What are the causes of abrogation of 1956 constitution of Pakistan?

The Constitution of 1956 was the fundamental law of Pakistan from March 1956 until the Revolution of October 1958.

Pakistan became independent of the United Kingdom in 1947. Under Section 8 of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, the Government of India Act, 1935 became, with certain adaptations, the working constitution of Pakistan. But the need of a constitution to be framed by the elected representatives of the people, was all the more necessary for the free citizens of a sovereign state. Therefore the first Constituent Assembly was formed under the Independence Act and was entrusted with two separate functions:[1]

  • To frame a Constitution for the country, and
  • To set as a Federal Legislative Assembly or Parliament until that Constitution came into effect.

The powers and functions of the central legislature under the Government of India Act were conferred on the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly could, however, amend the Indian Independence Act, 1947 or the Government of India Act, 1935, and no Act of the British Parliament could be extended to Pakistan without legislation by the Constituent Assembly. The first Constituent Assembly originally consisted of 69 members; subsequently the number of members was increased to 79

The first big step in the framing of a constitution for Pakistan was taken by the Constituent Assembly on 12 March 1949, when it passed a resolution on the 'Aims and Objectives of the Constitution', popularly known as the Objectives Resolution. It laid the foundation of the constitution and indicated the broad outline of its structure. The resolution was moved by Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan.[2] While moving the Resolution, he said:

Sir, I consider this to be a most important occasion in the life of this country, next in importance only to the achievement of independence, because by achieving independence we only won an opportunity of building up a country and its polity in accordance with our ideals. I would like to remind the house that the Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam, gave expression of his feelings on this matter on many an occasion, and his views were endorsed by the nation in unmistakable terms, Pakistan was founded because the Muslims of this sub-continent wanted to build up their lives in accordance with the teachings and traditions of Islam, because they wanted to demonstrate to the world that Islam provides a panacea to the many diseases which have crept into the life of humanity today.[3]

The resolution was debated for five days. The leading members of the government and a large number of non-Muslim members, especially from East Bengal, took a prominent part. Non-Muslim members expressed grave apprehensions about their position and role in the new policy. Hindu members of the Constitutional Assembly argued that the Objectives Resolution differed with Muhammad Ali Jinnah's (Quaid-e-Azam) view in all the basic points. Sris Chandra Chattopadhyaya said:

What I hear in this (Objectives) Resolution is not the voice of the great creator of Pakistan - the Quaid-i-Azam, nor even that of the Prime Minister of Pakistan the Honorable Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, but of the Ulema of the land.

Birat Chandra Mandal declared that Jinnah had "unequivocally said that Pakistan will be a secular state." Bhupendra Kumar Datta went a step further: "...were this resolution to come before this house within the life-time of the Great Creator of Pakistan, the Quaid-i-Azam, it would not have come in its present shape...."[4]

After nine years of efforts, Pakistan was successful in framing a constitution. The Constituent Assembly adopted it on 29 February 1956, and it was enforced on 23 March 1956, proclaiming Pakistan to be an Islamic republic.

The Constitution of 1956 was lengthy and detailed; it contained 234 articles divided into thirteen parts and six schedules. The Constitution of 1956 provided for federal system with the principle of parity between East Pakistan and West Pakistan. The Federal Legislature was to perform like the British Parliament. The Centre was invested with such powers as to take unilateral action in emergency and it could influence the provincial autonomy.

The Constitution of 1956 provided for the parliamentary form of government, where real executive authority was vested in a cabinet, collectively responsible to the legislature. The cabinet was presided over by the Prime Minister. The Constitution declared that there would be only one house of parliament known as the National Assembly and equality between the two Wings (i.e. East Pakistan and West Pakistan) was maintained in it. The Governor General was replaced by a President, who was to be elected by the Electoral College of Pakistan composed of members of the National Assembly and Provincial Assembly.

Familiar democratic rights and freedoms such as freedom of speech and expression, of assembly and association, of movement and of profession were all provided in the Constitution, with the usual qualifications. With regards to civil rights, familiar rights such as rights of life, liberty and property were granted, again with the usual qualifications and safeguards. The judiciary was given power to enforce the fundamental rights and the courts were to decide if a law was repugnant to any provisions of the fundamental rights.

As per the Constitution, Urdu and Bengali were made national languages.

  • The text of Objectives Resolution was repeated in the preamble of the Constitution of 1956 without any major change.
  • The name Islamic Republic of Pakistan was selected for the state of Pakistan.
  • All citizens of Pakistan were granted freedom to profess, practise and propagate any religion and the right to establish, maintain and manage religious institutions.
  • According to the directive principles, steps were to be taken to enable the Muslims of Pakistan individually and collectively to order their lives in accordance with principles in the Qur'an and Sunnah.
  • No law shall be enacted which is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Qur'an and Sunnah and that existing laws shall be brought into confirmity with such injunctions. Whether a law was repugnant to Islam or not, would be decided by the National Assembly.
  • Only a Muslim could be qualified for election as President.
  • The President should set up an organisation for Islamic research and instruction in advanced studies to assist in the reconstruction of Muslims society on a truly Islamic basis.
  • Teaching of the Qur'an was to be made compulsory for Muslims.
  • The purchase and sale of alcohol was banned and prostitution and music was prohibited.
  • No person should be compelled to pay any special tax, the proceeds of which were to be spent on the propagation of any religion other than his own.
  • The state should endeavour to strengthen the bonds of unity among Muslim countries.[6]
  • 7:Islamic Character

• The name of the country was the Islamic Republic, Objectives Resolution was the Preamble. • Other Islamic clauses were part of Directive Principles. • No law can be made to violate Islamic principles and teachings. • Existing laws would be brought in conformity with Islamic teachings. • A Commission was to be appointed to examine the laws for bringing them in conformity. • Whether a Law is Islamic or not, NA had to decide. The matter could be taken up with the judiciary. • Islam was not declared state religion. • Islamic heritage and roots are combined with modern notions of governance and a moderate political system was adopted.

On 7 October 1958, President Iskander Mirza staged a coup d'état. He abrogated the constitution, imposed martial law and appointed General Muhammad Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator and Aziz Ahmad as Secretary General and Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator. However, only three weeks later General Ayub---who was openly questioning the authority of the government prior to the imposition of martial law---deposed Iskandar Mirza on 27 October 1958 and assumed the presidency that practically formalized the militarization of the political system in Pakistan.[7] Four years later a new document, Constitution of 1962 was adopted. This was eventually succeeded by the current Constitution of 1973.