Government type: federal parliamentary republic; regional government in each province. Local divisions: four provinces. Capital: Islamabad (geographic coordinates: 33 41 N, 73 03 E). Independence: August 14, 1947 (from British India). Citizenship is by birth and descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Pakistan. Dual citizenship is recognized, but limited to select countries. Residency requirement for naturalization: 4 out of the previous 7 years and including the 12 months preceding application : [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

The Pakistani government is modeled after the British elected Parliamentary government. The prime minister is the most powerful person in the country and is the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament. Pakistan's independence was won through a democratic and constitutional struggle. Although the country's record with parliamentary democracy has been mixed, Pakistan, after lapses, has returned to this form of government. The government has big debts and deficits. In 2001, about 60 percent of the budget went to repay loans and 30 percent went to the military.

Government Overview:The government is based on the much-amended constitution of 1973, which was suspended twice (in 1977 and 1999) and reinstated twice (in 1985 and 2002). According to the constitution, Pakistan is a federal parliamentary system with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. The legislature, or parliament, is the Majlisi-Shoora (Council of Advisers), consisting of the Lower House, which is often called the National Assembly, and the Upper House, or Senate. National Assembly members are directly elected for five-year terms. Senate members are elected by provincial assemblies, with equal representation from each of the four provinces as well as representatives from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Islamabad Capital Territory. Both the Senate and National Assembly may initiate and pass legislation, but only the National Assembly can approve federal budgets and finance bills. However, parliament often has had little real political power. For example, in 2003 the only bill passed by the National Assembly was the national budget. [Source: Library of Congress, February 2005]

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia: The Pakistani constitution of 1973 as amended, provides for a federal parliamentary form of government. The president is elected to a five-year term by an electoral college drawn from the national parliament and provincial assemblies. The National Assembly has 342 members, 272 of them elected by popular vote, with 60 seats reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims; all serve five-year terms. The 100 members of the Senate serve six-year terms.Each province has its own legislative assembly whose members are elected by direct popular vote, a provincial governor appointed by the president, and a chief minister elected by the legislative assembly. There is an independent judicial branch of government. Administratively, the country is divided into four provinces and two territories. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

Symbols and Names of Pakistan

The official name of Pakistan is Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Islami Jamhooria Pakistan). “Istan” is the old Persian word for "place of." Pak means "pure" in Urdu and Pashto (the language of the Pashto). Thus Pakistan means "place of the pure." Citizens are called Pakistanis. A group of students at Cambridge University invented the name Pakistan — an acronym including the first initials of states of Punjab, Afghania (the present-day Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan), Kashmir, Sindh, and the last three letters of Balochistan — in 1933. There was no reference to Bengal, even as though East Pakistan was the most populous part of Pakistan when it was created. East Pakistan had previously been East Bengal and is now Bangladesh.

Pakistan has several official national symbols including a historic document, a flag, an emblem, an anthem, a memorial tower as well as several national heroes. The symbols were adopted at various stages in the existence of Pakistan and there are various rules and regulations governing their definition or use. There are also several other symbols including the national animal, bird, flower and tree of the country. [Source: Ministry of Culture, Pakistan ]

Flag: Adopted in 1947, the white star and crescent on a green field were originally the flag of the Muslim League. Green is the Muslim color and the crescent moon in a Muslim symbol. The narrow vertical white band on its left side was added to represent minorities. Green signifies the Muslim majority and prosperity, white denotes religious minorities and peace, the crescent represents progress, and the star symbolizes light, guidance and knowledge.

According to “Countries and Their Cultures” The design of Pakistan's flag was officially adopted by the country's Constituent Assembly in July 1947, it was flown for the first time on their independence day, 14 August l947. The flag was designed by Ali Jinnah, the man acclaimed as the founder of Pakistan. [Source:“Countries and Their Cultures”, Gale Group Inc., 2001]

National Anthem: name: "Qaumi Tarana" (National Anthem); lyrics by Abu-Al-Asar Hafeez Jullandhuri; music by Ahmed Ghulamali Chagla. Adopted 1954, the song is also known as "Pak sarzamin shad bad" (Blessed Be the Sacred Land). The opening lines sung in Urdu go (English translation): "Blessed be the sacred land, Happy be the bounteous realm, Symbol of high resolve, land of Pakistan, Blessed be thou citadel of faith."

National Emblem: In the middle of a circled wreath of jasmine flowers is a shield that has four sections, each of which shows a major product of the country from when the country was created. One section shows cotton, another shows wheat, one tea, and one jute. Above the four sections are the crescent and star, as on the national flag. On a scroll beneath the wreath is written in Urdu "Faith, Unity, Discipline."

National symbol: five-pointed star between the horns of a waxing crescent moon, jasmine; national colors: green, white
National Insignia: Crescent and Star
State Religion: Islam
National Mosque: Faisal Mosque
National tower: Minar-e-Pakistan
National Poet: Allama Iqbal
National Animal: Markhor
National Bird: Chukar
State Bird: Peregrine Falcon
National Predator: Snow Leopard,
National Mammal: Indus River Dolphin
National Reptile, Indus Crocodile
National Tree: Cedrus Deodara
National Fruit: Mango
National Flower: Jasmine
National Mountain: K-2
National River: River Indus
National Dress: Shalwar Kameez
National Sport: Hockey

Democracy in Pakistan

Pakistan has been classified as a flawed democracy by the Economist Intelligence Unit, with Democracy Index of 3.92, ranking 105th out of 167 countries. Norway, ranked first with a score of 9.87 and North Korean ranked last with a score of 1.08. The index is based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories, measuring pluralism, civil liberties and political culture. [Source:Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Wikipedia Wikipedia ]

Pakistan has a short, sad history with democracy. Periods of democratic rule have been broken up by periods of military rule and leaders that were elected proved to be notoriously corrupt. Pakistan has a tradition of feudalism, oppression and corruption. Government and politics has been described as a mix of authoritarianism, quasi-democracy and violence. There is a concern that if real democracy were to take root parties associated with Muslim extremists might do the best. There have been four military coups since 1958.

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies”: “Democracy has not yet taken root in Pakistan. The military has intervened several times in Pakistan's history and has always remained an important political player even when not in power. A military intervention occurred as recently as 12 October 1999, when elected institutions were suspended. Under the suspended constitution, the parliament continued to operate to some degree as it had always had just its power was relatively weak compared to the military leader. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies”, The Gale Group Inc., 2002]

Politics in Pakistan often have not operated according to the constitution. The military and Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) frequently have been the preeminent actors in the country’s power structure, and in 1999 General Pervez Musharraf assumed power in a military coup. Moreover, there has been some concern that Pakistan could become a “failed state” because of the apparent inability of any single entity to control the country, the weakened productivity of a population beset by years of economic difficulties, and continuing problems of communal conflict and terrorism. Ethnic and provincial tensions often are manifested in rivalries between political parties, and several governments have been ended by assassination or military coup rather than by formal, electoral change. [Source: Library of Congress, February 2005]

Babar Awan, a senior member of Benazir Bhutto's PPP party, told the Washington Post that the military was to blame for the Pakistan’s troubled democracy. “There was a military intervention in every decade that subverted the constitution, abrogated the law and undermined the ongoing democratic process, and it takes time to recover from such blows," he said, citing Pakistan's four military dictators and 32 years of army rule since its founding in 1947. “Political norms need an enabling environment to flourish. The internal groups — people doing politics in the name of religion, ethnicity, regionalism, tribes — can only vanish when popular politics are allowed to continue," he said. "If Pakistan gets a chance of continuity for four, five or six elections, it will turn into a two-party democracy." [Source: John Ward Anderson, Washington Post, January 22, 2008]

Islam, Religion and Pakistan’s Government

Under its constitution, Pakistan is an “Islamic republic" with democratically elected national and provincial legislators. The Council of Islamic Ideology was created so that legislators can seek clerics’ advice before implementing legislation that may conflict with Islamic law. If legislators defy the council, its members have been known to accuse lawmakers of blasphemy. In Pakistan, a formal blasphemy charge can be punishable by death. [Source: Tim Craig, Washington Post, May 27, 2016]

Religion has played an important role in politics, and religious differences have been very salient in Pakistani government and civil society. The government has consistently been faced with tensions of whether and how to synthesize Islamic principles into an essentially secular and Western form of government. Religious differences among politically influential actors have become increasingly prominent since the early 1980s, when politics became more religiously oriented under the rule of General Zia ul-Haq (1977–88). As religious groups’ access to government resources increased, groups competed for political resources and the capacity to promote their approach to Islam, and sectarian divisions often became violent. [Source: Library of Congress, February 2005]

Pakistan has provided a unique setting for experiments in synthesizing Islamic principles with the needs of a modern state. Although Pakistan's independence movement was articulated in Western terminology and centered on the right of national selfdetermination , it was also rooted in the Islamic concept of society and of what constitutes legitimate political authority for a Muslim. The basis of the ideal Muslim polity is the sharia, the sacred law of Islam as embodied in the Quran. Efforts to apply Quranic law in a modern political context have had a direct impact on Pakistan's political history and have also complicated the nation's constitutional evolution (see Politicized Islam). [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994]

Islam and the State in Pakistan

According to “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”: “The Pakistani constitution enacted in 1973 has empowered the state with the authority to define the religion of its citizens. For example, the Ahmadiyya were declared non-Muslims by the government, even though members of this group consider themselves to be Muslims and perform rites that are similar to those of the Sunni. As a result of their non-Muslim status, the Ahmadiyya are not allowed to express their beliefs in public without being charged with blasphemy. The Pakistani state also imposed an exclusionary definition of Islam, giving absolute preeminence to Sunni Islam. The law prohibits all other religious groups from proselytizing. Since the 1980s well-organized Sunni proselytising movements, such as the Tableeghi Jamaat, that are closely linked with the puritanical Deobandi school have been actively working to gain converts for their Islamist ideology. The thousands of Ahle Hadith and Deobandi madrassas (Islamic religious schools), where many of the Taliban were taught and given military training, actively proselytize in an effort to acquire militant Islamic recruits. [Source:“Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices,” Thomson Gale, 2006]

“According to Islam, moral principles are preordained by God and must be obeyed—they cannot be shaped according to ballot counts. As such, social justice is not compatible with the democratic principle of majority rule. Therefore, social justice is restricted to those who abide by God's law. This has posed significant problems in Pakistan. For example, under General Zia ul-Haq, zakat, the Islamic charity to the poor, was automatically deducted from bank accounts by the government and allocated solely to Sunni religious projects, such as the madrassa s.

“Similarly, Pakistan's blasphemy laws privilege Sunni Islam above all other religious beliefs and serve as the legal basis for discrimination, victimization, and persecution of Shiites and non-Muslims. There are no measures in place to protect the civil and political rights of Shiites and non-Muslims who fall outside the boundaries of the ummah (Islamic community), as defined by Sunni ideologues in Pakistan. Also, under the prevailing Islamic legal system, civil rights for women are severely restricted. There are high rates of domestic violence against women, who have no judicial protection or redress. Under Pakistan's Hudood ordinances, marital rape is acceptable, and no distinction is made between forced and consensual sex.

Regional and Ethnic Factors in Pakistan’s Government

Government and politics bear the imprint of Pakistan's diversity. Despite the loss of the country's East Wing in 1971, the body politic remains a varied and volatile mix of ethnic, linguistic, and regional groups, and provincialism and ethnic rivalries continue to impede the progress of national integration. Although Islam is a unifying force, and the majority of Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims, there is considerable cultural diversity within and among the country's four provinces, and coreligionists' identification as Sindhis, Punjabis, Baloch, or Pashtuns is strong. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Added to the indigenous human mosaic are the more than 7 million muhajirs (refugees or immigrants from India and their descendants) from various parts of India. Economic and political rivalries persist between the muhajirs and the indigenous populations of the provinces of Pakistan. These contests often turn violent and have contributed significantly to national unrest and instability. Ethnic riots have cost hundreds of lives and destroyed millions of dollars worth of property. A further challenge to national stability results from the approximately 1.4 million Afghan refugees who in early 1994 still had not returned to their country. Linguistic diversity is also a divisive force. Some twenty languages are spoken, and although Urdu is the official language, it is not the native tongue of the majority of the population. Islam provides a tenuous unity in relation to such diversity. Efforts to build national consensus in the face of these obstacles remains central to effective government in Pakistan. *

Military and Pakistan’s Government

Another significant aspect of Pakistan's political legacy is its military forces and, in particular, the role of the largest of these forces, the army. The military remains one of the country's most cohesive national institutions. Since independence it has oscillated between indirect and direct political control, remaining a major power. The military's sense of mission in defending and preserving the Islamic state of Pakistan has always been strong. For Muslim members of the British Indian Army, the transfer of loyalties from the colonial to the ideological state was not difficult. Successors to the historical legacy of the Muslim armies of the once powerful Mughal Empire, Muslim soldiers could relate to a new role of protecting the faith and the state embodied in Pakistan. The military also provided alternative political leadership in times of crisis. Military regimes in Pakistan have legitimated their actions by the doctrine of necessity, stepping in temporarily when political crises have reached a deadlock and threatened the state. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994]

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”: “Despite the presence of a constitution, much of Pakistan's governance has been under military rule. The constitution was suspended 5 July 1977, and restored with amendments on 30 December 1981. It was suspended again on 15 October 1999 by General Pervez Musharraf and restored 31 December 2002. Musharraf imposed a series on amendments on 31 December 2003. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“The first suspension and subsequent restoration of the constitution is tied to the rule of army chief. General Zia-ul Haq. Zia revived much of the 1973 constitution, although its Fundamental Principles and its electoral provisions remained suspended until martial law was lifted in 1985. The CMLA was initially assisted by an appointive council of advisors, then by an advisory Federal Council of 277 appointed members that was formed in 1982 to assist and advise the martial law government.

“Amendments that, following the lifting of martial law in December 1985, redressed the balance of powers between the positions of prime minister and president, who also remained commander-in-chief of the armed forces. It established term limits of five years for the incumbents, and provided that their successors in 1990 would be elected, the president by an electoral college composed of members of the national assembly, the senate, and the provincial assemblies, and the prime minister, by the national assembly.

“After a 12 October 1999 military coup staged by the army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, the constitution was suspended again. On 21 August 2002, Musharraf announced 29 amendments that established a National Security Council and granted new powers to the president, including the right to dissolve the national assembly at his or her discretion, to appoint governors and to dissolve provincial assemblies in consultation with them, and to appoint the joint chiefs of staff and the three service chiefs in consultation with the prime minister.”

Branches of the Pakistan Government

The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan provides for a federal parliamentary system with a president as head of state and a popularly elected prime minister as head of government. Government branches: Executive — prime minister (head of government); president (chief of state). Legislative — Bicameral Parliament or Majlis-e-Shoora (104-seat Senate, 342-seat National Assembly). Judicial — Supreme Court, provincial high courts, Federal Islamic (or Shari'a) Court. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, Gale]

Executive Branch: The prime minister is the most powerful position. He or she is selected by the National Assembly for a four-year term, generally as the leader of the political party with the most seats in parliament based on how many seats that party wins in the general election. If a party does not have a majority it tries to form coalitions with other parties. The president is chosen for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of the Senate, National Assembly, and the provincial assemblies.

Legislative Branch: The bicameral Parliament — or Majlis-e-Shoora — consists of: 1) The Senate (104 seats) and 2) National Assembly (342 seats). The Senate is made up of 104 members, who are indirectly elected by the four provincial assemblies and the territories' representatives by proportional representation vote. Members serve six-year terms with one-half of the membership renewed every three years. National Assembly has 342 seats. Of these 272 members are directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 70 members — 60 women and 10 non-Muslims — are directly elected by proportional representation vote. All members serve five -year terms). [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020 =]

Judicial branch: highest courts: Supreme Court of Pakistan consists of the chief justice and 16 judges. Justices are nominated by an 8-member parliamentary committee upon the recommendation of the Judicial Commission, a 9-member body of judges and other judicial professionals, and appointed by the president. Justices can serve until age 65. =

Constitution of Pakistan

Pakistan Constitution: history: The latest was endorsed April 12, 1973, passed 19 April 1973, entered into force 14 August 1973 (suspended and restored several times). There were several previous constitutions. Amendments: proposed by the Senate or by the National Assembly; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote of both houses; amended many times, last in 2018. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

Pakistani leaders have repeatedly abrogated or rewrite the constitution. The current constitution was written in 1973 but has been amended many times. It was suspended twice (in 1977 and 1999) and reinstated twice (in 1985 and 2002). The Constitution of 1973 was amended substantially in 1985 under Zia ul-Haq. Selected provisions of the Constitution pertaining to changes that President Musharraf made while the Constitution was suspended remain contested by political opponents.

The constitution of 1973 declares Islam as the state religion and provide for a president as official head of state and a prime minister as executive head of government. It also provided punishments for offenses against the state. According to Article 6: “Any person who abrogates or attempts or conspires to abrogate, subvert or attempt to conspires to subvert the constitution by use of force or show of force or by other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.” This is an offense committed by the various generals who have seized power over the years. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

History of the Pakistan Constitution

The 1973 constitution was drawn up by by Zulfikar Bhutto whose Pakistan People's Party (PPP) came to power in 1971. Bhutto lifted martial law within several months, and after an "interim constitution" granting him broad powers as president, a new constitution was promulgated that came into effect on August 14, 1973, the 26th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence. The main points addressed by the constitution were: 1) the role of Islam; 2) the sharing of power between the federal government and the provinces; and 3) the division of duties of the president and the prime minister, with greater powers given to the latter.

The path to the current constitution and government was often tortuous and accompanied by successive upheavals in the nation's political life. The years between 1947 and 1958 were marked by political chaos moderated by the administrative power and acumen of the CSP. They were also years in which the armed forces, especially the army, expanded its mission and assumed political influence alongside the CSP. Initially, the country was governed by a Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly had dual functions: to draft a constitution and to enact legislation until the constitution came into effect. It was nine years before Pakistan adopted its first constitution in 1956. Major conflicts in the Constituent Assembly included the issues of representation to be given to major regional groups (particularly the East Wing) and religious controversy over what an Islamic state should be. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The first major step in framing a constitution was the passage by the Constituent Assembly of the Objectives Resolution of March 1949, which defined the basic principles of the new state. It provided that Pakistan would be a state "wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed; wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunna; [and] wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to progress and practice their religions and develop their cultures." Seven years of debate, however, failed to produce agreement on fundamental issues such as regional representation or the structure of a constitution. This impasse prompted Governor General Ghulam Mohammad to dismiss the Constituent Assembly in 1954. The Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld the action of the governor general, arguing that he had the power to disband the Constituent Assembly and veto legislation it passed. This preeminence of the governor general over the legislature has been referred to as the viceregal tradition in Pakistan's politics.*

The revived Constituent Assembly promulgated Pakistan's first indigenous constitution in 1956 and reconstituted itself as the national legislature — the Legislative Assembly — under the constitution it adopted. Pakistan became an Islamic republic. The governor general was replaced by a president, but despite efforts to create regional parity between the East Wing and the West Wing, the regional tensions remained. Continuing regional rivalry, ethnic dissension, religious debate, and the weakening power of the Muslim League — the national party that spearheaded the country's founding — exacerbated political instability and eventually led President Iskander Mirza to disband the Legislative Assembly on October 7, 1958, and declare martial law. General Mohammad Ayub Khan, Pakistan's first indigenous army commander in chief, assisted Mirza in abrogating the constitution of 1956 and removing the politicians he believed were bringing Pakistan to the point of collapse. Ayub Khan, as Mirza's chief martial law administrator, then staged another coup also in October 1958, forced Mirza out of power, and assumed the presidency, to the relief of large segments of the population tired of the politicians' continued machinations.*

Executive Branch of the Government of Pakistan

Executive Branch: The prime minister is usually the most powerful person in Pakistan. In the past the president has sometimes been the most powerful position. The president is selected by the National Assembly for a four-year term, generally as the leader of the political party with the most seats in parliament based on how many seats that party wins in the general election. If a party does not have a majority it tries to form coalitions with other parties. The president is chosen for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of the Senate, National Assembly, and the provincial assemblies.

Executive power lies with the prime minister and president. The prime minister is an elected member of the National Assembly and is the leader of the National Assembly’s dominant party or coalition. However, the prime minister also is appointed formally by the president. The prime minister is assisted by a cabinet of ministers who are appointed by the president on the prime minister’s advice. An electoral college composed of members of the national and provincial legislatures elects the president for a five-year term, and no individual may hold the office for more than two consecutive terms. The president acts on the advice of the prime minister but has the power to prevent passage of non-finance bills and may dissolve the National Assembly if he concludes that the government cannot operate according to the constitution. The Senate, however, cannot be suspended. [Source: Library of Congress, February 2005]

Executive branch: head of government: Prime Minister Imran Khan (since August 2018); chief of state: President Arif Alvi (since September 2018). The prime minister was elected by the National Assembly on August 17, 2018 [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

Prime Minister and Cabinet of Pakistan

The Prime Minister, the most powerful person in Pakistan, has to hold a seat in the parliament. The National Assembly which selects him is comprised of 342 seats, of which 272 are directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 70 (60 women and 10 non-Muslims) are directly elected by proportional representation vote; all members serve 5-year terms.

Between 1988 and 1998, there were 10 prime ministers in 10 years. By law the president must be a Muslim. For all practical purposes, the prime minister has to be one too. The Cabinet is appointed by the president upon the advice of the prime minister. The cabinet, National Security Council, and governors serve at the president's discretion.

The prime minister is appointed by the president from among the members of the National Assembly. The prime minister is assisted by the Federal Cabinet, a council of ministers whose members are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister. The Federal Cabinet comprises the ministers, ministers of state, and advisers. As of early 1994, there were thirty-three ministerial portfolios: commerce; communications; culture; defense; defense production; education; environment; finance and economic affairs; food and agriculture; foreign affairs; health; housing; information and broadcasting; interior; Kashmiri affairs and Northern Areas; law and justice; local government; minority affairs; narcotics control; parliamentary affairs; petroleum and natural resources production; planning and development; railroads; religious affairs; science and technology; social welfare; special education; sports; state and frontier regions; tourism; water and power; women's development; and youth affairs. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994]

Prime Minister Imran Khan in office since August 2018. He was elected by the National Assembly on August 17, 2018 after his party did well in general elections. National Assembly vote — Imran Khan (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, PTI party) 176, Shehbaz Sharif (Pakistan Muslim League (N), PML-N party): 96. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

President of Pakistan

The president is indirectly elected by the Electoral College consisting of members of the Senate, National Assembly, and provincial assemblies for a five-year term (limited to two consecutive terms. An election last held in September 2018. The next will be held in 2023. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

The Pakistani president has traditionally been a largely ceremonial figure with few duties, except for one thing: he or she has had the power to dismiss the prime minister. The presidential power were defined by an amendment made by Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq in 1985 when he decided he wanted to be a civilian dictator rather a military one. Eighth Amendment of the Constitution gives the president the power to dissolve the National Assembly "in his discretion where, in his opinion . . . a situation has arisen in which the Government of the Federation cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and an appeal to the electorate is necessary."

The president, in keeping with the constitutional provision that the state religion is Islam, must be a Muslim. Elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of members of the Senate and National Assembly and members of the provincial assemblies, the president is eligible for reelection. But no individual may hold the office for more than two consecutive terms. The president may resign or be impeached and may be removed from office for incapacity or gross misconduct by a twothirds vote of the members of the parliament. The president generally acts on the advice of the prime minister but has important residual powers. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The president’s ability to fire the prime minister and dissolve the National Assembly is not a power that Pakistan]s prime ministers have liked. Prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawar Sharif were both dismissed by president. In April 1997, Prime Minister Sharif pulled off a political maneuver to end the president's power to dismiss the prime minister. Even Sharif's traditional rival Benazir Bhutto congratulated him on the move, which was done while the president was on holiday.

The President must consult with the prime minister and receive the support the Supreme Court before dissolving the parliament. Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a coup in 1999, lead Pakistan as a president rather than prime minister from 2001 to 2008. He turned the presidency into a more powerful position ( See Musharraf, History). The President is sworn in by the head Supreme Court justice. The official residence of the President is a spacious modern building next to the Parliament building.

President Arif Alvi in office since September 2018). Election results: Electoral College vote: Arif Alvi (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, PTI party, Imran Khan’s party): 352, Fazl-ur-Rehman (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal MMA, conservative Islamist party) 184, Aitzaz Ahsan (N8's Party of Pakistan, PPP): 124.

Legislature of Pakistan

Legislative branch: The bicameral Parliament — Majlis-e-Shoora (Council of Advisers) — consists of: 1) The Upper House of Senate (104 seats) and 2) The Lower House of National Assembly (342 seats). [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020 =]

The Senate is made up of 104 members, who are indirectly elected by the four provincial assemblies and the territories' representatives by proportional representation vote. Senate members are elected by provincial assemblies, with equal representation from each of the four provinces as well as representatives from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Islamabad Capital Territory. Members serve six-year terms with one-half of the membership renewed every three years. The last election was held on March 3, 2018 (next to be held in March 2021) =

Senate: seats by party as of December 2019: Pakistan People's Party (PPP) 19 seats; Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) 16 seats; Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI): 14 seats; MQM-P 5 seats; JUI-F 4 seats; BAP 2 seats; Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JI), an Islamic party: 2 seats; PkMAP 2 seats; ANP 1 seats; BNP 1 seats; PML-F 1 seats; other 7 seats; independent 30

National Assembly of Pakistan

National Assembly has 342 seats. Of these 272 members are directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 70 members — 60 women and 10 non-Muslims — are directly elected by proportional representation vote. All members serve five -year terms). The last election was held on July 25, 2018 (next to be held on 25 July 2023)

National Assembly: seats by party as of December 2019: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) 156 seats; Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) 84 seats; Pakistan People's Party (PPP) 55 seats; MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, conservative Islamist party): 16 seats; MQM-P 7 seats; BAP 5 seats; PML-Q 5 seats; BNP 4 seats; GDA 3 seats; AML 1 seats; ANP 1 seats; JWP 1 seats; independent 4

The lower house, the National Assembly, is supposed to pick the prime minister, approve the budget and debate policy issues. Both the Senate and National Assembly may initiate and pass legislation, but only the National Assembly can approve federal budgets and finance bills. However, parliament often has had little real political power. For example, in 2003 the only bill passed by the National Assembly was the national budget. [Source: Library of Congress, February 2005]

The feudals (powerful landowners) have traditionally dominated the National Assembly and blocked change there. Their power has diminished somewhat over the years but is still present. The legislature is often paralyzed by disputes between the various parties. Debates feature walkouts by opposition members, banging on desks and shouting down speakers.

Candidates are allowed to run for several seats. If they win more than one seat, they give the extras and special elections are held to chose new representatives. The seats reserved for minorities, include ones for Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs. Elections for minority seats are held on the basis of separate electorates at the same time as the polls for Muslim seats during the general elections.

Women in Government in Pakistan

Year women obtained the right to vote: 1947 (compared to 1893 in New Zealand and 2011 in Saudi Arabia) 1947 is when Pakistan became an independent nation. [Source: ]

Proportion of seats held by women in national legislatures: 20 percent (compared to 53 percent in Bolivia, 20 percent in the United States and 3 percent in Kuwait) [Source: World Bank <a href=""></a> ]

Approximately 17 percent of the seats in the National Assembly are also allocated to women on a quota basis and are distributed proportionally to the parties based on their performance in the election. Women can also run for directly elected seats. [Source: Associated Press, April 1, 2013]

In May 2007: Nilofar Bakhtiar — one of the three women ministers in the Pakistani cabinet — was harshly condemned by a hardline Islamist cleric, who called for her resign, for hugging her parachute instructor in France. Reuters reported: “Bakhtiar, who heads the Tourism Ministry, embraced her elderly instructor after completing a jump in March to raise money for victims of an earthquake that killed 73,000 people in Pakistan in October 2005. A pro-Taliban cleric issued a decree, soon after Pakistani newspapers published a photograph of the hug, calling on the government to sack Bakhtiar for “obscenity”. At the time, she shrugged off the cleric’s criticism, saying she would do another jump for a good cause, but in early May she stepped down as head of the women’s wing of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. [Source: Reuters, May 23, 2007]

Criticism from radical clerics cannot to be taken lightly in Pakistan, given the influence wielded by conservatives in the male-dominated Muslim society. In February, a Muslim zealot shot dead a woman minister of the government of Punjab because he thought women should not be in politics. The gunman was sentenced to death in March.

In March 2008, Fehmida Mirza became Pakistan's first female speaker after being elected in parliamentary vote. A member of the party of Benazir Bhutto, the 51-year-old businesswoman and medical doctor from a political family in Sindh province, has been elected to parliament three times. The new speaker won an overwhelming 249 of the 324 votes cast in a ballot in the national assembly. Her only challenger — from a party that backs the president, Pervez Musharraf — got just 70. "It is one thing to sit in opposition, but this chair carries big responsibility ... I am feeling that responsibility today and will, God willing, come up to expectations," she said. [Source: Angela Balakrishnan and agencies, March 19, 2008]

Women in South Asian Politics

It is ironic that women rule or ruled the countries of Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where the status of women is among the lowest in the world. The women that have taken power in these countries are the widows or daughters of prominent politicians.

According to Associated Press: “There are examples of Pakistani women holding very powerful positions in the country, such as the late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, but many of them come from powerful feudal families and run for office when male relatives are not available, said Bari. [Source: Associated Press, April 1, 2013]

When asked why there are so many female political leaders in Asia, Benazir Bhutto — the assassinated former female prime minister of Pakistan — replied that women participated in he fight against colonialism and "because we are not as literate society people look to symbols.Thus, a female member of a family can become a symbol of the male's message. Indira was seen a symbol of Nehru's concept of India."

Some scholars attribute this phenomena to a belief in the subcontinent in “skakti” (feminine power). Many soldiers, for example, in India, Nepal and parts of Sri Lanka, still consecrate their swords and rifles with blood-colored powders before images of the demon-slaying goddess Durga.

Stanley Wolpert, a professor of Indian history at UCLA, told TIME, women leaders may be an "accident of gender" but "over and above everything ese, there's a string worship of the Mother Goddess in South Asia. Subliminally, it's still there in Pakistan, to." Delhi psychiatrist Ashis Nandy told TIME, "There is a strong sense of the matriarchy at play in politics. Some politicians also see women as a bet for containing factions — a good neutral choice."

Pakistani Housewife from Tribal Region Makes History by Running for Parliament

In March 2013, Badam Zari, a 40-year-old housewife made history by becoming the first woman from Bajur, deeply conservative tribal region bordering Afghanistan, to run for parliament. Associated Press reported: Badam Zari is pushing back against patriarchal traditions and braving potential attack by Islamist militants in the hope of forcing the government to focus more on helping Pakistani women. "I want to reach the assembly to become a voice for women, especially those living in the tribal areas," Zari told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday. "This was a difficult decision, but now I am determined and hopeful society will support me." [Source: Associated Press, April 1, 2013]

“Zari, who finished high school, spoke at a press conference wearing a colorful shawl wrapped around her body and head, with only her eyes showing. Bajur is one of many areas in the tribal region where the Pakistani army has been battling the Taliban. She filed the paperwork necessary to run for office in Khar, the main town in Bajur. She was accompanied by her husband, who she said fully backed her decision to run for a seat in the National Assembly. "This is very courageous," said Asad Sarwar, one of the top political officials in Bajur. "This woman has broken the barrier."

“Men in Bajur and other parts of the tribal region have historically discouraged women to vote, saying they should remain at home, according to local traditions. Even in less conservative areas, women are often expected to vote according to the wishes of male members of the family, said Farzana Bari, head of the gender studies department at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. "In the name of culture and tradition, political parties and local power brokers have tried to keep women out of the political process," Bari said. "This woman (Zari) has shown her own agency against the structures of oppression, which are very pronounced in that area."

Zari is running for a directly elected seat as an independent. She “said she has not been discouraged from locals to run and has not received any threats from Islamist militants. She hopes she can convince women to turn out and vote for her. Out of the roughly 186,000 registered voters in her constituency, about 67,000 are women, according to government records. Under Pakistan's political system, the winning candidate is the one who receives the most votes — not necessarily a majority — meaning Zari could be a strong candidate if she can get women to support her and the male vote is split among several candidates. "My decision to contest the election will not only give courage to women in general and attract attention to their problems, but also helps negate the wrong impression about our society," Zari said. "This will reflect a true picture of our society, where women get respect."

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (, Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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