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The Eighth Amendment (1985)

General elections for the National and Provincial Assemblies were held in February 1985 on a non-party basis. No political party was allowed to nominate candidates in the elections. Before the parliament could meet on 23 March 1985, the Constitution was comprehensively amended through a President’s Orders, known as Revival of the Constitution of 1973 Order (RCO), on 2 March 1985. The RCO made significant departures from its original premises and concepts. As many as many sixty-five Articles were amended/ substituted/ added/ modified/ delete/ omitted. RCO can be regarded with justification as part of the Eighth Amendment without which the significance and importance of the Eighth Amendment cannot be fully analyzed.


Zia-ul-Haq thus made many changes in the Constitution before reviving it. The amendment was made immediately after the general elections and before nominating the Prime Minister and prior to the formation of the civilian government. These amendments were based on his constitutional plan which he announced on 12 August 1983. The balance of power had clearly shifted in favor of the President after the RCO and the office of the Prime Minister was relegated to a subservient and subordinate position. Zia held that the power of the President was enhanced without reducing the authority of the Prime Minister and a balance was struck between the two. He though that that lacunae discovered in 1977 in the power of the President had been removed according to the constitutional and political requirements of Pakistan. He referred to the Constitution of India and said that the provisions being incorporated through the RCO regarding in the Indian Constitution. He was of the opinion that the expression used in the 1973 Constitution ‘the President will act on the advice of the Prime Minister and such as an advice shall be binding on him’ was an insulting manner of giving power to the President. He said that his aim was not to enjoy maximum power. When asked under what conditions he would consider it necessary ton exercise the right to dissolve the National Assembly, he replied when the government, the Prime Minister, and the National Assembly lose the confidence of the people. Then he said that he would use his discretion. Although the RCO brought some basic changes in the structure of the constitution which to create constitutional and political crises in the country later on.


On 10 March, Zia promulgated a new order enforcing all but 27 Articles of the amended Constitution. Twenty-one of the Articles which were left suspended, related to the fundamental right and writ jurisdiction of the High Courts. Also uninformed, was Article 6 which described as high treason punishable under the law. Elections were held to the Senate on 12 March and Pakistan finally had a parliament.


Under the RCO, the President was given the authority to nominate and appoint the Prime Minister at his discretion from amongst members of the National Assembly. Similarly, the provincial Governors were vested with the power to appoint Chief Ministers of their respective provinces from amongst the members of the Provincial Assemblies. In the party less assemblies, there was no question of any one commanding the confidence of the majority and, therefore, appointment by the President and the Governor was sufficient for them to obtain a vote of confidence.


Zia nominated a veteran political from Sindh, Mohammed Khan Junejo, as Prime Minister on 23 March 1985. The next day, Junejo won a unanimous vote of confidence from National Assembly. While handing over power to Junejo and his government, Zia made it clear that it was not a transfer of power from a military to a civilian government. It was at best the sharing of some of the powers by the military with the newly formed civilian government. He had the audacity to state that the plant of democracy could grow under the tree of the martial law.


During 1985, Prime Minister Junejo enhanced his prestige and power. He was elected president of the All Pakistan Muslim League and also the leader of the Muslim league Parliamentary party. His popularity increased when he lifted the emergency and restored the fundamental right. There was evidently no justification for the continuation of martial law. Junejo had promised the nation he would lift martial law and restored the Constitution of 1973.


The Eighth Amendment was a clearly a capitulation on the part of the newly formed civilian government to get lifted martial law. While retaining elements of both the parliamentary and the presidential form of government, the Amendments tilted the balance of latter’s favorite Eight Amendment reduced the status of the Prime Minister, making him subservient to the desires of the former. The main obsessing was to retain power at any cost, even if this meant the negation of constitutional democracy, national integrity and national institution.

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