Constitution of 1956

Constitution of 1956

First constitution was approved on 29th January 1956. The Governor General gave is assent on 2nd March and the new constitution was enforced on 23rd March, 1956 and Pakistan was transformed into an Islamic Republic. The Objectives Resolution passed by the First Constituent Assembly in 1949 was included in the Preamble of 1956 Constitution. Under this constitution, parliamentary form of government, modeled on British pattern, was adopted. This federal system was closer to the one as it existed under 1935 Act of India.

Salient Features

1. Nature of the Constitution:
The constitution of the First Republic was a brief document containing six schedules and 234 Articles. It regulated the activities and determined the jurisdiction of both, central as well as that of provincial governments, unlike American Federation; the Federating units did not have their separate constitutions.

2. Federation:
Under the constitution, there existed division of powers between the central and provincial governments in the form of three lists. One of the lists included the affairs on which central government was authorized to legislate, the second list dealt with provincial government’s jurisdiction, while the third one included all concurrent affairs on which both central as well as provincial governments could legislate.

3. Parliamentary System:
The form of government was modeled on parliamentary lines which had closer resemblance to the system as worked under 1935 Act of India. Under this system, all ministers were supposed to be the members of Parliament and they remained in office so long as they continued to command the confidence of the majority of the Assembly, otherwise, they had to resign. The Cabinet was collectively accountable to the National Assembly.

4. Uni-Cameral Legislature:
It is a common practice in almost all the federal states to introduce bicameral legislature in which the upper chamber is organized on the basis of parity of representation to all the federating units while the lower chamber is organized on popular basis. But in Pakistan, there existed only one Chamber of the Parliament in which parity of representation was secured to both the federating units i.e. East and West Pakistan.

5. Independence of Judiciary:
The constitution ensured necessary safeguards to secure independence of judiciary. The judges of the superior courts were to be appointed by the head of the State and were ensured full security of service. They could not be removed prior to their retirement except through impeachment, nor their salaries diminished.

6. Directive Principles:

Directive principles of state policy were also incorporated in the constitution, a practice copied from Irish Constitution and contained in 1935 Act of India as well. Some of these principles dealt with Islamic teachings. It was also reaffirmed that Pakistan would always pay due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and perform its due role in its efforts to maintain international peace and security. It was also reaffirmed that Pakistan would foster fraternal relations with other nations.

7. Fundamental Rights:
Fundamental rights were made the part of the constitution and were to be enforced by the Supreme Court. All such laws or administrative policies which violated Fundamental rights could be challenged in the Court of Law. Some important of these were: right to life, right to personal security, freedom of thought and action, of speech and expression, right of movement within the country, right to privacy and family life etc.

8. Islamic Provisions:
Pakistan is an ideological polity which came into being for the purpose of implementing Islamic way of life. Hence the basic objectives of the newly created state were pre-determined. The Objectives Resolution passed b y 1st constituent Assembly, clearly pointed out Islamic ideology as the basis of new socio-political order. It was included in the Preamble of the constitution which recognized sovereignty of Allah and reaffirmed that no law would be enacted which was against the injunctions of Islam. The name of the republic also reflected its Islamic character.

Causes of Failure of Constitution of 1956

The constitution remains enforced for a period of two years only while it is too short period to test the utility of a constitution. As a matter of fact, the implementation of Constitution signifies the beginning of a new era of democracy but anti-state elements and disgruntled politicians were not sincere to this process and were bent upon sabotaging the system. Most of the politicians tried to seize political authority through back doors and indulged in political intrigues. Democratic norms were not paid due heed.

Elections could not be held under the new constitution and capturing of political power through palace intrigues became a routine affair. Nepotism, favoritism and selfishness shook the foundations of the political system. Undoubtedly, the situation became ripened for the intervention of military in politics. Martial Law was imposed in October 1958 and it was announced that parliamentary democracy had failed.


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