Salient Features of 1956 Constitution of Pakistan

Mon, 03/04/2013 - 10:55 -- Umar Farooq

Salient Features of 1956 Constitution

The salient features of 1956 Constitution of Pakistan are as follows

A Written and Lengthy Document

The 1st Constitution of Republic of Pakistan was written in nature. It consisted of 234 Articles and 6 Schedules. Hence it was one of the lengthiest constitutions of the world as it regulated the activities and jurisdiction of not only the central government but also those of the provincial governments. In this way unlike the US Federation, the federating units did not have their separate constitutions.

Islamic Provisions in 1956 Constitution

Pakistan was achieved on the name of Islam. The Objective Resolution was included in the Preamble of the constitution, which acknowledged sovereignty of God on the universe.  Initiative was made that Muslims of Pakistan should implement the teaching of Quran and Sunnah in their lives. The President of Pakistan must be a Muslim.  Non-Muslims were also protected and considered as citizens of Pakistan.

Federation

The constitution embodied all the features of federation. There were three legislative lists Federal, Provincial and Concurrent. Federal List contained 30 Subjects, the Provincial 94 and in the Concurrent List only 19 Subjects were enumerated. Both the central and provincial legislatures could also make laws regarding Concurrent subjects. However, in case of conflict the central law would prevail. All the residuary powers were entrusted to the provinces, which sowed decentralization of authorities so as to meet the demands of provincial autonomy. In case of conflict between the centre and the provinces, the Chief Justice of Pakistan would have to settle the dispute.

Parliamentary Form of Government

Under the constitution parliamentary form of government was adopted. All the ministers were supposed to be the members of Parliament and they remained in office so long as they retained the confidence of the majority members in the Assembly. They were individually as well as collectively responsible to the National Assembly and had to participate in its proceedings and to guide legislation. The Assembly had the power, to pass a vote of no confidence against the ministry. The President was the Head of State while the Prime Minister was the Head of Government.

Position of the President in 1956 Constitution of Pakistan

The executive authority of the federation was vested in the President, who was to be elected by members of the National and Provincial Assemblies for 5 years. He could summon, prorogue or dissolve the National Assembly on the advice of the cabinet, could address the National Assembly and could send messages to it. His prior permission for budget to be moved in the Assembly was necessary. He possessed limited veto with respect to laws passed by National Assembly and absolute veto with respect to provincial laws. He could also issue ordinances and was the supreme commander of the armed forces.

Unicameral Legislature

The 1956 Constitution is characterized by unicameralism called National Assembly. It consisted of 300 members who were directly elected by the people of both the wings on parity basis for a period of 5 years. Besides, 10 seats were also reserved for women for 10 years. A person not less than 25 years of age could become its member. Every Pakistani citizen having attained 21 years of age had the right to vote. Speaker and Deputy Speaker were its presiding officers. There were to be at least 2 sessions of Assembly every year. Although its life was 5 years, however, it could be dissolved earlier and fresh elections were to be held.

Independence of Judiciary

Necessary protection was given to independence of judiciary. Head of the State will be authorized to appoint the judges. Their service could not be challenged without any accusation. The Supreme Court was entrusted the task of interpreting, the constitution and to adjudicate in any dispute between federal government and any provincial government or between provincial governments. There was single hierarchical court network throughout the country with Supreme Court at the top.

Directive Principles of State Policy

Directive principles of state policy were also incorporated in Part III of the constitution. Some of these principles dealt with Islamic teachings, other included eradication of poverty and provisions of equal facilities to all alike for welfare purpose, protection of the rights of minorities, elimination of illiteracy, uplift of life standard, enforcement of socio­economic justice, separation of judicial and executive branches etc. These principles were in fact codes of constitutional morality and it was an obligation on government to act accordingly.

Fundamental Rights

Fundamental rights were made part of the constitution and were to be enforced by the Supreme Court. All such laws and administrative policies as could violate fundamental rights could be challenged in the law-courts. These rights were guaranteed to Muslims and non-Muslims without any discrimination. Some of these included right to life, liberty, property and personal security, freedom of speech, expression, thought and action, right of movement, right to privacy and family life etc.

Official Language

Under the 1956 Constitution of Pakistan both Urdu and Bengali were made official languages of Pakistan. Nevertheless, English was adopted and accepted as language for official business for a period of 25 years.

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