Pakistan has had a troubled constitutional history since its inception as a nation state. Initially it had adopted the Government of India Act of 1935 as interim constitution with certain amendments. The first Constituent Assembly was unable to frame a constitution for quite a long time despite its success in defining direction of constitution by passing the Objective Resolution in 1949. The first constitutional crisis arose in 1954 when the Governor General dissolved the Constituent Assembly because he did not agree to the proposed constitution. Therefore Pakistan got its first constitution in 1956, which was abrogated after two years by the first President of Pakistan, Major-General Sikander Mirza. He dissolved the national and provincial legislatures and imposed Martial Law in October 1958, appointed General Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator.
The military dictator framed a new constitution in 1962, authoritative in nature with Presidential system of government. Indeed, few nations have undergone as many political and constitutional experiments in such a short period as has Pakistan. This phenomenon in the history of Pakistan for decades to follow contributed to a recurrent pattern of crisis: repeated interventions and experiments with constitutional vicissitudes which seriously affected the credibility of central state institutions such as the parliament. The role of parliament in Pakistan can’t be termed as exemplary, however, despite many obstacles it faced, it was able to frame a constitution for the country in 1973.
It was Pakistan’s first ever constitution developed and framed by consensus and mutual understanding. This constitution provided a sound foundation for a parliamentary system in terms of conferring more powers and authority to the 2 parliament. But the new constitution was substantially modified following the military coup of General Zia ul Haq in 1977, who changed the entire political dynamics as well as the original character of the constitution. The death of General Zia in a plane crash in 1988 brought back the civilian government in Pakistan. But the military interfered time and again in the political spectrum of the country by backing the President to use Article 58 (2) (b) to dissolve the government usually on the bases of corruption and mismanagement. Despite manifold problems, faced by the political parties and civil societies; the struggle of lawyers, parliamentarians, academicians and media during Musharaf era resulted in bringing awareness and enlightenment among the masses, especially the educated middle class of the country.
The 18th Constitutional Amendment introduced by the Pakistan Peoples Party in 2010 has changed the power politics of the country at least in theory. It reduced the power of the centre and devolved numerous responsibilities to the provincial governments thereby reinstating the federal vision of the original constitution of 1973. The general elections held in May 2013 brought the Pakistan Muslim League (N) into power, with high expectations for the citizens. However, economic worries, price hike, unemployment along with election irregularities marred their popularity and gave political parties such as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek an opportunity to demand for electoral reforms in the country and staged the longest ever sit-in in the history of the country. This unique protest movement is generating a lot of debate regarding electoral reforms, social equality and social justice; and highlighting the need for a new discussion on the constitution and its amendments.
The Department of History, University of Peshawar in collaboration with Hanns Seidel Foundation Pakistan is organizing a conference, aimed to generate academic debate on different aspects of the constitution and to look into the historical context for its effective implementation with particular reference to the time after the incorporation of the 18th amendment. The debate will focus on the 3 issue of power sharing at the grassroots level in the shape of local bodies, which has yet to be fulfilled by the elected governments of Pakistan. Furthermore, the conference would scrutinize the efficiency of the provincial governments after the relinquishing of various departments to the provinces; and will take keen interest in papers that would evaluate the efforts of the central and provincial governments regarding education, health and power generation policies and its implementation in the context of 18th amendment.
The papers selected for the conference are focused on the following thematic areas:
- Conceptualization of Constitution
- Core-Periphery Relationship
- 18th Amendment, Decentralization and Local Government
- Federation and Federating Units in Constitutional Framework
The interested M. Phil/PhD scholars of relevant departments and fields are requested to contact Mr. Maqbool Hussain, Office Assistant, Department of History, University of Peshawar.
Venue: Bara Gali Summer Camp, University of Peshawar
Dates: 26-27 May, 2015
Departure from Campus for Bara Gali Camp: 8:00 AM, 25 May
Departure from Bara Gali Camp for Peshawar: 10:00 AM 28 May