Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

The Dilemmas of Transition from Military to Civilian Regime the Making of the 1972 Interim Constitution of Pakistan

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

The Dilemmas of Transition from Military to Civilian Regime the Making of the 1972 Interim Constitution of Pakistan

Article excerpt

Introduction

Four months after the separation of East Pakistan on 16 December 1971, the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan adopted, on 17 April 1972, an Interim Constitution which paved the way not only for the removal of martial law, imposed on 25 March 1969. but also for the country's onward journey towards the realization of a permanent constitution. Passed on 10 April 1973, and promulgated on 14 August of the same year, the permanent constitution ushered in an elected civilian rule which, unfortunately, could not survive beyond a four-year period and was replaced by another military rule, imposed on 5 July 1977.

The Interim Constitution remained in force for sixteen months, that is, from 21 April 1972 to 14 August 1973. Though it had transformed the martial law regime into a civilian and constitutional dispensation, the Interim Constitution was the outcome of difficult parleys and bargaining between the contending political forces, the sitting government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), on the one side, and the National Awami Party (NAP) and Jamiat-ul-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI), two major opposition parties, on the other. It also sought to respond to these forces' diverse interests some of which have been referred to in this paper. For example, contrary to the generally held view, the paper argues that Bhutto did not want to deprive his opponent, Abdul WaIi Khan's NAP or its ally, JUI, a political role. Instead, he facilitated and accepted their role at provincial level so as to marginalize them. Not only this, the Interim Constitution also carried anomalies and contradictions which enhanced the tussle between the contending sides, and also widened the rift between the centre and the two provinces of Balochistan and North West Frontier (NWFP, present Khyber Pukhtunkhwah-KP). This paper attempts to look into the background in which the Interim Constitution was made; it also endeavours to analyze the political crisis which existed at that time. The constitutional provisions have also been looked into, for, these carried anomalies and contradictions which could only enhance political polarization. The period after the adoption of the permanent constitution in August 1973 was not characteristically different from the period immediately before it, and the political crisis continued unabated in the subsequent months and years. One may find some of its roots embedded in the tensions created by the Interim Constitution and the manner in which it was made and implemented.

Background

Following the country-wide mass protest movement against his authoritarian rule, Field Martial Ayub Khan's fall accompanied the takeover of power by Pakistan's second military ruler General Mohammad Yahya Khan. While stepping down and handing over power to his successor, Ayub abrogated the 1962 Constitution made by none else but him. Yahya promised the nation that as soon as the political turmoil in the country was controlled he would hold elections for a new Constituent Assembly which would draft a new constitution, after the adoption of which the martial law would be removed. On 28 November 1969, Yahya announced the time table for the restoration of democracy. On 30 March 1 970, Yahya Khan issued a Legal Framework Order (LFO) which spelt out the details of the structure and composition of the national and provincial legislatures. It laid down that the Constituent Assembly would frame the constitution within 120 days from the commencement day. Once the constitution was made and accented to by the President, the Constituent Assembly would change into a legislature. The elections to the provincial assemblies were to take place along with the Constituent/ National Assembly elections. The seats to the central legislature were allotted according to the principle of population deviating from Pakistan's previous two constitutions of 1956 and 1962, which had created an artificial parity between eastern and western wings of the country, overlooking the numerical majority of East Pakistan. …

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