Pakistan Reader# 581, 8 April 2023
A commentary in Dawn, titled “A work in progress,” authored by Ahmed Bilal Mahboob, looks at the developments in Pakistan’s constitution since its promulgation in 1973. The following are the key takeaways of the analysis.
First, the Constitution is dynamic, with 23 amendments so far. It has evolved and addressed significant issues like provincial autonomy.
Second, the amendments have proved the maturity of Pakistan’s legislature, especially with the 18th Amendment. The amendment abolished the concurrent lists and transferred several federal ministries to provinces. , Article 160(3A) has made the share of the provinces in each national finance commission award irreducible to the previous one, and Article 213 did away with the discretionary powers of the president while appointing the chief election commissioner and other members of the commission.
Third, the amendments have provided balance. The 17th and 18th amendments, for example, have balanced the provisions of defection and disqualification (which was introduced in the 14th amendment of 1997) by restricting the scope of the party’s compulsory direction to legislators while voting in assembly only to matters related to the election of prime minister and chief minister, constitutional amendments, vote if confidence or no confidence against PM or CM, and Money bills.
Fourth, the Constitution is a work in progress. More needs to be done to make the constitution of Pakistan more egalitarian. For example, the power of ordinances under Articles 89 and 128 is a blow to democracy where legislation is done without the involvement of legislators, but the past 23 amendments provide hope for Pakistan’s constitutional future.