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Discovering The Significance of Pakistan’s Republic Day: A Look into the Country’s Three Constitutions”

GS Paper 2, Indian Politics, Comparison of Indian Constitution

Pakistan’s Republic Day March 23rd -Pakistan Day:

  • March 23rd, holds more recall and relevance in the country than the anniversary of its becoming a Republic -Three Constitutions.
  • Since its creation, Pakistan has seen three Constitutions, and several dictatorships when the Constitution has been suspended.

Significance of March 23:

  • On March 23 in 1940, the All India Muslim League adopted the Lahore Resolution, demanding a separate nation for Muslims. In independent Pakistan, thus, this day is celebrated as Pakistan Day.
  • In 1956, on the same day, the country officially adopted its first Constitution, which transformed the Dominion of Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • Awareness and literacy about the Constitution is not very high among the average Pakistani, which is why Pakistan Day holds more significance.

The First Constitution:

Pakistan took nine years and two Constituent Assemblies to adopt its first Constitution. The death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah soon after Pakistan was formed, political instability, the enormity of the task at hand, and the dissolving of the first Constituent Assembly in 1954 by Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad, who felt it was clipping his powers, all contributed to it.

 

  • Challenges: The drawing up of Pakistan’s Constitution was an unprecedented exercise, for the first time, a modern democratic nation was trying to give itself an Islamic Constitution. The Constituent Assembly had three thorny challenges – to decide the nature and extent of Islam’s influence on the Constitution; to balance the rights and interests of East and West Pakistan; and to safeguard minority rights in a nation born as a Muslim homeland. –
  • Objectives Resolution: On March 12, 1949, the Constituent Assembly passed the Objectives Resolution, meant to serve as a guide for the Constitution. It stated that Sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the state of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust.

The principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance, and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed, the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

 

  • Example for other Islamic countries: Pakistan’s Constitution eventually served as an example for other Islamic countries, such as Malaysia and Nigeria.
  • Objections to the Objectives Resolution: While the Resolution did say that “adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely progress and practice their religions and develop their cultures,” minority members of the Assembly objected to it, with Dhaka-born Sris Chandra Chattopadhyaya saying, “In my conception of (the) state where people of different religions live there is no place for religion in the state.”

 Yet others pointed out that the spirit of the Resolution went against Jinnah’s vision of an equal Pakistan. The Objectives Resolution was finally adopted with all 10 minority members voting against it.

 

  • Adoption of the first Constitution: Seven years after the Objectives Resolution, the first Constitution was adopted, with the Islamic republic of having a unicameral Parliament, of 300 members divided equally between West and East Pakistan.
  • Short-lived: This Constitution proved short-lived, abrogated by President Sikandar Mirza on October 7, 1958, and replaced with martial law.

The Second Constitution

  • Second Constitution: Under General Muhammad Ayub Khan, Pakistan got its second Constitution in 1962.
  • Not a consensus document: This Constitution was not a consensus document, and heavily concentrated powers in the hands of the President. The all-powerful President was to be elected indirectly – an electoral college of ‘Basic Democrats’, elected by the public, would choose the President.
  • Inputs from common people: This Constitution sought inputs from the common people, in a bid to give it some legitimacy.
  • Duration: This Constitution lasted for seven years. On March 25, 1969, martial law was imposed again, by General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan.
  • Results of the first general election: Under Yahya Khan, the first general elections were held in December 1970. The results of this election set in motion the change of events that created Bangladesh in 1971.

The Third, and Current, Constitution

  • Third and current Constitution: In 1973, Pakistan got the Constitution that still governs it.
  • Key features: The three key features of this Constitution are a Parliamentary democracy, where power rests with an elected Prime Minister and his ministers answerable to Parliament; a federal structure; and expanded fundamental rights.
  • Prime Minister has to be elected: The Prime Minister has to be elected, he can’t come from the Upper House. Also, both President and PM have to be Muslims.
  • 18th amendment: The 18th amendment of 2010 is another crucial feature, which empowered the Provincial governments to a great degree, diluting the powers held by the Federal government.
  • Suspensions: This Constitution was suspended twice, under General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1985) and General Pervez Musharraf (1999-2002). -Amendments: Over time, various amendments have removed a lot of changes brought in by Zia.

Pakistan’s Republic Day

  • Pakistan’s Republic Day is celebrated on March 23rd
  • However, it holds less significance compared to Pakistan Day (also celebrated on March 23rd)
  • Pakistan has had three Constitutions since its creation
  • The first Constitution was adopted in 1956, transforming the Dominion of Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
  • The first Constitution faced challenges of deciding the influence of Islam on the Constitution, balancing the rights of East and West Pakistan, and protecting minority rights
  • The first Constitution was abrogated in 1958 by President Sikandar Mirza and replaced with martial law
  • The second Constitution was adopted in 1962, heavily concentrating powers in the hands of the President
  • The second Constitution was also abrogated by martial law in 1969
  • The current Constitution, adopted in 1973, features a parliamentary democracy, a federal structure, and expanded fundamental rights
  • The Constitution has been suspended twice by military dictators, but various amendments have removed changes made during those times
  • Awareness and literacy about the Constitution is currently low among the general population, but it is increasing among certain groups agitating for their rights.

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