. Election of Prime Minister
Clause (3), (4) and (5) of article 91 lay down the procedure for election of the Prime Minister which provides that after the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, the National Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is elected by the votes of the majority of the total membership of the National Assembly. However, if no member receives a majority of the votes in the first poll, a second poll is required to be held between the members who received the two greatest numbers of votes in the first poll, and the member who receives a majority of the votes of the members present and voting shall be declared to be elected as Prime Minister. If the number of votes received by two or more members who received the most votes is equal, a further poll shall be held between them until one of them receives a majority of the votes cast by the members present and voting.
The President shall call upon the member so chosen to assume the office of Prime Minister, and he shall take an oath in the form set out in the Third Schedule before entering upon the office. After the 18th Constitutional amendment there is no restriction on the number of terms for the office of Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister shall hold his office during the pleasure of the President. But the President shall not exercise this power unless he is satisfied that the Prime Minister lacks the confidence of a majority of the members of the National Assembly, in which case he shall summon the National Assembly and require the Prime Minister to obtain a vote of confidence from the Assembly.
The Prime Minister may resign his office by writing to the President under his hand.
‘Appoint’, ‘ascertain’, and ‘election’
Connotation of words ‘appoint’ and ‘ascertain’ is different and distinct from the word ‘election’. ‘Election’ ordinarily has reference to a choice or selection by electors, while ‘appointment refers to a choice or selection by an individual. President and President alone has to appoint the Prime Minister after ascertaining for himself in the manner prescribed as to who from amongst the members of the Assembly commands confidence of the House. Article 226 of the Constitution of Pakistan has no relevance to the appointment of Prime Minister by President as article 226 applies to the election only. (PLD 1991 Lah 462)
Prime Minster has to be appointed by the President under article 91(2-A) and is not elected by the National Assembly. President of Pakistan, however, has to invite such member from amongst the members of National Assembly to be the Prime Minister who commands the confidence of the majority of the members as ‘ascertained’ in a session of the Assembly summoned specially for the purpose in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. (PLD 1991 Lah 462)
Concept of collective responsibility of Cabinet has rendered role of the ministers individually of no consequence under the Constitution. (PLD 1993 SC 473)
The only way open to President under the Constitution for coming to the conclusion whether the Prime Minister did, or did not command confidence of the majority of the National Assembly was by summoning the National Assembly and requiring the Prime Minister to obtain the vote of confidence from the Assembly. Any other method adopted by achieving the object, forming an opinion, for giving effect to it was not permissible. (PLD 1993 SC 473)
Prime Minister is the Chief Executive and Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister is to aid and advise the President in the exercise of his functions. Prime Minister in his/her own rights has the power to run the affairs of the Federation. (PLD 1993 SC 473 ref. PLD 1997 SC 84 vv)
. Exercise of executive authority of the Federation
According to article 90 of the Constitution, the executive authority of the Federation shall be exercised in the name of the President by the Federal Government, which shall be composed of the Prime Minister and Federal Ministers, and which shall act through the Prime Minister, who is the chief executive of the Federation. The Prime Minister may act directly or through the Federal Minister in fulfilling up his constitutional responsibilities.
. Cabinet Ministers and Advisors
Article 91(1) provides that a Cabinet of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister, shall aid and advise the President in the performance of his duties. The Federal Ministers and Ministers of State, according to article 92(1), are appointed by the President from amongst the members of Parliament on the advice of Prime Minister. Furthermore, according to article 91(9), a Minister who is not a member of the National Assembly for six consecutive months ceases to be a Minister at the end of that period and shall not be appointed a Minister again before the dissolution of that Assembly unless he is elected a member of that Assembly. However, nothing in this clause applies to a Minister who is a member of the Senate.
It is pertinent to mention that article 92 stipulates that the number of Federal Ministers and Ministers of State who are Senate members shall never exceed one-fourth of the total number of Federal Ministers.
Furthermore, the overall strength of Cabinet, including Ministers of State, shall not exceed eleven percent of the total membership of Parliament.
A Federal Minister or Minister of State may quit his post by writing to the President under his hand, or the President may remove him from office on the advice of Prime Minister.
Similarly, under article 93, on the advice of the Prime Minister, the President may appoint up to five Advisers on such terms and conditions he sees fit.
Insertion of an express provision for appointment of advisers at Federal level meant that such an express provision was necessary to authorize such appointment. As an essential corollary, therefore, omission of a provision in the case of provinces would mean a prohibition and inability of appointment of an advisor. Adviser like that provided for in article 93 of the Constitution, could not be appointed in the provinces. (PLD 2000 Kar 333(b))
Article 46 requires that the Prime Minister must keep the President informed on all matters of internal and foreign policy, as well as any legislative proposals that the Federal Government intends to present to Parliament.
According to article 48, the President shall act on and in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or the Prime Minister in the exercise of his functions, however, that the President may require the Cabinet or, as the case may be, the Prime Minister to reconsider such advice, either generally or otherwise, within fifteen days, and the President shall act, within ten days, in accordance with the advice tendered after such reconsideration.
. Holding a Referendum
Article 48, Clause 6 states that if the Prime Minister considers it necessary to hold a referendum on a matter of national importance at any time, he may refer the matter to a joint sitting of Parliament, and if it is approved in a joint sitting, the Prime Minister may refer the matter to a referendum in the form of a question that can be answered with either “Yes” or “No.”
. Dissolution of National Assembly
According to article 58, clause 1, if the Prime Minister so advises, the President shall dissolve the National Assembly, and the National Assembly shall, if not dissolved sooner, stand dissolved at the expiration of forty-eight hours after the Prime Minister has so advised.
However, the Prime Minister cannot advice the dissolution of assembly:
- When a notice of resolution for no-confidence against him has been given in the National Assembly but has not been voted upon, or
- Against him a resolution of no-confidence has been passed by the National Assembly, or
- When is continuing in his office after his resignation, or
- When the national assembly is already dissolved.
. Vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister
The procedure for vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister is laid down by article 95 of the Constitution which says that the National Assembly may pass a resolution for a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister if it is moved by at least 20% of the total membership of the National Assembly. However the resolution of no-confidence in the Prime Minister needs to be passed by a majority of the total membership of the National Assembly in which case the Prime Minister shall cease to hold the office. However, according to clause (3) of the article 95, such resolution may not be voted on before three days have expired or after seven days have passed from the date it was presented in the National Assembly. Furthermore, clause (4) states that a resolution for a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister shall not be introduced in the National Assembly while the National Assembly is considering demands for grants submitted to it in the Annual Budget Statement.
In a Parliamentary form of democracy the Prime Minister is the leader of and represents the popularly elected House. But situation may arise where his leadership or representative character is questioned by the House. If the Prime Minister is voted against on a matter of supplies during a budget session or if outvoted on a matter of legislative measure or on a matter of foreign or domestic policy this indicates lack of confidence in him by the House and in such a case the Constitutional conventions, as in UK, requires him to resign or ask for dissolution House and fresh elections. But it may happen that the Prime Minister feels that on the matter in question his government has the support of electorate and the House does not reflect the opinion of the electorate. If he so believes he can challenge the House and ask for the opinion of the electorate by asking for the dissolution of the House and fresh elections. The result of the fresh election will determine whether the Prime Minister or the House has the support of the electorate.
Being the Chief Executive of the State all the key appointments are, practically speaking, made by the Prime Minister. Most of the appointment by President requires the advice of Prime Minister which is binding on President.
. Role in the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner
President of Pakistan appoints the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan. According to article 213 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister, in consultation with Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, submits three nominees for CEC and each Member to a parliamentary committee for consideration and approval. The Speaker of the National Assembly appoints a parliamentary committee of 12 members, 50 percent from the Treasury benches and 50 percent from opposition parties, with one-third from the Senate. The Chief Election Commissioner is appointed for a five-year term.
If the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition cannot agree, each of them shall submit separate lists to the Parliamentary Committee for consideration, which may affirm any one nominee.
. Role in the appointment of judges of the superior judiciary
Prime Minister of Pakistan has an important role to play in the appointments of judges to the Supreme Court, High Courts or Federal Shariat Court. He can exert his influence through Federal Minister for Law and Justice, Attorney General of Pakistan and other non-judge members of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan. Furthermore, the influence of the Prime Minister in the appointment of judges cannot be overlooked in the Parliamentary Committee which has four out of eight members from the government benches.
Under article 175A the decision of confirmation or non-confirmation by Parliamentary Committee of a recommendation made by Judicial Commission is to be sent to the Prime Minister who shall forward the same to the President for appointment.
. Chairmanship of the Constitutional Bodies
(a) Council of Common Interest
Council of Common Interests is comprised of Prime Minister, Chief Ministers of Provinces and, according to article 153(2)(c), three members to be nominated by Prime Minister from Federal Government. Prime Minster is the Chairman of the Council of Common Interests.
The Council is responsible for formulating and regulating policies connected to matters under Part II of the Federal Legislative List, as well as supervising and controlling relevant institutions.
(b) Chairman of National Economic Council
Similarly, under article 156, Prime Minister is the Chairman of National Economic Council which is comprised of Prime Minister, the Chief Ministers of the Provinces and one member from each province to be nominated by the concerned Chief Minister and four other members to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
The National Economic Council is responsible for reviewing the country’s overall economic situation and advising the Federal Government and Provincial Governments on financial, commercial, social, and economic policies. When formulating such plans, it must consider, among other things, balanced development and regional equity, as well as the Policy Principles outlined in Chapter 2 of Part II.
. Reference to the Supreme Judicial Council
According to clause 5 of article 209 if the President or the Council believes that a Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court may be incapable of properly performing the duties of his office due to physical or mental incapacity, or may have been guilty of misconduct. The President shall direct the Council, or the Council may do so on its own motion, to inquire into the matter. The President may remove the Judge from office if the Council reports to the President that it is of the opinion:
(a) that the Judge is incapable of performing the responsibilities of his office or has been guilty of misconduct, and
(b) that he should be removed from office.
It is pertinent to mention that the reference to Supreme Judicial Council shall be sent on the advice of Prime Minister.
. Proclamation of Emergency
Although Emergency under article 232, 234 and 236 is proclaimed by the President of Pakistan, however, according to the Rules of Business, 1973 the advice of Prime Minister is required for proclamation of emergency.
. Immunity from Criminal Proceedings
According to the provisions of article 248, Prime Minister, along with Federal Ministers, President, Governors, Chief Ministers and Provincial Ministers shall not be held liable in any court for the exercise of powers and functions of their respective offices, or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and functions.
However, the proviso to article 248(1) provides that where a liability exists against the Federation or a Province, such government may be sued or other appropriate action may be taken against it.
It is pertinent to mention that article 248 refers to acts done by the Prime Minister in the official capacity and not to acts done in private capacity.
. Awards and Titles
Article 259 prohibits federal and provincial governments from conferring any title or honour, however, as permitted by Federal law, the President may bestow honours in recognition of gallantry, distinguished service in the Armed Forces, academic distinction, or distinction in the field of sports or nursing. However, as per the Rules of Business 1973, these awards and titles are to be bestowed on the advice of Prime Minister.
. Role in the appointment of caretaker government
Although the caretaker cabinet is appointed by the President but the Prime Minister, along with the Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly, has an important role to play in this regard. Article 224 provides that the caretaker Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President in consultation of Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition of the outgoing National Assembly.
If the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition do not agree, within three days, on a person to be appointed as caretaker Prime Minister then, according to article 224A, the matter shall be referred to a parliamentary committee comprising of eight members, four each from outgoing National Assembly and Senate where Treasury and Opposition benches shall have equal representation.
The Prime Minister is in charge of the government’s executive branch, supervises economic growth, chairs the Council of Common Interests and the Cabinet, and has command authority over the nuclear arsenals. This role places him in charge of the nation’s leadership and all domestic and international policy decisions. The Prime Minister of Pakistan is given executive powers by the Pakistani Constitution, and he is responsible for appointing the Cabinet and running the executive branch, as well as making and authorising executive decisions, appointments, and recommendations that require the Prime Minister’s approval. According to Pakistan’s constitution, the Prime Minister serves as the President’s chief adviser on vital issues and has a say in who is appointed to each department of government and the military leadership, as well as ensuring military control through Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff.