his way. Later on the President Ishaq
Khan made extensive abuse of the amendment by dismissing both Bhutto and Nawaz’s government on
the grounds of corruption. Pakistan became a more politically unstable country after this amendment.

The 14th amendment was brought into place by then elected PM Nawaz Sharif. This gave the party
leaders unlimited power to be able to dismiss any legislator who votes against. The chances of PM being
thrown out of the office were reduced to zero. It further removed all checks and balances on the PM by
the institutions thereby giving him absolute autonomy in governing the country only to be later thrown
out by Musharraf in 1999.

Whatever good the 13th amendment had done to ensure some political continuity was removed again by
the 17th amendment. It again restored the powers to the President whereby he could again dismiss the
elected government. Musharraf brought this amendment so that he could protect himself if his party
fails to side with him. However the dismissal would still require Supreme Court’s approval. Another
article was introduced in which the President cannot hold his office and another office of benefit but
Musharraf easily found a loophole which allowed the parliament to pass a law that permitted him to
hold both offices at a time.
Concluding the assessment analytically, the Constitution did not have many major flaws and many of the
amendments were counteracts to the previously wrong ones. However the problem with our country is
the implementation of the Constitution. No matter how many solid Constitutions are passed, unless they
are not being implemented upon, there is no use.


1. Pakistan Affairs by Dr Hassan Askari

2. The Myth of the Constitutionalism in Pakistan. By Zulfukar Mirza