Golden jubilee

Bad things happen in our motherland every now and then but when hopeful news surfaces, all misfortunes wither away in thin air. The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is now 50 years old. It was drafted, approved and enforced on March 23, 1973, and we were set to celebrate its golden jubilee in March, 2023.
The first constitution of the country was enforced on March 23, 1956. The draft of the constitution was introduced in the constituent assembly on January 9, 1956, and was eventually passed on February 29. It was assented to by the Governor General on March 2, and enforced with effect from March 23, 1956. Under this constitution, Pakistan became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan instead of a British Dominion, March 23 then came to be known as the Republic Day as on March 23, 1940, the historic Pakistan Resolution was passed by the All-India Muslim League in the then Minto Park in Lahore under the inspiring leadership of Quaid-i-Azam.
This constitution had a short lifespan as the then President, Major General Iskander Mirza, abrogated it, dissolved the national and provincial assemblies, dismissed the federal cabinet and the prime minister on October 7, 1958. General Muhammad Ayub Khan was then appointed as the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) and assumed the office of the President as well on October 27, 1958 after he kicked Iskander Mirza out.
The second constitution was enforced by General Muhammad Ayub Khan on March 1, 1962. But this too did not last longer than 7 years as on March 23, 1969, martial law was imposed for the second time and the then Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, became the President as well as the CMLA.
After the Fall of Dacca and the separation of East Pakistan, Pakistan was rather rudderless and was left without a constitution. Another war with India had broken out just when a draft constitution was on the anvil during the last days of the country’s second military regime under General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan. However, the draft which this scribe had seen on the printer of the official news agency somewhere never saw the light of the day.
At the time, PPP Founding Chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had become the President of the remainder of Pakistan after power was handed over to him by General Yahya Khan. Among other matters of pressing importance, Bhutto also realised the dire need to give the country a constitution as early as possible.
The National Assembly (NA) then was formed on the basis of general elections held on December 7, 1970. It adopted an interim constitution on April 17,1972, under which the NA was not to be dissolved earlier than August 14, 1973. Bhutto appointed a 24-member committee which composed of representatives from all political parties present in the NA, headed by Mian Mehmood Ali Kasuri. The Committee held its first meeting on April 22, 1972. In the next meeting, Mian Mehmood Ali Kasuri stepped down and Abdul Hafeez Pirzada was unanimously elected as his successor. The committee on the whole held 48 meetings spread over a period of 38 days, deliberated for 170 hours so that the constitution could be framed. It comprised of less than 180 Articles and six schedules. The average attendance throughout the sittings was 18 out of total strength of 25 members, including the Chairman. The draft report of the committee was signed by Abdul Hafeez Pirzada as its Chairman and other 23 members in Islamabad on December 30, 1972. Mian Mumtaz Muhammad Khan Dautana was the only absentee as at that time as he was out of Pakistan.
The draft of the constitution committee was then presented to the NA for its consideration and approval. In February of 1973, the constitution was enforced with effect from March 23 ,1973 and has now become the longest surviving constitution of Pakistan with the continued blessings of Almighty Allah, despite full and semi-attempts by military dictators like General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf in one form or the other.
The most pertinent question which arises here is not framing a new constitution. What is most important is that the provisions of the 1973 Constitution should duly be honoured, respected, and enforced by all civil and military institutions from top to bottom and vice versa.
The constitution itself is not flawed, and has been amended 26 times over the years so it remains up to date. These provisions however have not been enforced in letter and spirit sincerely, devotedly and faithfully by all directly or indirectly. This is not something which can be appreciated or approved at all.
As already stated above, it is good to note that the golden jubilee of the 1973 constitution of Pakistan is being observed and celebrated by holding a special joint session of the parliament in March, 2023. As a matter of fact, these celebrations on the whole should have commenced from January 2023 as the Year of the Golden Jubilee” and be continued until December 31, 2023.
Such prolonged celebration in view of the sorts of challenges faced by the constitution in its implementation and by the country on the whole would make all people aware and familiar with its provisions. This includes those that pertain to the individuals and the national and provincial institutions and thus they may become more respectful and honest to the 1973 constitution. Unflinching support and commitment of the people at large to this scribe is sure, and will not only ensure continuity but also ward off all threats.

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