Pakistan is the second largest Muslim country in terms of population and its status as a declared nuclear power, being the only Muslim nation to have that status, plays a part in its international role. It is an active member of the United Nations and an important member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In the political system of Pakistan takes place within the framework under which the country is established by the constitution. Pakistan is an Islamic and federal parliamentary republic with Islam being its state religion and is classified as a nation-state in South Asia. Following are the key features of the Political system of Pakistan.
In the political system of Pakistan, the President is the head of the state and has been regarded as the chief spokesman of the republic. He is constitutionally the repository of the highest administrative authority of the federation which he can exercise in his own discretion or on the advice of the Prime Minister. Under the constitutional arrangements, balance has been maintained between the powers of the President and that of the Prime Minister, whereas in the original constitution, President has no effective say in the federal administration.
1. He must be a Muslim.
2. He should not be less than forty-five years of age.
3. He must be qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly.
Powers of the President
The President was supposed to act as a constitutional head in the original constitution while Prime Minister virtually enjoyed all administrative powers. Hence the President has no discretionary authority and was expected to act only on the advice of the Prime Minister.
1. Executive Powers:
The President is the repository of the supreme executive authority of the federation which shall be exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.
a) Formation of Cabinet:
The most important function of the President is to appoint the Prime Minister. He invites the leader to form the Cabinet who commands the confidence of the majority of the National Assembly. The choice of the President regarding his nomination of Prime Minister has been curtailed so as to avoid his undue interference in practical politics. The President shall appoint other ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. As a matter of fact, the formation of the Cabinet is the sole responsibility of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues shall remain in offices at the pleasure of the President. But the President can remove them only when he thinks that they have ceased to command the confidence of the majority in the National Assembly. He may ask the Prime Minster to get vote of confidence in the House. If the Prime Minister fails to do this, the Cabinet has to resign.
b) Discretionary Powers:
The President is authorized to ask the Cabinet to review its policy on a particular matter. It includes even such matters which have not been considered by the Cabinet, but dealt with by the Prime Minister or by any other minister. In the performance of his functions, the President can seek the advice of the Prime Minister or that of any other minister but is not bound to act accordingly.
In addition to the appointment of the Prime Minister and that of other ministers, the President also appoints a number of superior administrative officers. Appointments of ambassadors to different countries and that of the Chief Election Commissioner, judges of superior courts fall within the discretionary powers of the President. The latter appoints the Provincial Governors, after consultation with the Prime Minster. He can negotiate treaties with foreign nations. Being the supreme commander of the armed forces, he has to appoint Chief of Staff of all the three forces in addition to the appointment of Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in consultation with the Prime Minister.
2. Legislative Role:
The highest legislative authority in the country is the President in Parliament. The President can summon, prorogue and even dissolve the National Assembly, ut the Senate cannot be dissolved. He can send special messages to any of the Houses of the Parliament conveying his proposals regarding any bill and the House are bound to consider it. The President can thus influence legislation.
Prime Minister enjoys a very important position in the Cabinet and being an important advisor of the President, the whole administrative machinery revolves around him. He is, on the one hand, Chief of the administration and on the other hand, leader of the House.
As Head of the Cabinet
Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet and in this capacity he supervises the working of different governmental departments and also coordinates their activities. He has final say in regard to the formation of the Cabinet, as he prepares a list of the ministers to be submitted for its approval by the President. He can ask any minister to resign and in all Cabinet meetings his opinion weighs heavily. He resolves all differences between his Cabinet members and maintains homogeneity.
As Leader of the House
Being the leader of the majority party in National Assembly, the Prime Minister is regarded as leader of the House. In this capacity he issues important statements regarding policy matters, he remains in close contact with the leader of the opposition to decide different matters relating to agenda and the business of the House. It is on the advice of the Prime Minister that the President normally summons, prorogues and is supposed to dissolve the National Assembly.
As a National Leader
Once appointed as Prime Minister, a person ceases to be a mere party leader, he rather becomes the leader of the nation. His speeches carry weight, ideas propagated and opinion held in esteem. Not only the national press but international press also gives full coverage to his view point. People highly honor his opinion on national issues and look at him for guidance. He enjoys a unique position to mould public opinion through his much publicized speeches.
In the political system of Pakistan, the legislative branch enjoys somewhat superior position over the other two branches of government, as it reflects the will of the political sovereign. In a parliamentary set-up the legislature is regarded as supreme law-making body on the one hand, and a repository of executive power on the other.
It was in the interest of the provinces to introduce bicameralism in which the upper chamber would represent the federating units on parity basis. Parity of representation in one chamber was thought to act as an important safeguard to preserve provincial autonomy. Another advantage of bicameralism is that the popular trends are let known after short intervals, as the election to both the chambers of Parliament are held at different times. In the form of Senate, a permanent Chamber has been provided in which complete change in it membership shall not take place, as half of its members are elected every three years. The quality of the membership of Senate is expected to be comparatively superior as most competent persons, who may not become members of the National Assembly, due of non-involvement in practical politics, can be elected to the upper chamber due to its limited electoral constituency. Hence, the nation can utilize the services of most talented persons.
In the political system of Pakistan, Lower House of the Parliament is known as National Assembly. Duration of National Assembly is five years. Nevertheless, in the package of proposals, it was suggested to minimize its tenure.
Powers of the National Assembly
In the political system of Pakistan, the National Assembly is fully authorized to legislate on all matters enumerated in federal and concurrent lists. It enjoys exclusive power to legislate on matters in respect of federal list, while Provincial Assemblies also enjoy powers to enact on concurrent affairs. Nevertheless, supremacy of National Assembly has been secured even in concurrent affairs as the laws of the Parliament shall prevail and provincial laws stand invalid in case of clash between both the laws.
2. Control over the Executive
The Prime Minster and all of his ministers are the members of either House of the Parliament. The whole Cabinet is accountable to the Parliament for all executive decrees, actions and policies that have been made by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The National Assembly can remove the Cabinet by passing a vote of no-confidence against it.
3. Financial Control
Modern legislatures exercise effective control over finance in a democratic system. The money bills originate in the lower House, in case of bicameral legislature and it exercises effective control in fiscal matters. Under the present constitutional system, National Assembly wields effective control over the purse of nation, as no amount can be spent without its sanction and no revenue collected without its authorization. The members of National Assembly exercise control over fiscal policy by criticizing the estimates for raising funds and demands for grants.
4. Judicial Powers
Parliament is empowered to prescribe the number of judges of the Supreme Court hence it can bring changes in the organization of the court. It enjoys also a quasi-judicial power to impeach the President, and remove him from the office on the basis of gross misconduct or mental or physical unfitness.
5. Amendment in the Constitution
Parliament can amend the constitution. Accordingly, a bill aiming at amendment can be initiated in any one House of the Parliament, and after having been passed by both Houses it is sent for Presidential assent. Further, any proposal aiing at the alterations in the boundaries of any province got to be ratified by the Provincial Assembly concerned by two-thirds majority.
Senate has been formed for the first time under the present constitutional set-up, as the previous legislatures under both the defunct Constitutions of Islamic Republic of Pakistan were unicameral.
The formation of Senate has the definite advantage of ensuring effective representation of all the provinces in the central legislature to their fullest satisfaction due to the parity of representation. Both chambers may also act as a check on each other. As a matter of fact, concentration of all legislative authority in one House of legislature may lead to legislative autocracy. Thorough examination of a bill and more effective deliberation is possible during the legislative process on account of the presence of upper chamber. An issue can be exhaustively crystallized when it is examined by two different chambers. The senate shall also perform its traditional role, viz, revision of bills sent by the National Assembly and rendering its proposals.
Senate is a permanent Chamber which cannot be dissolved. Half of its members shall be replaced after every three years, after having completed their six years term. Complete change in the total membership, occurs at no stage; rather continuity in the membership is its novel feature.
Powers of the Senate
In most of the federal states, legislatures are bicameral. The presence of an upper chamber has been regarded as an effective safeguard to protect the interests of the smaller federating units against the encroachment on their rights by the bigger ones. It is to be noted, that in a federation, the upper chamber is constituted normally on the basis of parity of representation.
1. Legislative Powers
According to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, both the Houses of Parliament have almost equal powers. Hence, bills can be initiated in any of the Houses with the exception of money bills which originate in National Assembly exclusively. In the original constitution, the bills relating to the first part of the federal list, could be introduced only in National Assembly but at present no such discrimination has been preserved in respect of ordinary legislation. Consequently, Senate can legislate, with the co-operation of National Assembly, on any matter expressed in the federal or concurrent list.
2. Financial Legislation
The National Assembly enjoys monopoly in respect of fiscal legislation while the Senate has been deprived of direct role to this effect. All the money bills originate in National Assembly and it has the ultimate power over the fate of such bills. It is the function of the Speaker to declare a bill as money bill. Senators can exert indirect influence in shaping financial legislation by passing resolutions or through criticizing the policies of the government.
3. Control over the Executive
According to a constitutional requirement, at least one-fourths of the ministers are to be taken from the Senate. The ministers remain present in this Chamber and the Senators can ask questions concerning their respective portfolios.
4. Judicial Powers
The Senate, along with National Assembly, can legislate on all matters relating to the organization of judiciary. It also shares with National Assembly the power to impeach the President.
In the political system of Pakistan, The 1973 Constitution provided for a free and independent Judiciary. The Constitution guarantees a right to the citizens to be protected by law, and imposed two duties on them, loyalty to the Republic and obedience to the law. Any person who was found to abrogate or attempt or conspire to abrogate or subvert the Constitution was to be treated guilty of high treason. The Constitution conferred several kinds of fundamental rights to the people such as the right to life, liberty, equality and freedom of speech, trade and association. The Constitution also declared any laws inconsistent with or derogatory to fundamental rights as null and void.
The judiciary includes the Supreme Court, provincial high courts, and other lesser courts exercising civil and criminal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court the apex court in Pakistan’s judicial hierarchy, the final arbiter of legal and constitutional disputes. The Supreme Court of Pakistan consists of a Chief Justice and not more than 16 other Judges appointed by the President. A person with 5 years’ experience as a Judge of a High Court or 15 years’ experience as an advocate of a High Court is eligible to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President; the other Supreme Court judges are appointed by the President after consultation with the chief justice. The chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court may remain in office until age sixty-five. The Supreme Court has original, appellate, and advisory jurisdiction. Judges of the provincial high courts are appointed by the President after consultation with the chief justice of the Supreme Court, as well as the governor of the province and the chief justice of the high court to which the appointment is being made. High courts have original and appellate jurisdiction.
The Federal Shariat Court constitutes another key pillar of the judiciary and consists of eight Muslim judges, including a chief justice appointed by the President. Three of the judges are ulema, that is, Islamic Scholars, and are supposed to be well versed in Islamic law. The Federal Shariat Court has original and appellate jurisdiction. This court decides whether any law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. When a law is deemed repugnant to Islam, the President, in the case of a federal law, or the governor, in the case of a provincial law, is charged with taking steps to bring the law into conformity with the injunctions of Islam. The court also hears appeals from decisions of criminal courts under laws relating to the enforcement of hudood laws that is, laws pertaining to such offenses as intoxication, theft, and sexual intercourse outside marriage.