For Serious Students of History only: the second part of my article on Constitution making

For Serious Students of History only: the second part of my article on Constitution making

For Serious Students of History only: the second part of my article on Constitution making


Constitution-Making in Pakistan (1947-73) (Part II)

Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

APRIL 9, 2023

Here, it is important to mention the growing role of the Army in the body politic of the country. Prime Minister Liaquat and his handpicked Army Chief, General Ayub Khan, had both made prolonged visits to the United States in 1950 and 1951, respectively. It was Liaquat, who called Ayub to tell him about the Rawalpindi Conspiracy and announced it on March 9, 1951, with the latter having no clue of it. Seven months later, Prime Minister was assassinated, and minutes later, his assassin was shot dead. In 1953, Ghulam Muhammad could not have dissolved the National Assembly without support from Ayub Khan and Justice Munir. After dismissing Khwaja Nazimuddin, he installed Ambassador Mohammed Ali Bogra as Prime Minister but made his life so difficult that he had to introduce two government servants: Defense Secretary Iskander Mirza as Interior Minister and the serving Army Chief Ayub Khan as Defense Minister. By 1954, Gen Ayub was assuring Prime Minister Bogra in London that nobody could arrest him in Pakistan if he were accompanying him.
A word about Iskander Mirza is necessary here. He came from a ruling family of Bengal during British times, was a direct descendant of Mir Jaffer and the first Indian to be trained at Sandhurst. After becoming Lt Colonel, he was inducted into the Indian Political Service and assigned to work as Deputy Commissioner and Political Agent. At the time of independence, he was Joint Secretary in the Government of India. He was inducted into the Civil Service of Pakistan and appointed as Defense Secretary with the honorary rank of Major General. He ordered martial law in Lahore in 1953 before the pious Prime Minister Nazimuddin could order him to that effect; acquiring the reputation of a strongman. He was subsequently Governor of East Pakistan with President’s rule to thwart the emergence of a leftist government there. Mirza and Ayub succeeded in securing the resignation of a paralyzed Ghulam Muhammad. In the space of nine years, Mirza had gone from a Joint Secretary to Acting Governor General and the first President of Pakistan.
Subsequently, through palace intrigues, the Mirza-Ayub duo got rid of three prime ministers: Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, I I Chundrigar and Sir Feroze Khan Noon; culminating with the abrogation of the constitution and imposition of martial law on October 7, 1958. However, the duo could not coexist and on October 27, 1958, Mirza was made to sign his resignation. Together with his wife, he shifted to the VIP lounge of Karachi Airport. After a brief sojourn in Quetta, Mirza was consigned to a life in exile in London and could not even be buried in Pakistan on his death in November 1969. Meanwhile, Ayub remained the Chief Martial Law Administrator till 1960.
On Mirza’s dismissal, he took over as President and appointed a Constitution Commission in February 1960, which submitted its proposals in April 1961 and enabled the promulgation of a new Constitution with a presidential form of government on March 1, 1962. The country was divided into 80,000 administrative units (40,000 each in East and West Pakistan) and sham elections were held in these units called Basic Democracies to legitimize the incumbent president. The first session of the third National Assembly was held on June 8, 1962, in Rawalpindi, the new capital of Pakistan, with 156 members; 78 from each province. Former Chief Justice Munir was inducted as Central Law Minister for six months and enabled the entire process with most powers vesting with the President. In 1964-5, presidential elections were held with Ayub Khan contesting against Mr Jinnah’s sister, Fatima. When Chief Election Commissioner, G Mueenuddin, asked Ayub Khan how fair did he want the elections to be, he got the cryptic reply: “As free as practicable.” Needless to say, Ayub won the election comfortably despite losing in Karachi and major cities of East Pakistan like Dacca and Chittagong. This was another major blow to the East-West relationship in Pakistan.
General Yahya Khan imposed martial law on March 25, 1969, and took over as the President and Chief Martial Law Administrator abrogating the 1962 constitution, which would have made Speaker Abdul Jabbar Khan succeed Ayub. Yahya had been waiting in the wings ever since Ayub Khan developed a pulmonary embolism a year earlier and must be credited with dismantling the One Unit and restoring the provinces of Sindh, Punjab and NWFP (now KP) while creating the Balochistan province. He inducted former Chief Justice, A R Cornelius, as Law Minister to draft the Legal Framework Order (LFO), which was instituted on March 30, 1970, to secure the future constitution. What Munir had done for Ghulam Muhammad and Ayub, Cornelius was then doing for Yahya Khan. There was a major lacuna in the LFO: It did not specify how the constitution would be approved, what would be the mode of voting and what percentage was necessary for approval. The absence of any specifics enabled even 51 per cent of the members to approve the Constitution with a simple majority – this single lapse strengthened Sheikh Mujibur Rehman beyond all proportions.

Meanwhile, a terrible cyclone hit East Pakistan on November 12, 1970, killing 300,000 to 500,000 people and injuring or displacing millions of people. Yet the response to this massive humanitarian crisis was highly dismal, delayed and inadequate. The elections were around three to four weeks away, yet Yahya insisted they be carried out on time and its results were astounding for Yahya Khan, who had hoped for a hung parliament. Mujib swept East Pakistan; gaining 167 out of 169 seats and losing two seats to Nurul Amin and Raja Tridiv Roy. In West Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had served as a Central Minister under Ayub Khan for seven years before parting ways and making his own Pakistan People’s Party, secured 86 seats of the total 146 seats. Out of the remaining 60 seats in West Pakistan, the three Muslim Leagues got 18 seats, JUI, JUP and NAP secured seven seats each, JI, 4, PDP, 1 and Independent, 16 seats. An enraged Yahya woke up Gen Omar in the middle of the night and gave him a dressing down for his erroneous assessment and for wasting the money spent on the Muslim League candidates.
Thus, the first-ever general elections held based on the adult franchise on December 7, 1970, resulted in pitting one province against the other and catalyzed a tremendous upheaval and civil strife in East Pakistan culminating with its secession from Pakistan on December 16, 1971. The third week of December 1971 was indeed a very dark time in the country’s history. Meanwhile, after the start of hostilities on December 4, Yahya Khan announced a new government; retaining himself as president, Nurul Amin as Prime Minister and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on December 7. Bhutto was asked to proceed to the United Nations Security Council. After repeated vetoes from the Soviet Union for an amicable settlement, he lambasted the UN on December 15, 1971, and walked out. After meeting President Nixon, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Ambassador George W Bush Sr, he moved to Rome where a PIA aircraft was sent to escort him to Pakistan on December 20, 1971. From the airport, Bhutto went straight to the President’s House where Cabinet Secretary Ghulam Ishaq Khan was drawing up the succession instruments and reportedly opined that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto should be made the President, but not the Chief Martial Law Administrator.

To Be Continued

The writer is a senior public health specialist of Pakistan and can be reached at

Posted by Doc Kazi on 2023-04-09 06:21:36


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