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The Federal Council [Majlis-e-Shoora] (1981-85)
It was provided under the PCO that the President could constitute a Federal Council (Majlis-e-Shoora) to perform functions that were to be assigned to it by the President. This was a step taken to create a political lobby for Zia and his cronies and to groom these people in the future for election to the assemblies in addition to the people elected to the local bodies who owed allegiance to Zia. Nominees to the Federal Council were carefully selected by the Governors of the provinces based on reports of bureaucrats and the intelligence agencies. Their chances of getting elected to the assemblies in the future based on their family background were given due weight. In this way, scions of feudal families got generous representation in this Council.
After this selection had been finalized by the end of 1981, Zia issued a President’s Order for setting up the Federal Council. The purpose of the council given thereunder was that pending restoration of democracy and representative institutions, it was deemed necessary to make an interim arrangement for association and consultation regarding the affairs of the state. Hence, the Federal Council was an interim arrangement made by the martial law government and the nominees thereto were expected to serve as the political arm of the military regime.
The President could nominate up to 350 members to the Federal Council. Due representation was to be given to ulama, mashaikh, women, farmers, professionals, laborers, and minorities. The Council would have a chairman and four vice-chairmen, one from each province, all to appoint by the President and to hold office at his pleasure. The Council could recommend to the President the enactment of a law or the amendment of existing law. It could discuss the annual budget but could not vote on any of its items. The quorum of the Council was one-fourth of its total strength and decisions of the Council were to be taken by consensus of the members present. It could not discuss the conduct of judges. Its members were immune from any prosecution or proceedings in any court for anything said or any opinion expressed in the Council. The President could dissolve it at any time and it would be automatically dissolved upon the establishment of permanent representative institutions.
After the nomination of its members, the Federal Council met in February 1982 and Zia addressed the first session. Khwaja Muhammad Safdar from Sialkot, an old Muslim Leaguer, was nominated as its Chairman. The Council held its session from time to time. It had no power and, of course, deserved none. It was a fake parliament holding mock discussions. It was a window dressing an insult to the intelligence of the people of Pakistan and a reminder to them of their helplessness in the face of an unashamed dictator backed only by a brute force bent upon usurping the power of the state and trying to fool the people and the world with such gimmicks. Everybody took a sigh of relief when the Sham Council met its end on the holding of general elections in February 1985.