A constitution is a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state is acknowledged to be governed. It is a sacrosanct document each and every provision of which must be faithfully and meticulously followed by all citizens of the state. On the one hand, it defines the status and the role of state’s premier organs, including the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, and enumerates the basic obligations of the State towards the citizens and vice versa on the other. Therefore, both the rulers and the ruled must hold the constitution supreme and abide by it because it’s the only way to put a country on the path that leads to a better political and socioeconomic order.
However in Pakistan, unfortunately, the supremacy of the constitution has been a dream unfulfilled. From the very inception of the country, the ruling elite have hardly cared for implementing the Constitution. Their sincerity can be assessed from the fact that first of all, it took nine long years to promulgate country’s first constitution. And, that too was abrogated after only about two and a half years.
Then came the Constitution of 1962 which too guaranteed the provision of basic human rights to all the citizens of Pakistan without any discrimination of cast, creed and color. But, still no substantial changes were witnessed in the lives of common Pakistanis. It was the non-implementation of the Constitution in letter and spirit that created disparities among the populations of Eastern and Western wings of Pakistan. Enemies of Pakistan exploited the deprivations of Bengalis, and internal rifts coupled with external intrigues led to the dismemberment of Pakistan — as Indian Premier Narendra Modi recently admitted that “the establishment of Bangladesh was a desire of every Indian” and that “India’s forces fought along with the Mukti Bahini”.
Then, with an aim to bring the nation out of the quagmire of despondency and despair, and to rejuvenate the wounded Pakistan, the 1973 Constitution was drawn up. Its preamble enunciated that in the Federation of Pakistan “shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality”. Moreover, its Article 25(1) also made it absolutely clear that in Pakistan, “all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”.
But, unfortunately, the promises were never fulfilled by the ruling class as they considered the Constitution only a toy in their hands. Whenever a government feels threatened by the opposition, or more broadly, the status quo is challenged, the politicians become united and start raising slogans of constitutional supremacy. But, when it comes to the provision of basic civic amenities and the fundamental rights of the citizens, they just don’t care. This is a partial implementation that is, in fact, a sheer violation of the Constitution itself as no article, and no provision thereof, of the 1973 Constitution allows anyone to do so.
For instance, Article 25A of the Constitution enunciates that “the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.” But, where is its implementation? The literacy rate still hovers around 58 percent which means that 42 percent of country’s population still remains unable to read or write, again an utter disregard to the Constitution by the ruling class.
In today’s Pakistan, rulers are, practically, immune to any constitutional obligations. Civil servants hardly care for service rules and regulations as, barring some men of honour, they remain indulged in pleasing their political bosses. This nexus of the rulers and the bureaucrats is taking a heavy toll on the lives of the masses.
Being the guardian of the constitution and of the fundamental rights of all Pakistanis, the judiciary should not remain a silent spectator, and should play its due role in mitigating the miseries of the people of Pakistan. The key to it is ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution which serves as the supreme source of guidance in all democracies.
Perhaps it is the most opportune time that the judiciary and the media — the fourth pillar of democracy — come forward to raise awareness among the masses on their constitutional rights and also compel the rulers to fulfil their duties as the Constitution demands from them.