A malleable charter

WHILE it is considerable that a strong landmark is to be before long raised in Islamabad to represent the significance of the Constitution, the record shows that the 1973 sanction remains very flexible. The ability of a material “to be hammered or pressed permanently out of shape without breaking or cracking” is what the Oxford Dictionary defines as malleability. Is malleability a virtue or a flaw in this context? It’s possible that there are no definitive answers.

In response to shifting circumstances and experiences, constitutions can always be amended. The 1973 Constitution’s remarkable capacity for major modifications by both elected legislatures and unelected military regimes, with judicial approval, such as the doctrine of necessity, is what makes it so malleable. But even elected legislatures have kept some of the progressive changes made by military rulers, like giving more seats to women, making the voting age 18 instead of 21, having joint electorates, making legislatures bigger (under Gen. Musharraf) and giving an indirectly elected Senate the power to start bills to change the Constitution and talk about money bills (under Gen. Ziaul Haq).

Similar to how a pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, the original 1973 version underwent a 180-degree shift that lasted years rather than seconds. With the exception of the authority to grant mercy petitions, the prime minister’s imbalanced and all-powerful position was in full effect until July 4, 1977, beginning with a head of state who was only a ceremonial decoration. Indeed, the excessive use of prime ministerial power for five years was one of the primary causes of the revolution in 1977. On July 5, 1977, the chief administrator of martial law assumed the role of supreme executive authority, putting an end to the PM’s reign of terror. When president Fazal Elahi Chaudhry resigned in September 1978, the CMLA assumed office as president while remaining COAS/CMLA.

The president’s powers were only partially diminished when Junejo became prime minister on March 24, 1985. The president remained in control even after martial law was lifted on December 30, 1985, thanks to Article 58(2)(b) of the Eighth Amendment, which gave the president the authority to fire the prime minister and dissolve legislatures at his or her own discretion. This provision was removed 12 years later in 1997 by the 13th Amendment. Superior courts were able to decide on civil legal matters and accept writs and petitions during military regimes.

The Constitution has demonstrated remarkable adaptability.

An indication of semantic disarray even in 2023 was clear when, on Walk 29, 2023, during a meeting on a Television slot, the current head of state, and the questioner, alluded to the numerous ‘revocations’ of the Constitution, while both likewise recognized its sturdiness! ‘ Abrogation means to “do away with (permanently)” or “repeal.” It ought to be recalled that the 1973 Constitution was never ‘repealed’ by law. During the military regimes of 1977-1985/1988 and 1999-2002/2008, it was partially in place. Consequently, the Supreme Court was the venue for hearing and determining petitions opposing military intervention.

The hard, unpleasant truths are glossed over in recent and ongoing discussions of the Constitution’s democratic aspect. Its unique rendition was mutilated by regular citizen, not military activity, in under a year. In addition to supposedly redefining the state’s post-1971 territorial composition, the First Amendment of May 1974 also permitted, among other things, the transfer of judges from one province to the high court of another province. The misleading singularity of the term “First Amendment” led to 17 modifications. The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments had a significant impact on the judiciary in 1976 and May 1977, respectively. In 1997, a failed amendment attempted to make the PM an “ameerul momineen,” making him or her only accountable to a captive legislative two-thirds majority.

The numbers demonstrate the Constitution’s adaptability to change while remaining intact. By one count, there have been just ’26’ revisions in 50 years, ie, something like two every year! Actually, there are hundreds of changes, both good and bad, and each one is called an “amendment.”

For instance, in 1985, the Eighth Amendment actually led to modifications, omissions, deletions, additions, and links to other articles in approximately 65 articles. Students should be informed about the Constitution’s charming malleability under both civilian and military rulers in texts that aim to include purposeful references to it in the curriculum.

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