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First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (1947-1954)

The First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan came into existence under Indian Independence Act 1947, at the time of independence. Its roots went back to 1946 when elections for constituent assembly of United India were held to decide the destiny of All India Muslim League. First meeting of constituent assembly of united India was held on 19th December 1946, but Muslim League boycotted it since they demanded a separate constituent assembly for Pakistan. With the acceptance of 3rd June plan a separate constituent assembly was formulated for Pakistan.

The inaugural session of the first constituent assembly of Pakistan was held in Karachi in August 1947. Mr. J.N. Mandal was elected as temporary chairman of Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Subsequently Jinnah was selected as the president of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, on 11th August 1947 and Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan as its Deputy President. The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan functioned from 1947 to 1954 and involved two major parties—the Muslim League representing all Muslims with the exception of few and The Congress Party representing the twelve million Hindus in Pakistan.

There were 69 members in the constituent assembly; this number was increased to 79 later in order to give representation to princely states and refugees. The mode of elections was on the basis of separate electorates. There was a clear majority of Muslim League in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, with 60 members out of the total 79. The second major party was Pakistan National Congress with 11 members; and the third party was Azad Group with 3 members, a number which later decreased to 1. The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was not able to work properly because its seats remained empty and some members migrated to India. Members of Constituent Assembly of Pakistan were simultaneously allowed to take seats of Provincial assembly or they can be Chief Ministers or members of Central or Provincial Cabinet.

Under the Indian Independence Act Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was given two tasks – to prepare a Constitution and to act as the federal legislature. The functions of central legislature under the Government of India Act 1935 were granted to the Constituent Assembly. As a constitution making body it was completely independent. The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan could amend the independence act by a simple majority and pass laws; moreover, no law could be made without its approval. Every bill that was passed needed to be signed by the President of Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

Though there was no opposition in the Constituent Assembly but there were groups that were critical of the League. On the left was Iftikharuddin a former congressmen and a communist. On right were the religious critics like Maulana Shabir Ahmad Ossmani.

The first constituent assembly setup several committees to carry out its tasks. Most important of these was the Basic Principles Committee; it was assigned the task to report in accordance with the Objectives Resolution on the main principles by which the constitution of Pakistan was to be framed. Basic Principles Committee setup three sub committees and a special committee named Talimaat-i-Islamia which consisted of scholars to advice on the religious matters arising out of Objectives Resolution. Basic Principles Committee submitted its interim report in September 1950 and the final report in December 1952.

Another important committee of the Constituent Assembly was on the ‘Fundamental Rights of the Citizens of Pakistan’ and on ‘Matters Relating to Minorities’. It divided itself into two sections, one dealing with fundamental rights and the other with matters relating to minorities. Interim report of this committee was adopted by Constituent Assembly in 1950 and the final report in 1954.

Others committees of the constituent assembly were the State Negotiating Committee, which dealt with the question of representation of princely states and the Tribal Areas Negotiating Committee, dealing with matters related to tribal areas.

The progress of the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan can be summed up as follows:

12 March 1949 – Objectives Resolution passed by the Constituent Assembly on aims and objective of future constitution. This report was well received by the citizens of Pakistan.
7 September 1950 – the interim report of Basic Principles Committee was presented to the constituent assembly. This step however marked as the beginning of decline in the popularity of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. This report was criticized mainly by East Pakistan.
6 October 1950 – interim report of the committee on Fundamental Rights of the Citizens of Pakistan matters relating to Minorities was adopted by Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. This report got a comparatively better response.
22 December 1952 – the final report of Basic Principles Committee was presented. This report was also criticized, because of opposition in the Punjab.
7 October 1953 – Constitutional impasse was over and formation of federal legislature was resolved by the ‘Muhammad Ali Formula’. This report was widely welcomed and helped the Constituent Assembly regain in popularity.
21 September 1954 – the Basic Principles Committees’ revised Report was approved by Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

The final sketch of constitution was prepared and the Constituent Assembly was near to the completion of its purpose. But at this point the Constituent Assembly was suspended by the Governor General Ghulam Muhammad, on 24th October 1954. He stated that the Constituent Assembly had lost the confidence of the people; this ruined the efforts of the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan which had been working towards formulating a viable constitution for seven years.

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