Establishment of Basic Principles Committee
Needless to repeat the after independence Pakistan adopted Government of India Act, 1935 as working constitution till it frames its own. From 1947 to 1949 the most important step taken by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was to pass the Resolution on the Aims and Objects of the Constitution, commonly known as Objectives Resolution. Soon after the Objectives Resolution was adopted the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan established various committees and sub-committees in order to achieve its primary task i.e. to frame the constitution. The most important of these committees was the Basic Principles Committee which was appointed on 12th March, 1949. The committee was required to determine, in accordance with the Objectives Resolution, the basic principles for framing the constitution of Pakistan. It was comprised of 24 members, headed by Maulvi Tameezuddin Khan and Liaquat Ali Khan was its Vice President. It could co-opt up to 10 members not necessarily from the members of the assembly. There were three sub-committees set-up under the Basic Principles Committee:
- Sub-committee on federal and provincial constitution and distribution of powers
- Sub-committee on franchise
- Sub-committee for judiciary
First Interim Report of the Basic Principles Committee (1950)
The Basic Principles Committee submitted its first interim report on 7th September, 1950 to the Constituent Assembly. However, this report was submitted before special committees could finalize their recommendations such as nomenclatures, qualifications for different offices, financial allocation, etc. The reported was submitted by Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan and its main features were as under:
> Pakistan was to be a federal state.
> Objectives Resolution should be enshrined in the constitution and should serve as the directive principle of State policy and should not prejudice incorporating fundamental rights in the Constitution.
> The Central Legislature was to be divided into two chambers. A House of Units (Upper House), representing the legislatures of the units, and a House of People (Lower House) with to be elected by the people. The report did not specify further details because sub-committees of the Basic Principles Committee had not finished their assignments.
It was clear the federating units would have equal representation in the House of Units while representation in the House of people would be on the basis of population. It also suggested equal legislative powers for both the houses. The tenure of both the houses was recommended to be five years. In case of dispute between the two houses, the issue was to be finally decided in a joint session. It was also recommended that cabinet would be responsible before both the houses. No-confidence against the cabinet, budget and money bill was also to be considered by joint session.
> The Head of state was to be elected by a joint session of the two houses for a term of five years and would work on the advice of the Prime Minister. He would not be a member of the legislature; if a member of the legislature is elected as head of the state he would ceased to be a member of the legislature after being elected. Commander-in-chief and officers of the armed forces were to be appointed by head of the state.
> A member of the central legislature who commanded the confidence of both the houses was to be appointed as Prime Minister by head of the state. Ministers were to be appointed by head of the state on advice of Prime Minister. Cabinet was to be responsible before both the houses of central legislature.
> There was to be a head of the each provinc to be appointed by the head of the state. Head of the province was to hold office during the pleasure of head of the state.
> Each province was to have its own legislature, which would be chosen by adult franchise for a five-year term. Provincial legislature was to be unicameral and could be dissolved on the advice of Chief Minister.
> Head of the state and head of the provinces were to have the power to promulgate ordinances, when the central legislature or, as the case may be, provincial legislature, was not in session.
> Legislative powers were to be divided as follows:
The Federal list, which includes 67 items on which the federal legislature will legislate. The provincial legislative list having 35 items, the provincial legislature would legislate on these matters. And
The Concurrent List, which included 37 subjects on which both the federal and provincial governments might legislate. The centre was given the residuary powers.
> The method for amending the constitution was rather rigid, requiring the approval of the central and provincial legislatures by a majority.
> Urdu was recommended to be the national language of the state.
Reaction to the Report
Reaction to the report was not welcoming especially in East Pakistan. The main point of contention was under-representation in the central legislature where East Pakistan was awarded the same number of seats in the Upper House as other units of West Pakistan despite of the fact that East Pakistan was comprised of more than half of total population of the country; thus reducing it to one-fifth minority. This fact was having greater importance in the presence of a strong central government with broad financial powers and where both the houses would have equal powers. Moreover, Urdu was recommended to be the national language while there was no mention of Bengali language in the constitutional draft, this was also strongly resented by Bengal. It was described as “terribly anti-Bengali” by some members of East Pakistan Muslim League Council. Religious circles were also not satisfied with the report; for less Islamic provisions.
A provincial convention was held in Dhaka in November, 1950 to offer alternative draft of the constitution. It recommended a republican government with two autonomous governments for East and West Pakistan and one central legislature on the basis of population. The central legislature would have the power to deal with foreign affairs, currency and defense.
Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan had to announce postponement of its consideration by the Constituent Assembly and called for suggestions and recommendations from public for the basic principles of the constitution. But unfortunately Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated on October 16, 1951 and succeeded by Khawja Nazim ud Din.
2nd Interim Report of the Basic Principles Committee (1952)
The interim report of the Basic Principles Committee was referred back to the Constituent Assembly and proposals were asked for from the public by January, 1951. A sub-committee was appointed to examine the proposals. The sub-committee presented its report to the Basic Principles Committee in July 1952 which then presented its interim report to the Constituent Assembly under the premiership Khwaja Nazim ud Din on December 22, 1952. It is also known as Nazim ud Din Report. The main features of the report were as under:
> Objectives Resolution was to be adopted as preamble to the constitution.
> Directive Principles were to be incorporated in the Constitution.
> Pakistan was to be a federal state with parliamentary form of government.
> No law against the Sharia to be enacted. There was to be a Board of Ulema to check if the law enacted is in accordance with Islamic sharia.
> The head of the state was required to be Muslim and to be elected for five years term by a joint session of both the houses of central legislature. It was also recommended that head of the state would not hold office consecutively for more than two full terms.
> A member of the lower house who commanded the majority support was to be appointed as Prime Minister by head of the state. The Council of Ministers, appointed by head of the state on the advice of Prime Minister, was to be collectively responsible to the lower house, the House of the People.
> The draft recommended the central legislature to be bicameral; comprised of the House of Units and the House of People. The House of Units was to be comprised of 120 members; the legislature of East Pakistan would elect 60 members according to proportional representation through a single transferable vote. 60 seats were allocated to West Pakistan to be filled by proportional representation system through single transferable vote which were bifurcated in the provinces and federating units as follows:
> The House of People was recommended to be comprised of 400 members; 200 members were to be directly elected from East Pakistan and 200 from West Pakistan which were further bifurcated as follows:
> The second draft also recommended that House of Units could only recommend revision of the legislation passed by House of People. All money bills had to be originated in the House of People. In case of conflict between the House of People and House of Units, the issue was to be decided by majority in joint session of both the Houses. In nutshell, House of People was to have real powers.
House of People could be dissolved by head of the state on the advice of Council of Minister. Furthermore, if the government did not have confidence of the majority in House of People, head of the state could dissolve it in the exercise of discretion to hold new elections. Similar provisions were kept about head of units and provincial assemblies.
> Seats were to be allocated to communities in the House of People. In East Pakistan’s 200 seats 153 seats were reserved for Muslims, 24 seats for Scheduled Castes, 20 for Hindus, 1 for Christians and 2 for Buddhists. Similarly, in West Pakistan; out of Punjab’s 90 seats 88 were reserved for Muslims and 2 for Christians, in Sindh’s 30 seats 27 were for Muslims, 2 for Scheduled Castes and 1 for Hindus, in Capital Area’s 11 seats 10 for Muslims and 1 for Parsis while no seats were reserved for minorities in NWFP, Bachochistan, Baloch States, Tribal areas, Kahirpur and Bahawalpur.
> Word unit was specified for all provinces, capital and federations. The head of these units were to be selected for a term of 5 years. Chief Minister of each unit and ministers were appointed by the Head of that unit and ministers for each unit would be chosen by the Chief Minister.
> Provincial legislatures were to be unicameral. Its members were to be elected directly by the people. Its strength was to between 75 and 350 as determined by federal law in accordance with population of a province.
> There were to be three legislative lists; federal legislative lists, provincial legislative lists and concurrent legislative lists. Residuary powers were left with the center.
> Head of the state and head of units could promulgate ordinances when central legislature or, as the case may be, provincial legislature was not in session. Ordinances were to laid before the central legislature if promulgated by head of the state or before provincial legislature if promulgated by head of the unit.
> There was to be a Supreme Court of Pakistan, High Courts and subordinate courts. Supreme Court of Pakistan was to be comprised of a Chief Justice and two-six judges. Chief Justice was to be appointed by head of the state and other judges were to be appointed by head of the state but after consultation with the Chief Justice. Qualifications for appointment as a judge in the Supreme Court were: five year experience as a judge of High Court or as an advocate of High Court for 12 years.
Similarly, a Chief Justice of the High Court was to be appointed by head of the state on the recommendation of Chief Justice of Pakistan. Other judges of the High Court were also to be appointed by head of the state on the recommendation of Chief Justice of Pakistan but Chief Justice of Pakistan was also required to consult the Chief Justice of the High Court to which the appointment was to be made. The qualifications for a person to be appointed as a judge of the High Court were: Experience of an advocate of a High Court for at least 10 years, or a member of Indian Civil Service for at least 10 years having been a District Judge for at least 3 years, or a judicial office for at least 10 years or, in the opinion of the head of the state, a distinguished jurists.
Reaction to the 2nd report
The second draft of the constitution, like the first draft, was not welcomed. This time it was mainly Punjab that opposed the report of the Basic Principles Committee. Main point of criticism can be summed up as follows:
Political leadership from Punjab did not like the principle of parity i.e. treating one unit of equal importance with all the nine units put together. East Pakistan was a single unit while West Pakistan was comprised of nine different units. It was against the principles of federation to give one unit representation equal to the nine units put together. In federation all the units, small or large, are treated equally in the upper house of central legislature. Political leadership of Punjab saw a permanent domination of East Pakistan in the draft constitution. They demanded equal representation in the House of Units and representation on the basis of population in the House of People and equal legislative powers for both the houses; a principle which was utterly opposed by East Pakistan in the first draft.
It was also criticized on the ground that the identical composition of both the houses of central legislature made the upper house a weak replica of the House of People.
Vesting residuary powers in the center was also criticized by those who advocated provincial autonomy.
Religious leaders were also dissatisfied with the proposed constitution’s Islamic character, particularly with reference to their demand that Ahmadies be declared non-Muslims.
Board of Ulema also came under criticism on the ground of being unelected body having the power to check the law made by democratically elected legislature.
Prime Minister Nazim ud Din declared the report to be “the document representing maximum agreement.” However, the fact is that it was signed by only sixteen out twenty nine members of the committee.
Due to power politics and political unrest, especially in Punjab, the government of Khawja Nazim ud Din was dismissed by the Governor General Ghulam Muhammad. Muhammad Ali Bogra, the then Pakistan’s ambassador to US, was called to become Prime Minister, although he was not a member of the legislature. When he was taking oath of office he declared it to be his principal task to overcome the constitutional crisis and make the constitution. Within six months of assuming power he achieved success to reach a compromise on the issue of representation between both the wings of Pakistan in central legislature. The report was submitted to the constituent assembly under his premiership which is known as Muhammad Ali Bogra’s formula. Main features of his report are as discussed below:
> The name of the state would be Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
> Pakistan shall be a federal state with parliamentary form of government. Powers were to be distributed through three lists; central legislative list, unit’s legislative list, and the concurrent list.
> Objectives Resolution was to be incorporated as preamble to the constitution.
> Central legislature was recommended to be bicameral; House of Units and House of People.
Total membership of the House of Units was recommended to be 50 to be divided as:
The seats were further bifurcated in units which were comprised of more than one province or state as follows:
Members of the House of Units were to be elected by legislatures of units. Where no legislature existed, the method of elections was to be fixed by an act of federal legislature.
> The House of People was to be comprised of 300 members to be directly elected by the people. Seats were to be distributed in units on the basis of population as follows:
> Bogra’s formula recommended equal powers for both the houses. Election of head of the state and vote of no confidences were to be determined by simple majority in joint session of both the houses. However, that majority must include 30% of the votes from each of both wings i,e. East Pakistan and West Pakistan.
> Head of the state and Prime Minster had to be Muslims. It also provided that if head of the state is elected from one wing the prime minister must be elected from the other wing. But later on this was omitted. Bogra’s formula made an improvement in a sense that while it maintained parity between both the wings of Pakistan it adopted a different approach from the parity clause of the second draft.
> Seats were distributed in the lower house on the basis of population ensuring clear majority of the East Pakistan while in the upper house all the units were given equal seats irrespective of their populations. However, seats were allocated in such a manner that in joint session of both the houses East and West Pakistan would have equal number of seats i.e. 175. And it was this joint session where disputes were to be solved and important decisions taken. Pertinent to mention is that the majority in joint session must to have included 30% votes from each wing. Thus, according to Muhammad Ali Bogra no government could be formed unless it has 30% support from each of the wings.
> Urdu as well as Bengali was declared to be the official languages.
Constituent Assembly dissolved
Although Bogra’s formula was also criticized by some political elements, however, it is said that this criticism was not about the flaws in the draft rather their intention was to perpetuate the constitutional deadlock in the country. Generally it was welcomed by majority of political forces. The report was discussed in the Constituent Assembly for 13 days and then a committee of experts was established on November 14, 1953 to draft the constitution on the basis of the report by 1 January, 1955. Before the draft constitution could be finalized, Governor Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the assembly on 24 October, 1954 because, inter se, the assembly repealed Public Representatives Offices (Disqualification) Act (PRODA), 1949 and divested the Governor General of his power to dismiss cabinet by amending the provisions of Government of India Act, 1935 in the same session in which it adopted the Bogra’s formula. Thus, the constitution making process was further set back.
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