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5 Noteworthy Amendments to the Constitution of Pakistan

5 Noteworthy Amendments to the Constitution of Pakistan

Abdullah Cheema
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The Constitution of Pakistan is the highest order of law in the country. The 1973 Constitution was first drafted by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government. 14th August 1973 is it’s official ratification date by the Parliament. The constitution primarily aims to provide rules and guidelines for citizens and political activities. Inalienable and guaranteed are constitutional rights by the state to the people and political parties. Since it is not changeable in its entirety, the various governments have introduced 23 amendments to the constitution as of 2017. These have altered the effect of the constitution throughout the years. Here are the most noteworthy proposed amendments, whether passed or not, by which the socio-political atmosphere of the nation was impacted considerably.

1) Second Amendment- Declares Ahmadis as non-Muslims (September 7, 1974)

Source: Times of Ahmad

This may be the most debated amendment because of the sectarian violence it has caused in Pakistan. This amendment has caused mainstream clerics to outrightly degrade a group of fellow Pakistani’s and also instigate hate and violence, which has claimed many lives.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation, was once put under extreme pressure by mainstream clerics to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims. To this, he responded: “What right have I to declare a person Non-Muslim when he claims to be Muslim”. This quote is probably the whole reason why we as a country cannot progress because people can’t focus on their own lives and often forcibly make other’s live life a certain way.

2) Seventh Amendment- Gives PM right to vote of confidence (May 16, 1977)

Nawaz Sharif reportedly sought a vote of confidence amidst political turmoil before his disqualification last year.
Image Source: Pakistan Today

This amendment states that a Prime Minister has the right to and is ordered by the constitution to hold a vote of confidence. This is when a vote is taken from the elected parliamentarians on whether the Prime minister is fit to maintain and continue his duties. If voted unfit to resume duties, the Prime Minister has to resign. This would be an extremely rare case and has not yet happened in Pakistan. Considering majority in parliament is almost always the ruling party’s supporters, it seems inevitable that the PM would be able to win the vote in their favor anyway. Interestingly, however, the CM of Balochistan Sanaullah Zehri did recently resign right before a no-confidence vote was going to be taken.

3) Fifteenth Amendment- Enforcement of Shariah Law (August 28, 1998)

Source: Pakistan Today

National Assembly passed the fifteenth amendment but the Senate rejected it. The amendment would have seen the ‘sharia’ law become the supreme law in Pakistan. Even with the bill rejected and not enforced in the constitution, we see an immense amount of sectarian violence, hate crimes, and honor killings because of religious beliefs and gender inequality today in Pakistan. If passed, the amendment would have legally empowered religious hardliners, who already act above the law. This bill was pushed forward by then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. The bill would have allowed the government to judge right and wrong in the actions of citizens.

4) Eighteenth Amendment- President can no longer dissolve Parliament unilaterally (April 8, 2010)

Source: Pakistanpoint.com

This amendment caused the most amount of constitutional change from one bill. It changed the name of the NWFP to KPK. It also lifted the ban on running for prime ministership for the third time in a row. Lastly, it stated that the government would provide free education for all children to the age of 16. The impact of this amendment has forever changed the history of Pakistan and paved a new path forward. Allowing Nawaz Sharif to become the Prime Minister again is what led PTI’s Naya Pakistan revolution and sparked a debate in the country over corruption in the highest offices.

5) Twenty-First Amendment – Military courts and expedited trials (January 7, 2015)

constitution- amendment-

Source: Pakistan Today

This amendment is a special one because it has a sunset clause inside it. This clause states that the amendment will end after 2 years. 2015 was the amendment’s initial passing year. The 23rd amendment came as the renewal of the 21st. This amendment states that any person who is charged with terrorism-related offenses is eligible to stand in military courts to expedite the sentencing process. This was in direct retaliation to the brutal and barbaric attack on APS Peshawar in 2014. The government, since then, has started a Zarb-e-Azb operation against terrorist activities. These military courts are a part of that operation.

Pakistan has gone through a wide range of constitutional amendments since the constitution’s inception in 1973. Arguably some of the amendments have benefitted the country overall and some have been detrimental to our progress. As a nation, we must stand united against the forces out to undermine our country. This includes making constitutional amendments that empower our people rather than restrict and limit their abilities.

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