What are the political and legal constraints over the sovereignty of parliament in Pakistan?


CSS Solved Political Science Past Papers | What are the political and legal constraints over the sovereignty of parliament in Pakistan?

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Question Breakdown

In this question, the examiner has asked about Pakistan’s parliamentary sovereignty and the political and legal restrictions on it. You must first write an introduction before defining and explaining legislative sovereignty. Moving forward, you must be aware of the legal and political difficulties Pakistan’s parliament is facing. Finally, offer suggestions for regaining Pakistan’s parliamentary sovereignty, followed by critical analysis and conclusion.


1- Introduction

2- Definition of parliamentary sovereignty

3- Meaning of Parliamentary Soveregnity

4- Is the Pakistani parliament the supreme body?

5- Challenges to parliamentary sovereignty

  • ✓ Illiteracy
  • ✓ Corruption-accountability nexus
  • ✓ Feudalism /Elitism
  • ✓ Opposition’s detrimental role
  • ✓ Preference of self-interest over national interest
  • ✓ Politicized Judiciary
  • ✓ Effects on military resources
    • Doctrine of necessity
    • Judicial review

6- Legal constraints on parliamentary sovereignty

7- Solutions

8- Conclusion

Answer to the Question


Every nation has a parliamentary system designed to make life easier for its citizens.  In Pakistan, the debate over parliamentary sovereignty continues to be a point of contention between elected and non-elected institutions. The extra-parliamentary forces used the corruption-accountability nexus to weaken this institution while drawing strength from the mass mandate. The judiciary repeatedly validated the dissolution of the National Assembly. Second, the federal project met the same demise due to the Centre’s dismissal of provincial governments, the denial of provincial autonomy both de jure and de facto following the passage of the 18th Amendment, and tensions between Islamabad and the provincial capitals, particularly Karachi. Third, the Federal Sharia Court, a parallel judicial system, and the Islamization of laws advanced under Zia’s military regime. All of this resulted in Pakistan having a religious sub-system. Rhetoric establishes the legitimacy of parliament, but lifeless action renders it a feeble and ineffective body.

Definition of parliamentary sovereignty

Parliamentary sovereignty means passing laws that serve the interests of the people rather than those of politicians, and it places the interests of the people first.

Meaning of Parliamentary Sovereignty

Referring to parliament as “sovereign,” ultimately means that members of it are “supreme” and “self-determining,” and have complete freedom and power when acting in their capacity as representatives of the people. Their actions and transactions in parliament are governed by morality and the law.

Is the Pakistani parliament the supreme body?

Although Pakistan’s parliament is regarded as supreme, this is not the case in reality. Being an Islamic nation, Pakistan’s parliament is required to uphold Islamic principles. And in Islam, only Allah has the right to be omnipotent, and His creation has no other role than that of a subordinate. Therefore, all laws must be created in accordance with Islamic edicts. Therefore, the parliament has sovereign authority over the application of laws that follow Islamic precepts, and all members of parliament serve as agents of Allah.

Challenges to parliamentary sovereignty

Pakistan has experienced numerous political upheavals over the years, with each decade bringing accusations that the current system is ineffective and that a new one should be implemented. For this purpose, general terms like “democracy” and “military dictatorships” are frequently used, with people searching from one end to the other for a messiah to solve their problems. The 1973 constitution set up a parliamentary form of government and gave the parliament a number of powers, but the Pakistani parliament is still limited by law and politics. Major ones include the following:

  • ✓ Illiteracy

It is a significant barrier to parliamentary sovereignty. An illiterate population cannot comprehend the power of democracy. An illiterate person is unable to use the most cutting-edge tools and knowledge, which prevents them from making sufficient progress. Additionally, because the illiterate voter is unaware of the political parties’ platforms, they will choose the wrong candidates when it comes time to vote. They consequently select the candidates with the least education. As a result, those who are ignorant of the constitution and constantly consider their own interests are in positions of power in the legislature. It is the main obstacle to the political sovereignty of Pakistan.

  • ✓ Corruption-accountability nexus

As previously mentioned, illiteracy breeds unemployment, which eventually leads to corruption. It is another factor affecting parliamentary sovereignty. The relationship between accountability and corruption affects an executive’s credibility. So, if political leaders are corrupt, how do they advance the interests of the nation and its citizens? Therefore, they consistently make choices and advance policies that serve their interests and impact Pakistan’s parliamentary sovereignty.

“Civilizations inevitably collapse from within as a result of corruption, moral decadence and the disintegration of institutions of accountability.”

-Ibn e Khaldun
  • ✓ Feudalism /Elitism

The parliamentary sovereignty of Pakistan is also being harmed by feudalism. In Pakistan’s parliament, rather than elected representatives, elected officials make decisions that are against the country’s constitution. These opportunistic elites enter politics employing winning party tickets. Their presence renders Pakistan’s parliament incapable of exercising sovereign authority.

  • ✓ Opposition’s detrimental role

The role of the opposition is also detrimental to Pakistan’s sovereignty. In order to further their own agendas, the opposition joins forces with other parties to undermine the stability of the interim government. There are many historical examples, and the most recent is the coalition of 11 parties known as the Pakistan Democratic Party (PDM) that overthrew Imran Khan’s previous administration. It has significantly impacted Pakistan’s parliamentary sovereignty.

  • ✓ Preference for self-interest over national interest

Pakistan’s parliament is notorious for prioritizing personal interests rather than national interests. Executives engage in corruption, horse trading, and other illegal activities to advance their interests. This further restricts Pakistan’s parliament’s sovereignty.

  •  ✓ Politicized Judiciary

It is a significant legal restriction on Pakistan’s sovereignty. Unlike the executive and legislative branches of government, the judiciary is the main pillar of the state. The judiciary has the full power to revoke a law through judicial review or sou motu. In addition, the judicial branch created the doctrine of necessity as another evil to legalize certain changes. Consider the doctrine of necessity as an example. Zia overthrew the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government, but the judge ruled it was necessary. These are the restrictions on constitutional sovereignty.

Legal constraints on parliamentary sovereignty

Many legal experts, particularly those in the judiciary, have argued that the parliament is not the final authority. They have outlined their points of view and oppositional claims. Legal constraints on parliament can be identified in a variety of ways.

  • ✓ Preamble

The principles that served as the framers’ guidelines are contained in the preamble.

“Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust.”

  • ✓ The objectives resolution.

The objectives resolution was adopted by the constituent assembly on 12th march 1949 and became part of the constitution of 1973 through presidential order no 14 of 2nd march 1985 as section 2A stating:

“The principles and provisions set out in the objectives resolution reproduced in the Annex are hereby made substantive part of the constitution an shall have effect accordingly”.

The resolution states the following:

Sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the state of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust.

Thus, the objectives resolution and the preamble establish the rules that lawmakers must abide by. Both emphasize that God alone is the Supreme Being, that he has all power, and that lawmakers must exercise their authority within his set bounds. This means that lawmakers cannot enact any laws that are incompatible with Islam or its principles; we will talk about these restrictions.

  • ✓ Constitutional restrictions

The parliament is subject to a number of restrictions when passing laws or amending the constitution. The constitution and its interpretation draw attention to the following restrictions.

a. Restriction to pass laws contrary to Islam

The constitution prohibits the parliament from passing laws that go against Islamic tenets or principles. The best explanation of this is found in Article 227

“all existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the holy Quran and sunnah, in this part referred to as the injunctions of Islam, and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such injunction”.

This clears that the parliament is bound by a restriction that prevents it from passing laws that are contrary to Islam. Such law will be considered repugnant.

b. Limitations on Fundamental Rights

The constitution limits the power of the parliament, prohibiting it from adopting any laws that violate or contravene a person’s fundamental rights or amending the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Pakistani constitution. Article 8 states

“Any law, or any custom or usage having the force of law, insofar as it is inconsistent with the rights conferred by this chapter, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void”.

Plausible solutions to regain parliamentary sovereignty

There are numerous strategies for regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For instance, it is important to abolish elitism as a culture and pass all laws in accordance with Islamic principles that serve the interests of the people rather than an individual or political party. It is important to uphold Islam’s democratic system, in which authority is used in the name of Allah and serves His creation’s needs rather than personal gain. In this way, parliamentary sovereignty can be achieved.


In conclusion, it is accurate to say that certain governmental and political restrictions threaten Pakistan’s parliamentary sovereignty. And correcting this may give the parliament sovereign power. But the question is, can Pakistan’s parliament be supreme? The answer to this question is a clear no. It is so because, according to Islam, only Allah is worthy of supremacy. As a result, only laws that are made in accordance with Islam can be considered supreme by Pakistan’s parliament.

The supremacy of the parliament is not explicitly stated in the constitution. The list of laws that the parliament may pass is actually contained in Article 142.

“Majlis e shoora and a provincial assembly shall have the power to make laws with respect to criminal law, criminal procedure and evidence”.

Article 142(b)

“Subject to paragraph (b), a provincial assembly shall, and majlis e shoora shall not, have the power to make laws with respect to any matter enumerated in the federal legislative list.”

Article 142(c)

Arguments, court cases, and different ways of seeing things show that Pakistan has three competing powers, none of which is supreme or sovereign.

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