Original Articles

Removing the only good thing Zia-ul Haq added to the Constitution!

Yasser Latif Hamdani at Pak Tea House blog has pointed out a terrible omission in the 18th Amendment Bill [PDF]. If you look on page 93 of the document, you can see that Article 91 is being amended back to resemble its pre-1985 status.

The current version of article 91(2) is:

(2) The President shall in his discretion appoint from amongst the members of the National Assembly a Prime Minister who, in his opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly.

The new version of Article 91, proposed in the 18th Amendment Bill contains Article 91(3) which is:

(3) 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 Prime Minister

So as you can see, the only good thing Zia ever changed about the constitution is being changed back and Pakistan will once again become a country in which non-Muslims are barred from the office of both the President and the Prime Minister. Either this is an error of omission, or an act of cowardice. In either case, it’s a huge loss for minority rights in Pakistan. If you happen to know anyone in the media or who is able to communicate this matter to any MNA then now would be the time to inform them. At the very least, a change like this should not be pushed through unmentioned and unnoticed.

About the author

Laila Ebadi

4 Comments

Click here to post a comment
  • Excellent post, Rabia, and excellent point, Yasser.

    I understand that according to Article 41(2) of Pakistan’s constitution:

    “A person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim of not less than forty-five years of age and is qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly.”

    I also understand that respective oaths (which are a part of Pakistan’s constitution – Articles 42 and 91) for the offices of President and Prime Minister require the incumbents to publicly profess their Islam before assuming their office.

    Therefore, what we are dealing with here seems to be a discussion of more academic nature, which may not have a direct affect on or relevance to ‘ground realities’ in today’s Pakistan.

    Having said that I completely agree with (the essence of) what you and Yasser intend to propose here, i.e., complete separation of religion from state, in order to achieve a plural, progressive and inclusive democracy in the ‘land of the pure’. In this context, the proposed amendment in Article 91 is deplorable as well as inconsistent with the political visions of the PPP, MQM, ANP and other (relatively) secular parties.

  • Apparently, ANP did not agree with that direction of the amendment. It has been reported that they proposed to abrogate the condition of being a Muslim even for the office the president. Due credit must be given to them for at least writing this note of dissent.

    اے این پی نے صدر کے لئے مسلمان ہونے کی شرط پر بھی اختلافی نوٹ لکھا

    اسلام آباد (جنگ نیوز)حکومتی اتحادی عوامی نیشنل پارٹی نے صدر مملکت کی اہلیت کیلئے مسلمان ہونے کی شرط ختم نہ ہونے کے بارے میں بھی اختلافی نوٹ لکھا ہے۔ یہ اختلافی نوٹ عوامی نیشنل پارٹی کے رہنماؤں سینیٹرحاجی عدیل اور سینیٹر افراسیاب خٹک کی جانب سے مشترکہ طور پر تحریر کیاگیا۔ عوامی نیشنل پارٹی نے 1973 ء کے آئین کے آرٹیکل 41میں صدارتی اہلیت کیلئے مسلمان کی شرط کو حذف کرنے کامطالبہ کیا تھا ۔ کمیٹی نے دو تہائی اکثریت سے اس تجویز کومسترد کر دیا تھا جس پر سینیٹرحاجی عدیل اور سینیٹر افراسیاب خٹک نے اختلافی نوٹ تحریر کیا جو پارلیمانی کمیٹی برائے آئینی اصلاحات کی رپورٹ کا حصہ ہے

    http://www.jang.net/urdu/details.asp?nid=422413

  • well you are right about the oaths of office but ylh’s point was that whereas previously a contradiction (and potential loophole) existed, now there is none.

    ANP’s dissenting note is about the president being a Muslim. There is no mention of the return of the PM requirement. No one seems to have mentioned it anywhere.