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Latest Constitutional and Criminal Law Amendments in Pakistan

Latest Constitutional and Criminal Law Amendments in Pakistan

INTRODUCTION

In 1932, the case of Lindbergh changed much in the criminal justice system of the United States. Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., a 20-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, was kidnapped for ransom from his crib in his home on March 01. Police conducted an extensive search of the locality but despite their relentless efforts, the child was killed and his body was found on May 12. In 1934, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested and after a trial, which legal scholars often refer to as the ‘trial of the century’, he was sentenced to death for first-degree murder. A somewhat similar incident has taken place in Kasur in form of the brutal murder of a seven-year-old girl Zainab Ansari.

Can the Zainab case be the Lindbergh moment for Pakistan? Ostensibly, the answer is in negative. With the successful resolution of the case, the interest and excitement to energize reforms in Pakistan’s justice system have receded. The politicization and ‘judicalization’ of reforms, in justice sector, have upended, if any, interest in the subject. The instant write-up will try to take stock of two legal matters. First, it will discuss briefly the latest constitutional amendment to the Constitution i.e. the 24th Constitutional Amendment; secondly, it will highlight the criminal law amendments introduced in the last two years to provide some context with regards to criminal justice sector reforms in Pakistan.

I. The 24th Constitutional Amendment

On 22nd December 2017, the President of Pakistan granted assent to the 24th Constitutional Amendment Bill making it part of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973. The amendment is brief in its content and temporal in its nature as it is only related to 2018 elections.

a. Background

The 24th amendment has its genesis in the finality of the census figures, which are of two types: (a) the figures of the last preceding census officially published (i.e., of 1998), and (b) the figures of the provisional results of the 2017 census. Article 51 of the Constitution requires that the seats of the National Assembly be allocated to each territorial unit of Pakistan according to figures of type (a) i.e. the figures of the last preceding census, officially. Since the census did not take place at timely intervals of ten years, the complaints about demographical allocation of seats of national legislature were increasing; the increasing complaints further compounded in view of the fact that a belated census took place in 2017 (after an interval of almost 19 years), which stirred a debate in small territorial units of Pakistan. Pressure was on the incumbent government and the Election Commission of Pakistan to follow the figures of type (b) instead of type (a). Based on the mounting pressure and the ensuing political environment in the post-Panama-judgement era, the government along with all other political parties introduced a temporary amendment in the form of the 24th Constitutional Amendment.

b. The Content

Article 2 of the Constitution (Twenty-Fourth) Amendment Act, 2017 (Act No. XXXVIII of 2017), amends article 51(3) and 51(5) of the Constitution, hence resulting in two conceptual amendments:

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About Kamran Adil

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The author is an independent researcher and has done his BCL from the University of Oxford. kamranadil@gmail.com

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