Describe the Salient Features of the Constitution of 1956.

Difficulty: Hard

Formulation of Constitution:

Geographical factors of Pakistan caused a delay in the formulation of the constitution. The country was divided into two unequal parts. East Pakistan was one unit. It had more population than West Pakistan. West Pakistan consisted of four provinces and twelve states. Therefore, the Government dissolved all the provinces and states and merged them into a single province.


Formation of a new Province:

On 14th October 1955, a new province of West Pakistan came into being. It was composed of 12 divisions. The federation consisted of East Pakistan and West Pakistan. This cleared the hindrances which were being experienced in the way of representation.


First Government of West Pakistan:

Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani was made the first Governor of West Pakistan.


First Chief Minister of West Pakistan:

Dr. Khan Sahib was the first Chief Minister of this province.


One Unit of West Pakistan:

This unit continued till 1970. After the establishment of one unit of West Pakistan, the task of the formulation of the constitution became easier to a great extent.


Formulation of the Constitution:

The first constituent Assembly had already done a lot in this connection. Chaudhary Muhammad Ali availed of the work already done and formulated a formula in which the second constituent Assembly consisting of all the political groups and provinces expressed their consensus.


Promulgation of the first constitution:

The draft of the new constitution was presented in the Assembly on 9th January 1956. After the final approval by the Governor-General, it was promulgated in the country as the first constitution of Pakistan on 23 March 1956. The salient features of this constitution are as under:


Salient Features of the Constitution of 1956:


1. Written Constitution:

The Constitution of 1956 was a written constitution. It was not a detailed constitution. The Constitution of 1956 consisted of 234 articles, which were divided into 13 parts and 6 schedules. The Objective Resolution was included in the Constitution as a preamble:


2. Flexible Constitution:

This constitution was flexible. It had the flexibility to bring changes according to the changing circumstances. The constitution could only be amended through a process requiring the amendment to be passed by at least a two-thirds majority of the National assembly and authentication by the President.


3. Federal Constitution:

The constitution provided for a federal system in the country. The Federation consisted of two provinces i.e. West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Powers were divided between the center and the provinces. The subjects were divided into three lists; The Federal List, The Provincial List, and the Concurrent list. Both, the Central and Provincial governments had the jurisdiction of legislation regarding the concurrent list. The provinces were given autonomy to a great extent.


4. Parliamentary System:

The Constitution of 1956 provided for a parliamentary form of government. The president was the head of state and the Prime Minister the head of government. The President had nominal powers. The real powers rested with the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister was authorized to appoint his cabinet but he and his cabinet were answerable for their policies and actions before the National Assembly. The President was to be elected by the members of both the National and Provincial Assemblies.


5. Unicameral Legislature:

Under this Constitution, the unicameral legislature was introduced. The only house of parliament, the National Assembly, was to consist of 300 members, 150 members each from West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Ten seats were reserved for women, five for each wing. The Assembly was elected for a tenure of five years.


6. Independence of Judiciary:

The independence of the judiciary was guaranteed in this Constitution. Supreme Court shall be the highest court. Two high courts, one in each province, shall be established. The Chief Justice of Pakistan shall be appointed by the President, and the other judges shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice. The Judges shall have the security of their services. A judge could be removed only by the President after an address by the National Assembly, two-thirds of the members concurring.


7. Single Citizenship:

The citizens of Pakistan shall have only single citizenship. All the citizens shall be called Pakistanis. In America, the people enjoy dual citizenship i.e. one citizenship of the Central Government and the other of the Governments of the states whereas, in Pakistan, the Constitution established the principle of single citizenship.


8. Fundamental Rights:

The citizens shall have all the rights as are guaranteed in the Charter of the United Nations. All citizens shall be equal before the law. They shall enjoy social, political, and economic rights. The rights of the citizens shall have judicial protection. In case of violation of these rights, the victim shall be free to go to court.


9. Official Languages:

Under the Constitution of 1956, Urdu and Bengali were both accepted as state languages, while English was to remain the official language for the first 25 years.


10. Constitutional Institutions:

Under this Constitution, various constitutional institutions were established. Among these institutions, Islamic Research Institute, Public Service Commission, Chief Election Commissioner, and auditor General are worth-mentioning. All these institutions were authorized to work in their respective scopes.