National Assembly Of Pakistan
The Parliament of Pakistan is composed of two houses:
• National Assembly
The national assembly is the lower house of the parliament and is more powerful. Originally, the national assembly was composed of 200 seats but with the passage of time and emergence of new areas, more representatives were needed which lead in an increase of seats in the national assembly to 336. However, before the 25th amendment, the seats available were 342, out of which 272 were reserved for elected members and 70 were reserved for women and minorities.
The first session of the constituent assembly of Pakistan was held in Karachi on 10th August 1947. Quaid E Azam was elected as the president of the constituent assembly and the national flag of Pakistan was approved.
The second session met on 12Th of August in 1947 where a resolution was approved regarding titling Muhammad Ali Jinnah as Quaid e Azam. Other than that, on the very same day, a committee was established, the main aim of which was to look after the matters related to the fundamental rights of every citizen and especially minorities.
On the day of Pakistan’s creation i.e. 14Th August 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the Governor General of India, addressed the constituent assembly of Pakistan after which Quaid E Azam replied by presenting the principles over which the state of Pakistan was established.
Finally, Quaid e Azam took oath as the Governor General of Pakistan on 15th August 1947.
Members and Qualification:
The members of the national assembly serve as representatives of the people of a specific area who elect them through votes. These members include representatives of religious minorities, religious scholars and random citizens of a specific area. According to article 53 of the constitution, Once the members are elected, the assembly would be arranged and will continue to work for a tenure of 5 years. The members would cast votes to elect the Prime Minister, President, speaker and deputy speaker. These elections would be held right after the general elections.
Under the constitution of 1973, a member of the parliament would not be eligible to hold office more than twice. Later on the prime minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Shareef amended the 1973 constitution to allow a third term as well.
Article 62 of the Constitution lists a number of eligibility requirements for the members while the article 63 includes disqualification reasons.
The qualifications required to become an MNA (member of national assembly) are:
• He must be a citizen of Pakistan
• He must be 25 years of age or older
• He must have adequate knowledge of Islam
• He must be honest
• He must never try to act against the integrity of Pakistan
The disqualification may occur over the reasons as mentioned under:
• In case of mental instability
• He must not be involved in criminal acts
• He must not hold a dual nationality
Condition for voters:
In order to be eligible to vote for the representatives following conditions need to be taken care of:
• One must be a citizen of Pakistan under article 51 (2)(a)
• He cannot be less than 18 years of age according to article 51 (2)(b)
• His name should exist in the electoral roll under article 51 (2)(c)
• He should be sound minded under article 51 (2)(d)
Sessions and procedure of the Summoning of the National Assembly:
According to article 54(2) of the constitution, there would be held at least three sessions In a year with a gap of 120 days. However these sessions meet with a specific procedure as described by article 54 of the constitution.
• The speaker can summon the assembly on a requisition by the members of the assembly
• This requisition must be signed by one fourth of the total members
• The date and time of the meeting would be decided by the speaker
• The speaker under a given time limit of 14 days would summon the assembly after the requisition is accepted.
Dissolution of the National Assembly:
During the rule of General Zia Ul Haq, an amendment was made in the constitution according to which the president would be allowed to dissolve the assembly if he believes that the assembly is working against the interest of the state. This amendment lead to the dissolution of the assembly many times in the past. Even the framing of the constitution of Pakistan was delayed as the assembly was dissolved by the president in 1954 over the charges of corruption. This amendment did not turn out suitable and was finally deleted by the prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Shareef during his second term.
If we talk deeply about the members and their roles, perhaps we should start with the speaker and the deputy speaker of the national assembly.
Speaker and Deputy Speaker:
The members of the national assembly cast votes to elect the speaker and the deputy speaker. Speaker is the presiding officer of the national assembly according to article 53 of the constitution. He is the permanent member of the national assembly and holds his office even if the national assembly is dissolved. To become eligible for the position of the speaker, the only condition that should be fulfilled is to be a member of the national assembly. In case the speaker or deputy speaker fails to carry on his role, new elections are held and another speaker or deputy speaker is elected. Both the speaker and the deputy speaker must take an oath to work honestly for the progress of the country and in case they wish to retire, they must submit a hand written document.
However, the deputy speaker would exercise the powers and duties of the speaker when:
• The office of the speaker is vacant
• The speaker is temporarily unavailable
• The speaker due to some cause is unable to carry on his functions
The powers and functions of the Speaker of the national assembly are as follows
• To judge the validity of the bill
• To preside the session of the house
• To maintain discipline in the house
• Speaker cannot cast a vote other than a duality vote
• To grant submission of questions
• Speaker can approve or over rule the adjournment motion in the house
• If the chairman of senate is absent, the speaker takes his position as the president
• Speaker summons the session of the national assembly
There can be certain reasons as well when the seat for the speaker or deputy speaker is empty. This may be because:
• He resigns under article 53 (7)(a)
• He ceases to remain a member of the parliament under article 53(7)(b)
• He is removed from the office under article 53 (7)(c)
- Resolution of the assembly needs to moved
- A resolution against the speaker that must be passed by majority of the votes
Powers and Functions of the National Assembly:
The national assembly serves a major role in the politics of Pakistan. It includes many major decisions and the future of Pakistan relies on them. Below are listed the main powers and functions served by the national assembly:
The very basic function of the national assembly is to make laws which after a thorough debate are passed by the assembly to the senate where once again after a through debate, the bill is transferred to the president of Pakistan. It is up to the president to approve or reject the bill. Once he signs it, it becomes a law. It is them up to the executive body to make sure the law is being acted upon properly.
• Legislative Powers
The powers of the national assembly is divided into further categories:
- The national assembly has the power of Legislation on federal and concurrent lists in two ways that is either through parliament which has the power to make laws according to matters of the federal legislation. Or matters like defense, foreign affairs are raiser in the federal legislation so the parliament can legislate on them
- The national assembly as well as the provincial assemblies would be authorized to make laws according to matters involving any criminal activity.
- Only the provincial assemblies would be powerful enough to decide on matters including their federal legislation.
- However the parliament would have the authority to make laws with respect to such matters that are not enumerated in any list both federal and provincial.
- Parliament has the authority to legislate over one or more provinces
• Amendment in the Constitution
By majority of a two third of the members of the national assembly, a constitution can be amended.
• Administrative Function
The national assembly being powerful has the authority to control administration along with the leaders and ministers of the house. That is done through a number of procedures:
- Through a series of question and answer sessions that are asked by the members to the ministers and the prime minister to ensure the proper functioning of the government and to maintain a check and balance on the performance.
- Every member has the right to move motion and events that are necessary and are somehow directly or indirectly related to the public would be brought up to government’s notice
- The members also have the right to collectively pass a resolution to express their views over any matter.
- A vote can be passed against the prime minister recognized as the vote of no confidence. Under article 95(1), if the prime minister fails to work efficiently and the members feel the need to remove him a resolution for a vote of no confidence should be passed against him. It would require about 20% of the votes to pass the resolution. The resolution cannot be voted upon before the expiration of three days or more than seven days from the day the resolution was presented.
- The opposition can criticize the actions of the government if they feel necessary.
- A vote of censure can also be passed against the actions of the government.
• Financial Affairs
- The national budget is prepared under complete observation of the national assembly
- Money bills will also originate from the national assembly.
- Approval of taxes will also be done through the national assembly
- Approval of state expenditures would also be done through the national assembly.
- Only the national assembly has the power to criticize, discuss suggest and analyze the national budget
• Electoral Functions
- The national assembly would elect the leader of the house
- The national assembly would also through votes elect the president of the country.
- The national assembly would also elect the speaker and the deputy speaker of the assembly through the same procedure.
• Judicial Powers
- The national assembly would decide the organization of the judiciary
- The national assembly is also authoritative over the impeachment of the president, through a written notice under article 47(2) by half of the total membership. The speaker would receive the notice and transfer it to the president with three day notice.
- A joint session of the houses would be called upon by the speaker.
- The joint session would meet after 7 days and note more than 14 days.
- A joint sitting would investigate the charge against the president.
- The president would be allowed to appear in front of the investigation team.
• Emergency Powers
The national assembly if finds any political instability in the country can declare emergency. This would automatically transfer all powers to the president.