Fifth Annual Constitution Day Seminar Reiterates the Unwavering Will of the People to Defeat Undemocratic Forces and Create a Pluralistic Society Ensuring Well Being of All.

As per PIPS tradition, Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services celebrated fifth annual Constitution Day on April 10, 2018. The day began with National Anthem, followed by the lrecitaiton of the Holy Quran. Ms. Fakiha Mahmood, Research Officer PIPS, moderated the event.

A five member panel of seasoned experts and Members of Parliament deliberated on the imperative nature and importance of the Constitution of Pakistan. Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafool Zaka, Director General (Research & Legislation) PIPS, presented welcome remarks and read the Message of Honorable Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. Executive Director PIPS, Mr. Zafarullah Khan gave presentation on “Constitution – the user manual of statecraft.” Honorable Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq spoke on on “Parliament and Pluralistic Progressive Pakistan.” Honorable MNA Shehryar Afridi deliberated on on “Constitution – A Social Contract.” Honorable Minister for Ports and Shipping, Mir Hasil Khan Bezinjo graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. A video clip of 3 minutes and 20 seconds shared by Honorable Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb was played after the Q&A session. MPs, officers from National Parliament, international partners, around 80 participants including academia and delegations from Iqra University, Ripah University, International Islamic University, Shanghai University, China, Bahria University, NUML and Arid Agriculture University attended the absorbing day long event.

Welcome Remarks/Message from Honorable Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq: PIPS Director General (Research & Legislation)  Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka welcomed the participant and underscroed the importance of celeberating the Constitution Day. He began with words of founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who said:

“You are now a sovereign legislative body and you have got all the powers. It, therefore, places on you the gravest responsibility as to how you should take your decisions. The first observation that i would like to make is this: you will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a govenremtn is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by teh State.”

Indeed this is a landmark day in the democratic journey of Pakistan. Mr. Zaka underscored the role of Parliament in the creation and supermacy of the Constitution. He said that the Parliament of Pakistan is the only instituion whihc was created even before the independence of Pakistan. He paid tribute to the distinguished panelists including Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq who worked tirelessly for eradication of Polio from Pakistan at a time when Pakistan was counted among few countries in the world where the disease was still prevalent.

Message by the Honorable Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq: “Supermacy of constitution was our ultimate destination that guaranteed democracy, fundamental rights and security for each citizen of the State. The sanctitty of this sacred document was immense which must be upheld at any cost. 45 years ago the representatives of the first democratically elected legislature of the country – united by common purpose and an unwavering resolve – unaimously passed the Constitution of the country as a guiding princilpe to our journey towards a democratic, peaceful and prosperous country.

Periodic interventions by undemocratic forces held the Constitution in abeyance and retarted the pace of a strong federation and demcratic culture. Such misadventues proved detrimental to state of security, human rights and develpoment of the country. Lets not forget the sacrifices rendered by the political forces of the country to ensure supermacy of the Constitution.

Democratic forces while striving for reinstating Constitution and restoring democracy faced enormous challenges and they confronted the tyrannical regimes with resilience and unrelenting resolve for supermacy of the constitution. Lets pay rich tribute to those unsung heroes who ceased to exist in the history but made every effort to defend the sanctity of the Constitution by facing torture, imprisonment and even execution enforced by the autocratic regimes. This historic day provides us an opportunity to reiterate our pledge to protect, preserve and defend each and every word of this sacred document that united us as a nation to live together with liberty, social justice and equality.“

Constitution of Pakistan – the user manual of statecraft

Executive Director PIPS, Mr. Zafarullah Khan

Executive Director PIPS, Mr. Zafarullah Khan, welcomed the participants and highlighted the contribution of founders of Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973. He gave a statistical presentation on “Constitution of 1973 – the user manual of statecraft.” With the use of statistics, Mr. Zafarullah highlighted the importance of the Constitution in ensuring the fundamental human rights of ordinary citizens in historical context despite of facing daunting challenges from PCOs, LFO and the declaration of emergency in the country.

Deliberating upon the constitutional hisotry of Pakistan Mr. Zafarullah Khan said that people remain deprived of their fundamental rights during the suspension and abrogation of the constitution. Fundamental rights are protected under the democratic setup. The constitutional history of Pakistan reveals that Pakistan remained “a laboratory of constituional experimentation” through decades since independence.

Pakistan enjoyed the Dominion Status under the Act of 1935 for 3,142 days. The Constitution of 1956 remain promulgated for not more than 928 days and Constituion of 1962 for 2,482 days. By including the period when the consittuion was held in abayence the Constitution of 1973 has completed 16,310 days. Whereas, 2,944 days of this constitution were engulfed by interm, PCOs, LFOs and emergency proclamation. 

Further deliberating upon various dimensions of the constitution he said that Pakistan is the first country whose constitution declares that the soverignty belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority has to be excecised by the chosen representatives. The constituion of 1962 given by military ruler, Ayub Khan, declared Pakistan a Republic and removed word “Islamic” from its official name.

For quick refernce he presented the skeleton of the Constitution of 1973. Articles 8-40 deal with fundamental rights and principles of policy. Articles 41-49 pertain to the President of Pakistan. Articles 90-100 provide basis to the federal government. Article 50-89 pertain to the Parliament. Articles 175-212 cater for the laws pertianing to the judicature. He concluded by stressing the need to understand the constitution of Pakistan particulrly for youth.

Parliament and Pluralistic Progressive Pakistan

Honorable Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq 

Addressing the youthful participants, Honorable Senator congratulated the Parliament of Pakistan and especially the Pakistan Institute for Palriamentary Services for raising democratic awareness in the society. She highlighted various initiatives take by the Senate of Pakistan during the tenure of Chairman Senator Mian Raza Rabbani including the Gali-i-Dastoor, Senate Museum, and the Monument Wall paying tribute to the unsung heores of Pakistan’s democratic struggle. She stated that I am deeply encouraged to witness such a frequent interaction of the public with the Parliament of Pakistan particularly our youth, as tangible proof of the ever-building trust and interest of the young generation in thier Parliament.

When we say we are celebrating the Day of the Constitution, it is not a celebration of a document or some collection of rules. Rather, it is the celebration and acknowledgement of the pluralistic ideology behind this docuemnt, and the decades of immense lessons and sacrifices that followed.

Pluralism which essentially means ensuring freedom to the minorities to profess thier faith; to follow thier beliefs and to maintain thier cultural and religious traditions, is ingrained in Islam. Remember what Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said in his last Sermon on the day of Hajj on 10th Hijri while standing on Jabl-e-Rahmat in Arafat. “O Muslims! You are all equal, no Arab has superiority over a non-Arab nor has a white any superiority over a black. All human beings are the progeny and the descendants of Adam and Eve and no one has any supermacy over another except by piety.” If we go further back in time, the earlier Madina Pact, reached with the Jews of Madina, is also a manifestation of the same Divine command to Muslims. Our Constitution is an expression and manifestation of these very Islamic values and the same Islamic principles.

In order to further appreciate this philosophy of pluralism, we must also look at the main reasons behind the freedom struggle of our forefathers, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who fought against foreign, elitist dictatorship for thier rights under the principles of a healthy, inclusive democracy and self-actualization.

To them, the exclusion and sidelining of Muslims as a minority in state affairs against Hindu majority was unjust as they were members of the same society. And hence, they laid the foudnation for an independent nation, a welfare parliamentary democracy based on principes of tolerance, equality and fraternity.

Jinnah’s first address to the Constituent Assembly entails a number of precious lessons for Parliamentarians, judiciary and the executive alike. Jinnah, in his first Presidential address, said that:

“The first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State … you are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or toany other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State”.

It is these same principles that form the basis of our Constitution whose preamble, which is now a substantive part of our Constitution as Article 2A, declared that Pakistan is a State wherein Muslims shall be enabled to order thier lives in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam, and in the same breath and in the very next sentence, it declared that adequate provisions shall also be made in Pakistan to enable the minorities to profess and practice thier religion freely, and to develop thier cultures accordingly.

The Fundamental rights guaranteeing freedoms of all kinds to the people are not Muslim-specific and assure such freedoms including the freedom to follow thier religion to all and sundry which includes non-Muslims. Then, the Fundamental rights contained in Article 22 specifically declares that no person attending any educaitonal institution shall be required to recieve religious education or take part in any religious ceremony or attend any religious worship of a religion other than his own.

The same article goes on to add that no citizen shall be denied admission to any educational institution, recieving aid from public revenues, on the ground of religion etc. And further that no religious community shall be prevented from providing religious instructions for pupils of that community in any educational institution maintained wholly by it. And then there is Article 27 which commands against any discrimination in the appointment in the Service of Pakistan on account of religion etc.

If we look at the Principles of Policy contained in Chapter 2 of the Constitution, we find Article 36 which ordains that the State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities including thier due representation in the Federal and Provincial services.

And let us also not forget Articles 51, 59 and 106 of the Constitution, which reserve special seats in the National Assembly, the Senate and the Provincial Assemblies for religious minorities. Religious minorities are part of us. They have served and continue to serve Pakistan like any one of us. They have also shed thier blood and sacrificed thier lives for Pakistan like the Muslims, and the blood oozing out of thier wounds in the service of this country was never a shade different from the blood of the Muslims of this country. And I am proud to say that our Constitution takes care of them in the same manner in which it takes care of the Muslims of Pakistan. And our Constitution is thus an irrefutable and incontrovertible evidence of its belief in pluralism.

She said that the framers of the Constitution of 1973 brougth forth an unprecedented political consensus and vowed to eliminate the trends of discrimination and deprivation of rights in governance. With these goals, they aimed to ensure equal rights and representation for each citizens regardless of color, race, religion, geography or financial status.

She stated that even though democracy was disrupted for a considerable time period, the Constitution of 1973 remains the most powerful document ever created by Pakistan’s civilian  government, a document that has stood the test of time and has continued to evolve as the custodian of the rights of every citizen and institution.

Right from the framing of the 1973 Constitution, many milestones have thus been reached as steps towards participatory democracy, inclusive of all segments of scoiety, including women.

Many efforts to empower and make women inclusive in governance have been made, from gradually increasing the women’s quota in the parliament to the allocation of party tickets to women in general elections and requirement of a minimum representation of female votes as part of the Election Bill 2017, the electoral and parliamentary machinery is clearly enhancing women’s role in the democratic process.

She said that there are still many issues to address. There are still lessons to learn. That is why we must join hands and work together in our individual and collective capacities to stand up against any notions of hatred, intolerance and discrimination.

It is about time that the notions of equality and human rights are prioritized above all other matters. It is time that our growing social, technological and political progress should reflect as a widespread model of pluralism. Addressing the youth she said that you are our future, and this land holds high hopes from you. Do not forget that it is our collective responsibility to educate our children and our peers against any poisonous ideologies of hatred, discrimination and intorlerance. Let us all follow these constitutional principles to build a better, a healthier, a more inclusive, prosperous and a stronger Pakistan. 

The Constitution of Pakistan – a social contract

Honorable MNA, Mr. Shehryar Afridi

Honorable MNA began by acknowledging the services of Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services particualrly the efforts to orgnaise the seminar on Constitution day. He said that it is the need of hour to understand what actually Constitution means. He stated that the Constitution of 1973 protects fundamental rights. However, the issue is that as a nation we do not even bother to read and follow the Constitution.

He shared the example of United Kingdom where youth actively participates in the legislative business and eagerly educates themselves about the constitutional developments. But, unfortunately, in Pakistan we tend to revere the constitution like a holy book but do not take pain to read or understand it for implementation purposes.

He took exception to critize the attitutde of the Parliamentarians themselves, who are often found clueless about the ongoing legisaltion in the parliament. He stressed the need to celebrate the Constitution Day at national level by conducting seminar and other activities to raise awarness of the importance of constitution. He advised the youth to read the constitution beacuse only by acting upon the constittuion, we can compete with the global communities. He said that Consitution provides us respect at the internaitonal level. The implementation of all articles of the Constitution is the need of the hour.

Remarks by Chief Guest: Honorable Minster of Ports and Shipping/Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo

The Chief Guest of the event, Honorable Minster for Ports and Shipping expressed gratitude towards PIPS for puting efforts to celebrate the Constitution of 1973. He said the Constitution of 1973 is a great milestone in the political history of Pakistan. Constitution making process is never an easy task and many nations have experienced violence and wars in oder to get a constitution. He stated that in the case of Pakistan making constitution was difficult but ensuring the supermacy of constitution after its promilgation was even more difficult.

He lamented that a vast majority of Pakistani citizenry is unaware of the Constitution. Unfortunately, there is a lack of ownership of constitution in our country. Citing examples from the other countries he said that the representatives of other instituions like military or judiciary are never allowed to intervene in the legislative or constitutional process. Even the general masses in those countries are educated enough to condemn any move on the part of other institutions to interfere in the law making process with is exclusively the prerogative of the Parliament of a country.

Honorable Minster was critical of the role of media who practices selective accoutability by highlighting the corruption of politicians and ignoring the corrpt practices adopted by other sectors like military. He said that the media has put entire focus on the corruption of few people and has been ignoring highly pertinent issues being faced by the country at national level. Honorable Minister emphasized the need to strenghten Parliament as an institution by discourageing the undemocratic forces from interfereing in the political process. He said that the subsequent military rules have weakened the Parliament and the country as the seasoned politicians have been deprived of playing thier role in the political process through various condemnable ways and means. He concluded by stating that Constitution is the property of not a single individual or insitution, belongs to every Pakistan. Hence, each and every citizen of the country has to take part in ensuring its supermacy. A highly interactive Q&A session followed the individual presentations and Remarks by the Chief Guest. The participants asked questions of national importance which were duly answered by the distinguished panelists in a befitting manner.Worthy Executive Director PIPS Mr Zafarullah Khan presented memontoes to the panelists.

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