Constitution of Pakistan

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of Pakistan

Independence: 14 August 1947

The constitution in force at the time of the October 1999 coup was promulgated in 1973. The first amendment was introduced in 1974 and the fourteenth, in 1997. Much of it was suspended from 1977 and restored in December 1985. It was again suspended by the military government after the October 1999 coup, and was partially restored in November 2002, following the parliamentary elections. On 19 April 2010 far-reaching constitutional reforms (the Eighteenth Amendment Bill) were signed into law, reducing key presidential powers and broadening the distribution of power within the government. The president no longer has the power to dismiss the prime minister or the parliament.

The constitution proclaimsPakistanto be Islamic and democratic, with fundamental rights guaranteed, including the freedoms of thought, speech, religion and worship, assembly, association, and the press, as well as equality of status.

Under this constitution, the president is head of state and is elected for five years by an electoral college consisting of the members of both houses of parliament and of the four provincial assemblies. Until April 1997, the president had certain discretionary powers including the power to dissolve the National Assembly. These powers were restored by the military government immediately before the elections in October 2002 through the Legal Framework Order (LFO) together with other amendments. Under the eighteenth amendment of April 2010, however, the president’s role once again became largely ceremonial.

There is a bicameral legislature. The lower house is the National Assembly. From 2002 the Assembly had 342 members, comprising 272 members directly elected by adult suffrage, plus 60 women and ten representatives of minorities (non-Muslims); these seats reserved for women and minorities’ representatives are allocated proportionally to all parties gaining more than 5% of the directly elected seats. The prime minister is elected by the National Assembly. The upper house, the Senate, has 100 members (previously 87) elected for six years with about half of them retiring every three years. Each of the four provinces elects 22 senators, including four women and four technocrats; the remaining 12 are elected from theFederalCapitalTerritoryand the tribal areas. Legal constitutional change requires the support of two-thirds of the total membership of the National Assembly and the Senate.