UPDATE: A Legal Research Guide to Pakistan

By Omar Sial

Schooled at Karachi Grammar School, Omar Sial read for a Bachelor of Law degree from S.M. Law College in Karachi and a Master of Law degree from the University of Cambridge in England. He is a Lady Noon Scholar and a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. He is the Pakistan Representative for Trinity Hall College of the University of Cambridge and contributes as a member of the research team of the Hauser Global Law School Program at the NYU Law School in a pro bono capacity.

Published September/October 2023

(Previously updated in January 2009, November 2013 and January 2018)

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1. Introduction

Pakistan emerged as an independent State on August 14, 1947. Pakistan is divided into four provinces -Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The tribal belt adjoining Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was managed by the Federal Government and was formerly known as FATA, i.e., Federally Administered Tribal Areas. On 31.05.2018, via The Constitution (Twenty-Fifth Amendment) Act, 2018 FATA was officially merged with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan have their own respective political and administrative machinery, yet certain subjects are taken care of by the Federal Government. Islamabad is the federal capital. 96.5 per cent of the country's population is Muslim, making up 11.1% of Muslim population in the world, that is second to Indonesia.

See Basic Facts on Pakistan for more information.

2. Location

Located in South Asia, Pakistan shares an eastern border with India and north-eastern border with China. Iran lies along the country’s southwest border, and Afghanistan runs along its western and northern borders. The southern boundary of Pakistan is made up of the 1,064 km coastline of the Arabian Sea.

The total area of the country is 796,095 square km, which is nearly four times the size of the United Kingdom. From Gwadar Bay in its southeastern corner, the country extends more than 1,800 km to the Khunjerab Pass on China’s border. See the

Pakistan’s Political Map.

3. Constitutional and Parliamentary History

3.1. Birth of a Nation (Pre-1947)

The Muslims of India had, since the middle of the nineteenth century, begun the struggle for a separate homeland on the basis of the two Nation theory. The British rulers realized that the Hindus and Muslims of India remained two separate and distinct nations and socio-cultural entities. The British rulers were left with no option but to eventually accept the demand of the Muslims of India.

3.2. The End of British Raj and the Creation of Pakistan (1947-1948)

On 3rd June 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, called the conference of all the leaders of the sub-continent and communicated to them his government's plan for the transfer of power. At that time, a notification was issued in the Gazette of India, published on 26th July 1947 in which the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was given shape with 69 Members (later on the membership was increased to 79), including one female Member. The State of Pakistan was created under the Independence Act of 1947. The Act made the existing Constituent Assemblies, the dominion legislatures. These Assemblies were allowed to exercise all the powers which were formerly exercised by the Central Legislature, in addition to the powers regarding the framing of a new Constitution, prior to which all territories were to be governed in accordance with the Government of India Act, 1935.

The first session of the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was held on 10th August 1947 at Sindh Assembly Building Karachi. On 11th August 1947 Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was elected unanimously as the President of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and the National Flag was formally approved by the Assembly.

On 12th August 1947, a resolution was approved regarding officially addressing Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah as "Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah". On the same day, a special committee called the "Committee on Fundamental Rights of Citizens and Minorities of Pakistan" was appointed to investigate and advise the Assembly on matters relating to fundamental rights of the citizens, particularly the minorities, with the aim to legislate on these issues appropriately. On 14th August 1947, the Transfer of Power took place. Lord Mountbatten, Governor General of India, addressed the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. The Quaid gave a reply to the address in the House, on which the principles of the State of Pakistan were laid. On 15th August 1947, Quaid-i-Azam was sworn in as the first Governor General of Pakistan. Mr. Mian Sir Abdur Rashid, Chief Justice of Pakistan, administered oath of office to him. The Quaid remained in this position till his death on 11th September 1948.

3.3. The First Constituent Assembly and the Infamous Maulvi Tamizuddin Case (1949-1955)

The foremost task before the first Constituent Assembly was of framing the Constitution for the nation. On 7th March 1949, the Objectives Resolution, which now serves as the grundnorm of Pakistan, was introduced by the first Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan. Even though some opposition leaders expressed serious reservations over its adoption, the Objective Resolution stood adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 12th March 1949. They argued that the idea of a modern nation state was a creation of the 19th century and was foreign to Islamic tradition, and that conflating the same with Islam, or Islamic Democracy, tantamounted to experimenting with an untested and unknown concept. On the same day, a Basic Principles Committee comprised of 24 members was formed to prepare a draft constitution on the basis of the Objectives Resolution. On 16th October 1951, Prime Minister Mr. Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, mover of the Objective Resolution, was assassinated and Mr. Khawaja Nazimuddin took over as the Prime Minister on 17th October 1951.

The final draft of the Constitution was prepared in 1954. By that time, Muhammad Ali Bogra had taken over as the Prime Minister. However, just before the draft could be placed in the House for approval, the Assembly was dissolved by the then Governor General Ghulam Muhammad on 24th October 1954. The Prime Minister was, however, not dismissed and was asked to run the administration, with a reconstituted Cabinet, until such time as the elections were held. Maulvi Tamizuddin, President of the Assembly, challenged the dissolution. The Sindh Chief Court, by a unanimous decision, held the dissolution to be unlawful. The Government appealed to the Federal Court. The Federal Court reversed the decision on a technical glitch without addressing the merits of the case. It held that the Statute which provided for the exercise of judicial review by the Sindh Chief Court had not received the assent of the Governor General. In the absence of that assent, the law was invalid. As a corollary, the power of judicial review did not vest in the Sindh Chief Court and hence, its exercise of the same was without jurisdiction.

3.4. The First Constitution ­– 1956

The second Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was created on 28th May 1955 under Governor General's Order No.12 of 1955. The Electoral College for this Assembly was the Provincial Assemblies of respective Provinces. The strength of this Assembly was 80 Members, half from East Pakistan and half from West Pakistan. One of the major decisions taken by this Assembly was the establishment of West Pakistan (One Unit), with the aim to create parity between the two wings (East and West Pakistan). This Assembly also achieved its target by giving the first Constitution to the nation: the Constitution of Pakistan 1956. Mr. Choudhary Muhammad Ali was the Prime Minister at that time. The draft of this Constitution was introduced in the Assembly on 9th January 1956 and was passed by the Assembly on 29th February 1956. The assent was given on it by the Governor General on 2nd March 1956. This Constitution was enforced with effect from 23rd March 1956. Under this Constitution, Pakistan became an Islamic Republic, hence 23rd March became Pakistan’s Republic Day. It was the same day in 1940 that the historic Pakistan Resolution was adopted at Minto Park, Lahore.

On 5th March 1956, Major General Iskandar Ali Mirza became the first elected President of Pakistan. The 1956 constitution provided for Parliamentary form of government with all the executive powers in the hands of Prime Minister. President was Head of the State and was to be elected by all Members of the National and Provincial Assemblies. He was to hold office for five years. The President was to act on the advice of Prime Minister, except where he was empowered to act in his discretion.

Under 1956 Constitution, Parliament was unicameral. Legislative powers vested in the Parliament, which consisted of the President and the National Assembly comprising 300 Members divided equally between East and West Pakistan. In addition to these 300 seats, five seats were reserved for women for each of the two wings, for a period of ten years, thus bringing the total membership of the House to 310.

3.5. The First Martial Law – General Muhammad Ayub Khan (1958-1969)

However, in the absence of any law to control the Political Parties and the problem of floor crossing, political instability perpetually ensued. Although the first general election was scheduled for early 1959, President Iskandar Ali Mirza abrogated the Constitution, dissolved the National and Provincial Assemblies, and declared Martial Law, on 7th October 1958. He appointed General Muhammad Ayub Khan, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, as the Chief Martial Law Administrator.

The constitutionality of military rule stood challenged before the Supreme Court in the case of State v. Dosso. (“the Dosso Case”) The Supreme Court upheld the abrogation as being the need of the hour, based on Hans Kelsen’s theory of doctrine of necessity. It further opined that because,

“the persons assuming power under the change can successfully require the inhabitants of the country to conform to the new regime, there success in doing so is a ‘law creating fact’ and therefore, the legitimacy of the revolution will not be adjudged against the touchstone of the annulled Constitution but by reference to its own success.”

3.6. The Second Constitution – 1962

On 27th October 1958, General Muhammad Ayub Khan took over as a second President of Pakistan. One of the first major steps taken by General Ayub Khan was the appointment of a Constitution Commission on 17th February 1960. The objective of this commission was to submit proposals, as to how best democracy can be strengthened and molded according to the country’s socio-political environment and Islamic principles of justice. The Commission submitted its report to the government on 29th April 1961. Based on this report a new Constitution was framed and given to the nation on 1st March 1962. General elections under the new Constitution were held on 28th March 1962 and elections to the special seats reserved for women were held on 29th May 1962. The first session of the third National Assembly was held on 8th June 1962 at Ayub Hall, Rawalpindi.

The Constitution of 1962 envisaged a Federal State with Presidential form of government, with National Assembly at the centre and the Provincial Assemblies in the Provinces. The Legislatures, both at centre and in provinces were unicameral. The Federal system had been curtailed by allowing the Provincial Governors to be appointed directly by the President. All executive authority of the Republic of Pakistan, under the Constitution, vested in the office of the President. President appointed his Cabinet members who were directly responsible to him.

The electoral system was made indirect, and the “Basic Democrats”, for both wings were declared Electoral College for the purpose of electing the Assemblies and the President. Basic democrats were 80,000 in number (40,000 from each East & West Pakistan). The total membership of the National Assembly was 156, one half of whom were to be elected from East Pakistan and other half from West Pakistan, also three seats were reserved for women from each province. The term of this Assembly was three years. The norm was established that if the President was from West Pakistan, the Speaker was to be from East Pakistan and vice versa. One of the major achievements of this Assembly was the passage of Political Parities Act, 1962.

3.7. The Second Martial Law and the Creation of Bangladesh (1969-1971)

On 25th March 1969, the second Martial law was imposed and General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan took-over as the President of Pakistan and Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). He later issued a Legal Framework Order (LFO), under which the first ever general elections were held on 7th December 1970. This was the first Assembly elected on the adult franchise and population basis. It consisted of 313 members: 169 from East Pakistan and 144 from West Pakistan, including 13 reserved seats for women (six from West Pakistan and seven from East Pakistan). Soon after the elections, due to grave political differences, the Province of East Pakistan seceded from West Pakistan and became Bangladesh.

The seizure of power by the military for the second time stood adjudged by the Supreme Court in the Asma Jilani case. Via the same, the Supreme Court overruled the Dosso Case which it held was bad law. It further held that the exercise of power by the military was unconstitutional and recommended that the idea of high treason be introduced in the Constitutional scheme to act as a deterrent against future abuses. The judgement though was pronounced after the annulment of the martial law and take over by the civilian leader, Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

3.8. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as the Premiere (1971-1977)

On 20th December 1971, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took over as the President of Pakistan as well as the first civil Chief Martial Law Administrator. The first session of the National Assembly, due to the delay caused by the separation of East Pakistan, was held on 14th April 1972 at the State Bank Building, Islamabad, in which all 144 Members from West Pakistan and two from former East Pakistan (Mr. Noor-ul-Amin and Raja Tridev Roy who had chosen to join Pakistan) participated. On April 17, 1972, an Interim Constitution was adopted by the National Assembly, which provided for a Presidential form of Government. Under this Constitution, the National Assembly was not to be dissolved earlier than 14th August 1973. The Interim Constitution dealt in detail with the distribution of powers between the Centre and the Provinces.

The Assembly also formed a Constitution Committee on 17th April 1972 to prepare the first draft for framing a Constitution. The report of the Committee was presented with a draft Constitution on 31st December 1972. It was unanimously passed by the Assembly in its session on 10th April 1973 and was authenticated by the President on 12th April 1973. This Constitution, called the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973, was promulgated on 14th August 1973. On the same day, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took oath as the Prime Minister, while Mr. Fazal Illahi Choudhary took oath as the President of Pakistan.

3.9. The 1973 Constitution

The 1973 Constitution provides for a parliamentary form of government where the executive authority of the state vests with the Prime Minister. The President, according to the Constitution, is at the apex, representing the unity of the Republic.

From 1947 to 1973, the country had a unicameral system of legislature. Under the 1973 Constitution, Pakistan adopted bicameral system at the center, called “The Parliament”, composing the President, the National Assembly and The Senate. Originally, the general seats of the National Assembly were 200 with additional 10 seats reserved for women, bringing the total strength to 210. The newly created Upper House, i.e., the Senate, had 63 members. Later in 1985, through a Presidential Order (P.O. No. 14 of 1985), seven seats were added to the general seats and ten to the reserved seats for women in the National Assembly. Ten seats were exclusively reserved for minorities to be filled through separate electorate system. Thus, the total strength of the lower house reached to 237 members. Similarly, the strength of Senate was also increased from 63 to 87.

Under the 1973 Constitution the National Assembly is elected for five-year term, unless sooner dissolved. The seats in National Assembly, unlike the Senate, are allocated to each province and other units of the federation, on the basis of population. The Constitutional provision of 20 special seats for women lapsed in 1990, thus decreased the Assembly strength from 237 to 217. Under the Constitution, elections to the 10 seats reserved for minority were held on separate electorate basis.

Despite the tenure of the Assembly being five years, as prescribed in the Constitution, Mr. Z. A. Bhutto, on 7th January 1977 announced the holding of elections before time. Consequently, on 10th January 1977, he advised the President to dissolve the National Assembly. Elections were held on 7th March 1977. The opposition charged the government with rigging the elections to the National Assembly and thereafter boycotted the Provincial Assemblies elections. Since the opposition had not accepted the National Assembly elections result, they did not take oath. This resulted in severe political crisis and Martial Law was imposed by the then Army Chief, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, on 5th July 1977.

Challenge to the Martial Law yet again reached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused the Federation’s reliance on the Dosso Case but neither did it concur with the view of the Petitioner that the imposition of martial law was unconstitutional. Instead, in the Begum Nusrat Bhutto case, it introduced a new test of “total milieu.” The test entailed that the doctrine of state necessity, Salus Populi Suprema Lex (Necessity makes prohibited things permissible”), had to be demonstrated by meeting the following criteria, “(a) An imperative and inevitable necessity or exceptional circumstances; (b) No other remedy [is available]; (c) The measure taken must be proportionate to the necessity; and (d) It must be of a temporary character limited to the duration of the exceptional circumstances.” Based on this test, it legitimized the military rule and also empowered it with unfettered legislative power to act in furtherance of the “good of the people” or the smooth functioning of the country.

3.10. The Third Martial Law: General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988)

On 24th December 1981, under Presidential Order (P.O.15 of 1981) a Majlis-e-Shoora (Federal Council/Parliament) was constituted by the President. Its members were nominated by the President. The first session of this Council was held on 11th January 1982. In this way, limited and controlled political activities were resumed, because of which general elections were later held for the National and Provincial Assemblies on 25th February 1985, on non-party basis.

On 2nd March 1985, the revival of Constitution Order (P.O.14 of 1985) was issued in which many amendments were made in the Constitution. The first session of the National Assembly was held on 20th March 1985. Mr. Muhammad Khan Junejo was nominated as the Prime Minister of Pakistan by the President (General Zia-ul-Haq). He received vote of confidence on 24th March 1985.

In November 1985, the 8th Constitutional Amendment was adopted by the Parliament. Besides changes in other Articles in the Constitution the significant Article 58(2)(b) was added, according to which the President acquired discretionary powers to dissolve the National Assembly. On 29th May 1988 the Assembly was dissolved by the President by using the power acquired under Article 58(2)(b).

3.11. The Rise of Ms. Benazir Bhutto (1988-1990)

The general elections for the eighth National Assembly were held on 16th November 1988. The first session was convened by the President on 30th November 1988. Mr. Miraj Khalid was elected as a Speaker National Assembly on 3rd December 1988. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was nominated as Prime Minister of Pakistan and took the oath of the Office on 2nd December 1988. The Assembly was dissolved by the President, Ghulam Ishaq Khan under Article 58(2)(b) on 6th August 1990.

3.12. The Premiership of Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif (1991-1993)

The general elections for the ninth National Assembly were held on 24th October 1990. The first session was held on 3rd November 1990. Mr. Gohar Ayub Khan elected as Speaker National Assembly, and he took oath on 4th November 1990. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif took oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan on 11th November 1993. The Assembly was dissolved by the then President, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, under Article 58(2)(b) on April 18, 1993. The dissolution of the National Assembly was challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and after hearing the case the Assembly was restored by the apex court on May 26, 1993. The Assembly was dissolved on the advice of the Prime Minister on July 18, 1993.

3.13. The Return of Ms. Bhutto (1993-1996)

The elections for tenth National Assembly were held on October 6, 1993. The first session was held on October 15, 1993. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani took oath of the office of the Speaker National Assembly on October 17, 1993. Mohtarma Benizar Bhutto administered the oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan on October 19th October 1993. The Assembly was dissolved by the President Farooq Ahmad Khan Laghari on November 5, 1996.

3.14. The Return of Mr. Sharif (1997-1999)

The elections for eleventh National Assembly were held on 3rd February 1997. The first session was held on 15th February 1997. Mr. Illahi Bukhsh Soomro took oath of the office of the Speaker National Assembly on 16th February 1997. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif took oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan and Leader of the House on 17th February 1997. The new Assembly came into power with an overwhelming majority. The Article 58(2)(b) was later omitted from the Constitution vide 13th Amendment in the Constitution in April 1997.

It may be pertinent to note at this point that while, ostensibly, 16 amendments have been made in the Constitution so far, the ninth and the eleventh Constitutional Amendments were passed by the Senate alone, and the fifteenth by the National Assembly alone; hence, these amendments lapsed. The fourteenth Amendment in the Constitution empowered a check on floor crossing of legislators.

3.15. Military Coup; the Fourth Martial Law under General Pervez Musharraf (1999-2008)

Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf, who was also Chairman Joint Staff Committee, took over the government from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and declared himself as Chief Executive through a Proclamation of Emergency, on October 12, 1999. Through Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) issued on October 14, 1999, he held the Constitution in abeyance, suspended the Senate, National and Provincial Assemblies, Chairman and Deputy Chairman, Senate, Speaker, Deputy Speaker National and Provincial Assemblies and dismissed the Federal and Provincial governments. The President Mr. Muhammad Rafiq Tarar was, however allowed to continue in his office. Under PCO (order No. 6) 29th October 1999, (as amended by C.E. Order No.5, 4th July 2001), the National Security Council was established to tender advice to the Chief Executive (later the President), on matters relating to Islamic ideology, national security, sovereignty, integrity and solidarity of Pakistan so as to achieve the aims and objective as enshrined in the Objectives Resolution 1949.

Syed Zafar Ali Shah, MNA and Illahi Bukhsh Soomro, Speaker National Assembly, challenged the suspension orders in the Supreme Court. The Court in its judgment on 12th May 2000 validated the military takeover. It recognized it as an extra-constitutional step but one that was necessitated by the “radical transformation.” It reasoned that society had become plagued by a “corruption eruption” and the predecessor government was in fact an oligarchy or a one-man rule. It gave three years’ time frame to the government, starting from October 12, 1999. The Court in its judgment asked the government to complete its agenda and then hand over power to the elected government. The court also allowed the military government to bring necessary Constitutional Amendments for restoration of “true representative democracy,” but it was not allowed to alter the basic feature of Federal Parliamentary democracy, independence of judiciary and Islamic provisions in the Constitution. The court reserved the right of Judicial Review and power of validity of any act or any action of the government, if challenged, in the light of State necessity.

On 20th June 2001, through a notification (C.E. Order No.1) the Chief Executive assumed the office of the President of Pakistan under President's Succession Order, 2001. On the same day, through another Order (C.E. Order No. 2, 2001), the President converted the orders of suspension of legislative bodies and their presiding officers into dissolution.

In 2002, the President also passed the Referendum Order which required a national referendum to be held to decide if President Musharraf should continue to stay in power for five years in order to bring about the necessary reforms for the establishment of democracy and elimination of sectarianism and extremism. The Referendum Order too faced a challenge in the Supreme Court on the ground of unconstitutionality. However, it withstood the challenge on the premise of the Court’s judgement in Syed Zafar Ali Shah. The Court further held that, “country is being steered towards the path of democracy and this is a transitional…period and in the present scenario the Referendum Order has turned out to be a springboard for reiteration of the commitment of the Chief Executive to hold the general elections in October 2002.”

The elections for twelfth National Assembly were held on 10th October 2002. The inaugural session of the National Assembly was held on November 16, 2002, and Ch. Amir Hussain and Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob were elected Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively on November 19, 2002. Mir Zafar ullah Jamali was elected Leader of the House on November 21, 2002. Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain gave the ruling on June 14, 2003, that LFO is the part of the Constitution of Pakistan. On this issue, Opposition Parties submitted a resolution for vote of no confidence against Speaker National Assembly on June 20, 2003, which was rejected on June 28, 2003.

The National Assembly of Pakistan expressed confidence in the leadership of President General Pervez Musharraf through the resolution on January 1, 2004. President General Pervez Musharraf addressed the Joint Session of the Parliament on January 17, 2004. Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali resigned from his office on June 26, 2004. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was elected the 21st Prime Minister of Pakistan on June 29, 2004, and obtained a vote of confidence from the National Assembly on June 30, 2004. Mr. Shaukat Aziz was elected the Leader of the House on August 27, 2004, and was administered oath of the Prime Minister of Pakistan on August 28, 2004. National Assembly of Pakistan completed its Constitutional tenure on November 15, 2007. After the resignation from the post of Chief of Army Staff, Mr. Pervez Musharraf administered the oath of President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan on November 29, 2007.

For more on Musharraf era in Pakistan, see History of Pakistan (Sept. 8, 2009). In 2008, he resigned from the office of the President to escape the impeachment. One of the major reasons for the resignation of the then President was the Lawyers Movement which was headed by the ex-Chief Justice of the Pakistan, Mr. Iftikhar Choudhry. He was removed from his office unconstitutionally by Mr. Pervaiz Musharraf in his tenure.

These judges were also house arrested for a period of one year. The situation got worse when the Supreme Judicial Council declared the removal of the Chief Justice as arbitrary and unconstitutional, but no corrective measures were taken to reinstate the Chief Justice to his position. This led to country wide strikes by the lawyers’ who came out in large numbers to stand for the supremacy of constitution and law. President Musharraf could no longer withstand the mounting pressure and was left with no option but to reinstate the Chief Justice on July 20, 2007.

However, in November 2007 President Musharraf issued a proclamation of Emergency, suspended the Constitution, and issued a Provisional Constitutional Order (“PCO”). He also issued the Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2007 whereby a fresh oath of office was required under the Provisional Constitutional Order for all the sitting judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts. On their refusal to take a fresh oath to the PCO, a total of 15 judges of the Supreme Court and 56 of the High Court stood sacked. The Chief Justice and few others were put under house arrest. Even though the Supreme Court, under the new Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar validated the PCO and the Emergency rule, the emergency had made a very unpopular leader out of the President. He succumbed to the ensuing civil unrest and resigned on August 18, 2008.

In 2009, the Supreme Court declared the President’s declaration of emergency and all interrelated orders as being illegal and unconstitutional. Subsequently, a petition was preferred by Moulvi Iqbal Haider before the Supreme Court praying therein that ex-President Musharaf be tried for high treason for his said actions. The matter was disposed of with the Federal Government’s assurance that it would investigate the matter and initiate trial before a Special Court. Thereafter, the investigation was concluded, and a Special Court was constituted for his trial. The defence did not plead that the actions of the ex-President were not unconstitutional. Instead, it argued that there were compelling reasons for the action and that the same was involuntary. The Special Court disagreed and held that the situation could have been addressed by the President within the Constitutional framework and without resorting to unconstitutional measures. Hence, it found the ex-President guilty of high treason and punishable by death. The special verdict was successfully challenged in the Lahore High Court which held that the constitution of the Special Bench was unconstitutional and hence, its verdict was untenable. An appeal against this is currently pending adjudication in the Supreme Court.

3.16. The Rise of PPP (2008-2013)

The date of next General Election was fixed for January 28, 2008. After the assassination of Muhatarma Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, date of election was rescheduled for February 18, 2008. The first session of the National Assembly was held on 17th March 2008. Dr. Fehmida Mirza and Mr. Fasial Karim Kundi were elected Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly respectively on March 19, 2008. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani was elected the Prime Minister of Pakistan by the House on March 24, 2008, and unanimously obtained the Vote of Confidence from the House on March 29, 2008. Mr. Pervez Musharraf submitted his resignation from his office to the Speaker National Assembly on August 18, 2008, and Mr. Asif Ali Zardari was elected 13th President of Pakistan for next five years on September 6, 2008. He addressed the Joint Session of the Parliament on September 20, 2008.

During his address to the Joint Session of the Parliament on March 28, 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari asked the Speaker National Assembly to form a Committee of both Houses for the purpose of proposing amendments in the Constitution in the light of Charter of Democracy (COD). After consultation with the leadership of all political parties in the Parliament, Speaker National Assembly announced the Constitutional Reforms Committee (CRC) on April 29, 2009.

After the marathon consultation in 77 meetings, CRC under the Chairmanship of Senator Raza Rabbani presented report of the Committee on 18th Amendment in the Constitution to the Speaker National Assembly on March 31, 2010. The historic 18th Constitutional Amendment was presented and passed by the National Assembly on April 8, 2010, and Senate on April 15, 2010, respectively. After the assent of the President on April 19, 2010, 18th Amendments became part of Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. 19th Amendment was passed by the National Assembly on December 22, 2010, and Senate on December 30, 2010, respectively. 19th Amendment became part of the Constitution after the assent of the President Asif Ali Zardari on January 1, 2011. The 20th Amendment was passed unanimously by National Assembly and Senate on February 20, 2012.

Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani was found guilty of Contempt of Court by the Supreme Court on April 26, 2012, for failing to act on the Supreme Court’s directives to reopen the dormant fraud cases against President Zardari. On June 19, 2012, the Supreme Court declared that on account of being found guilty of contempt; Mr. Gilani, with effect from April 26, 2012, stood disqualified from holding the post of the Prime Minister. Raja Pervez Ashraf was elected the Prime Minister of Pakistan on June 22, 2012, by the National Assembly and administered oath of the Office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan on same day.

3.17. The Third Tenure of Mr. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (2013-2017)

On June 4, 2013, Mian Nawaz Sharif was elected the Prime Minister of Pakistan for a five-year term. Mr. Mamnoon Hussain was elected President of Pakistan on July 30, 2013, and took charge of office on August 9, 2013. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which emerged as the second most successful political party in the elections alleged that the elections had been rigged. Its Chairman, Imran Khan, announced country wide protest(s) and demanded re-election. However, the Chairman could not build enough pressure for his demands to be acceded.

That changed in 2016 with the infamous leak of confidential documents of the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama (the “Panama Papers”). The documentation revealed in detail the machinations of the offshore industry in the areas of tax evasion and money laundering. Mr. Sharif’s children, including his two sons and daughter, Ms. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, stood indicted in the leaks as owning at least three offshore holding companies in British Virgin Islands.

Mr. Khan initiated a fresh round of country wide protests, in the wake of Panama leaks, by asserting that Mr. Sharif had “lost the moral authority to rule.” The movement soon gained momentum. Mr. Khan also petitioned the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice and disqualify Mr. Sharif from his Prime Ministership. This became the first time that a sitting Prime Minister of the country saw himself facing corruption charged while in power. “Go Nawaz Go” became a regular chant and the demands for a re-election grew louder.

Before the Supreme Court, apart from Mr. Khan’s petition, a number of other petitions were filed by various parties, including Jamat-i-Islami (a religious political party) seeking the Prime Minister’s disqualification on the ground that because of his corrupt practices he had failed to meet the constitutional test of Sadiq and Amin (“Honest and Trustworthy”) prescribed in Article 62 for qualifying as a member of the National Assembly.

All these petitions were amalgamated by the Chief Justice of Pakistan and a larger bench was constituted to adjudicate on whether the Prime Minister should be disqualified for not meeting the test of Sadiq and Amin. The decision of the Supreme Court was split 3-2. The majority opined that a commission be constituted to investigate and collect evidence, for and against, in relation to the allegations and submit its report for its consideration. The minority held that the Prime Minister should stand disqualified on the charges of corruption. In accord with the majority, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was constituted before which both the Petitioners, as well as the accused(s) were allowed to bring forth their respective evidence. The Team concluded its investigation in favour of the petitioners and against the Prime Minister and other co-accused. It opined that they were guilty of the charges of corruption, misuse of power, forgery, and fabrication of evidence.

The Supreme Court agreed with the conclusion reached by the JIT and declared that the Prime Minister failed to meet the test of Sadiq and Amin and therefore, stood disqualified from being a member of the National Assembly with effect from 28th July 2017. As a corollary, he was no longer competent to occupy the post of the Prime Minister. This historical decision was announced a year before the general elections were due. For more information, see Sune Engel Rasmussen, Pakistani Court Removes PM Nawaz Sharif from Office in Panama Papers Case, The Guardian (July 28, 2017). The cabinet was dissolved, and a new cabinet took oath under the Prime Minister of Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

3.18. The Rise of Imran Khan (2018-2022)

On 25th July 2018 general elections were held in Pakistan for the members of the 15th National Assembly. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf emerged as the major victor from the elections followed by the PML-N and the PPP but fell short of forming a majority in the National Assembly. Hence, it had to form a coalition government with the support of smaller parties and independent candidates. The first session of the assembly was held on 13th August 2018. On 15th August 2018, Mr. Asad Qaiser and Mr. Qasim Khan Suri were elected as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. On 18th August 2018, Mr. Imran Khan took oath as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan. Whereas, on 9th September 2018 Dr. Arif-ur-Rehman Alvi took oath as the 13th President of Pakistan and continues to be its current President.

Amidst growing economic distress and other issues, Mr. Khan’s premiership tethered, culminating in a successful no-confidence motion against him by the National Assembly, which brought his premiership to an end on 9th April 2022.

4. Government

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan provides for a Federal Parliamentary System of government, with the President as the Head of State and the popularly elected Prime Minister as Head of government. Pakistan has a three-tier structure of government that includes the federal (the Majlis-e-Shoora, consisting of the National Assembly and the Senate), provincial (consisting of the Provincial Assemblies of each Province), and local tiers (consisting of local governments at the grass root levels in each Province).

Pakistan Government: This is the official portal website for the Government of Pakistan and acts as a services gateway for citizens, non-citizens and businesses dealing with the Government. Information about the Government’s ministries, divisions and departments, official publications like the Gazette of Pakistan, downloadable and printable forms for the citizens, and a government directory are some of the features of this site. It also features news updates, tender notices, and job vacancies. Categories of its information and services gateways include agriculture, business, citizenship and immigration, culture, district governments, education, employment, environment, health, housing and real estate, information and media, law, overseas Pakistanis, public utilities, regulations, religious affairs, safety and security, science and technology, sports, tourism and travel, weather, and women.

4.1. National Assembly

Within the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), the National Assembly has an edge over the Senate by legislating exclusively on money matters. With exception to money-related Bills, however, both Houses work together to carry out the basic work of the Parliament, i.e., law making. The Bill relating to the Federal Legislative List can be originated in either House. If the House passed the Bill through majority vote, it shall be transmitted to the other House. If the other House passes it without amendment, it shall be presented to the President for assent.

If the Bill, transmitted to the other House, is not passed within 90 days, or rejected, it shall be considered in a joint sitting to be summoned by the President on the request of the House in which the Bill was originated. If the Bill is passed in the joint sitting, with or without amendments, by the votes of majority of the members of the two Houses, it shall be presented to the President for assent.

If the Bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall assent to the Bill in no later than ten days. If it is not a Money Bill, the President may return the Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) with a message requesting that the Bill be reconsidered and that an amendment specified in the message be considered. The Majlis-e-Shoora shall reconsider the Bill in a joint sitting. If the Bill is passed again, with or without amendment, by vote of most of the members present and voting, it shall be presented to the President and the President shall give his assent within ten days; failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given.

Under the Constitution, the Parliament may also legislate for two or more Provinces by consent and request made by those Provinces. If the Federal Government proclaims State of Emergency in any province, the power to legislate about that province is vested in the Parliament. But the Bills passed by the Parliament during the State of Emergency, shall cease to be in force after the expiration of six months from the date Emergency is lifted. Nevertheless, the steps already taken under these Acts shall remain valid.

In exercises of its constitutional role, the Parliament also has other very important duties to perform. The President, who is at the apex, is elected by members of both Houses of the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies. The Prime Minister, who heads the Cabinet and is meant to aid and advise the President in his functions, belongs to the National Assembly. He enjoys the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly. Members of the Cabinet are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

In the formation of the Cabinet, the major portion (75%) goes to National Assembly while the rest (25%) are taken from the Senate.

There is a democratic procedure to remove the Prime Minister from his office if he loses confidence of most of the members of the National Assembly. In this respect, a resolution for a vote of no-confidence is moved by not less than 20% of the total membership of the National Assembly. If the resolution is passed by majority of the total membership of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister immediately stands relinquished of his powers.

Similarly, for the removal or impeachment of the President, not less than one-half of the total membership of either House may give in writing its intention to do so, to the Speaker National Assembly, or to the Chairman Senate, for moving a resolution for the purpose. In a joint sitting of the two Houses, convened for the purpose, and after deliberations, if the resolution is passed by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the Parliament, the President shall cease to hold office immediately on the passing of the resolution.

In case emergency is proclaimed, the Parliament holds the authority to extend the term of the National Assembly. Under the Constitution, the Parliament may also, on the request of the Federal Government, by law, confer functions upon officers or authorities subordinate to the Federal Government.

4.2. Senate

The main purpose for the creation of the Senate of Pakistan was to give equal representation to all the federating units since the membership of the National Assembly was based on the population of each province. Equal provincial membership in the Senate, thus, balances the provincial inequality in the National Assembly and dispels doubts and apprehension, if any, regarding deprivation and exploitation.

The role of the Senate is to promote national cohesion and harmony and to alleviate fears of the smaller provinces regarding domination by any one province because of its majority, in the National Assembly. The Senate is a body which represents the provinces/territories of the country and promotes a feeling of equality, peace and harmony, which is so essential for the growth and prosperity of a nation. Thus, the Senate in Pakistan, over the years, has emerged as an essential organ and a stabilizing factor of the federation.

4.3. President

The President is elected by members of both Houses of the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies. The President may be removed from office or impeached through a resolution, passed by not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the Parliament in a joint sitting of the two Houses, convened for the purpose. The President in Pakistan is the symbol of Federation unity. The President is not the member of the Parliament. He is the head of the state, the commander of the armed forces, a symbol of national integrity and honor.

In case the office of the President becomes vacant for any reason, the Chairman, or if he is unable to perform the functions of the office of the President, the Speaker, acts as President till such time that a President is elected. Same is the case when the President by reason of absence from Pakistan or any other cause is unable to perform his functions.

Unless both Houses pass a Bill and it receives President's assent, it cannot become a law except in the case of a money bill which is the sole prerogative of the National Assembly. Through an amendment, the role of a Mediation Committee, comprising of eight members of each House, has been introduced to evolve consensus on Bills, in case there is a disagreement between the two Houses. The President under the constitution also has the power to legislate which is termed as an Ordinance. In situations of urgency when the Parliament is not in session a situation arises for which immediate legislation is required, the President can legislate/pass Ordinance. Such Ordinance shall remain in force for a period of six months; after the expiration of six months, if the Ordinance gets approval of the Parliament, it shall automatically become an Act. Otherwise, if the Parliament does not approve it at the end of the six months, it automatically ceases to exist.

4.4. Prime Minister

The Constitution provides that there shall be a Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister which is collectively responsible to the National Assembly. The Prime Minister is chosen from the National Assembly. The Federal Ministers and Ministers of State are appointed from amongst the members of Parliament. However, the number of Federal Ministers and Ministers of State who are members of the Senate, shall not at any time, exceed one fourth of the numbers of Federal Ministers.

4.5. Provincial Governments

The government of each Province is empowered under the Constitution to deal with all subjects that are not listed in the Federal Legislative List of the Constitution. Prior to the enactment of the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010, the Provincial Legislature enjoyed concurrent powers with the Federal Government to enact laws of specific areas. However, post the 18th amendment, Concurrent Legislative List stood deleted and the power to legislate concerning those areas vests exclusively in the provinces.

4.6. Local Governments

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution also entailed the insertion of Article 140A in the Constitution which made it mandatory for each province to provide for a local government and devolve political, administrative, and financial responsibility to them. See more on the rationale for the local governments and how that strengthens federalism.

Balochistan took the lead in establishing a local government system by promulgating the Balochistan Local Government Act, 2010. It was followed by Sindh and KPK via the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013 and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act, 2013. Punjab was the last to promulgate its law, the Punjab Local Government Act 2022, which has yet to be acted upon. These laws provide for the structure, functions and duties of the local governments.

The Karachi Municipal Corporation, which is responsible for the running of the Karachi Metropolis, has its own official website.

Links for the local government departments of Punjab, Sindh and KPK are as follows:

5. Administration of Law and Justice

The Law and Justice Division is an advisory and consultative body to the Federal Government. There is a Law Department operating under the supervision and control of the Law and Justice Division in each province. The Law and Justice Division is generally called upon, from time to time, to tender advice on various important and controversial constitutional and legal issues.

Drafting ordinances and bills is a major function and responsibility of the Law and Justice Division, which is looked after by the Drafting Wing. The other major function and responsibility of the Division is to oversee all litigation on behalf of the Government of Pakistan. The Law and Justice Division is also involved in the appointment of Law Officers, including Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General and Standing Counsel. It also approves the appointment of legal advisers, with the assistance of a committee comprised of the Attorney General, the Law and Justice Minister and the Law and Justice Secretary.

The Federal Judicial Academy was set up by the Law and Justice Ministry in September 1988 for the adequate training of Judges, Government law officers, police officers and doctors dealing with medical legal cases.

6. The Court System

There is a Supreme Court, the principal seat of which is in the capital of the Country, Islamabad, with a registry in each province. Each province has a High Court, and other courts exercising civil and criminal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court and High Courts were established under the Constitution, and other Courts have been established by or under the Acts of Parliament or Acts of Provincial Assemblies.

6.1. Supreme Court of Pakistan

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the judicial system of Pakistan. It consists of as the Chief Justice of Pakistan and such number of other judges as may be determined by Acts of Parliament. The Chief Justice of Pakistan is appointed by the President. Other Judges are also appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice. The Supreme Court has original, appellate, and advisory jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court, to the exclusion of every other Court in Pakistan, has the jurisdiction to pronounce declaratory judgments in any dispute between the Federal Government and a provincial government or between any two or more provincial governments. The Supreme Court also has the power to make any appropriate order necessary to ensure the protection and provision of fundamental rights.

The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from judgments, decrees, final orders, or sentences passed by a High Court, the Federal Shariat Court and the Services Appellate Tribunals. An appeal to the Supreme Court can be made as a matter of right for certain cases, while for the rest the Court must grant permission to hear an appeal.

If, at any time, the President considers that it is desirable to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court on any question of law which he considers of public importance, he may refer the question to the Supreme Court for consideration. The Supreme Court considers the question so referred and reports its opinion to the President.

The permanent seat of the Supreme Court is at Islamabad, but it also runs circuits at Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta. The Supreme Court may, if it considers it expedient to do so in the interest of justice, transfer any case, appeal or other proceedings pending before any High Court to any other High Court. The practice and procedure of the Court is regulated by rules made by the Court. All executive and judicial authorities throughout Pakistan are required to act in aid of the Supreme Court. Any decision of the Supreme Court, to the extent that it decides a question of law or is based upon or enunciates a principle of law, is binding on all courts in Pakistan. The Supreme Court has the power to review any judgment pronounced by or any order made by the Court.

6.2. High Courts of Pakistan

There is a High Court in each of the four provinces of Pakistan. On December 14, 2007, a High Court for the Islamabad Capital Territory was established through an Executive Order made by the (now former) President Pervez Musharraf. A High Court consists of a Chief Justice and as many other Judges as may be determined by law or as may be fixed by the President. High Courts have both original and appellate jurisdiction.

A High Court has, under the Constitution, original jurisdiction to make an order:

High Courts have extensive appellate jurisdiction over the judgments, decisions, decrees and sentences passed by the civil and criminal courts. High Court also has the power to approve death sentence passed by Sessions Court. High Courts also have the power to make rules regulating their practice and procedure, as well as the practice and procedure of lower courts. Each High Court supervises and controls all courts subordinate to it and any decision of a High Court binds all courts subordinate to it.

6.3. Shariat Court

The Federal Shariat Court comprises of eight Muslim Judges, including the Chief Justice, who is appointed by the President. Of the Judges, four are persons qualified to be Judges of the High Courts, while three are Ulema (scholars well-versed in Islamic Law). The Federal Shariat Court has original and appellate jurisdiction.

The Court may examine and decide questions regarding whether any law or provision of law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet. If the Court decides that any law or provision of law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam, it sets out the extent to which such law or provision of law is so repugnant and specifies the day on which the decision shall take effect. Where any law is held to be repugnant to the injunctions of Islam, the President, in the case of Federal law, or the Governor, in the case of a Provincial law, is required to take steps to amend the law to bring it in conformity with the injunctions of Islam, and such law ceases to have effect from the specified date.

The Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals from the decision of criminal courts under any law relating to enforcement of Hudood Law, i.e., laws pertaining to offences of intoxication, theft, Zina (unlawful sexual intercourse), and Qazf (false imputation of Zina).

6.4. Civil Courts

In every district of a Province, there is a Court of District Judge, which is the principal court of original jurisdiction in civil matters. Besides the Court of District Judge, there are courts of Civil Judges. Civil Judges function under the supervision and control of the District Judge, and all matters of civil nature originate in the courts of these Judges. The District Judge may, however, withdraw any case from any Civil Judge and try it himself if he sees fit. Appeals against the judgments and decrees passed by the Civil Judges, in cases where the value of the suit does not exceed some specified amount, are brought to the District Judge.

6.5. Criminal Courts

In every district, there is a Court of Sessions Judge and Courts of Magistrates. The Courts of Sessions is further divided into three classes: Court of District and Sessions Judge, Courts of Additional Sessions Judge and Courts of Assistant Sessions Judge. The courts of District and Sessions Judge and Additional Sessions Judge share same powers; the only difference in terms of powers between the two is that the District and Session Judge is the administrative head of the respective district. The Assistant Session Judge is subordinate to the Additional Session Judges and District and Sessions Judges. The magisterial Courts are further classified into three classes, Magistrate of First Class, Magistrate of Second Class, and Magistrate of Third Class.

Criminal cases punishable by death and cases arising out of the enforcement of laws relating to Hudood are only tried by Sessions Judges. The Court of a Sessions Judge is competent to pass any sentence authorized by law, only death sentences are subject to approval of the High Court. Offences punishable with imprisonment with seven years are triable by the court of Assistant Sessions judge whereas offences which are punishable with imprisonment for less than three years are triable by the Magistrate in original jurisdiction, the provincial Government is however competent to give special powers to the Magistrate of First Class to try cases punishable by imprisonment of seven years. An appeal against the sentence passed by a Sessions Judge goes to the High Court. An appeal against the sentence passed by a Magistrate goes to the Sessions Judge if the term of sentence is up to four years, and otherwise goes to the High Court.

In Pakistan, there are general laws as well as special laws. For administration of justice and curbing crime, the investigating agencies are divided into two bodies: a) The general investigating body and b) The special investigating body.

The General Investigating agencies operate under the procedure provided in the Police Rules 1934. Mainly, the Investigation which pertains to general criminal laws is conducted by the Police. The Police Department in Pakistan is empowered to carry out investigation, cause arrest of suspected and accused person, report a crime, and search and seize incriminating articles. The Police Department is further divided into other departments such are: CTD-Counter Terrorism Department and ACLC - Anti Car Lifting Cell.

The relevant information regarding the functions and structure of police is provided in the links below.

The Special investigation agencies are created under the various special enactments intended to curb certain crimes covered under a specific legislation. The Special Investigating agencies act under their respective special enactments and their powers and procedures are specifically provided under those statutes.

The list of Special investigating agencies is below:

6.6. Special Courts and Tribunals

Certain Special Courts and Tribunals have been created to deal with specific types of cases:

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan: This is the official website of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. It consists of an introduction, their press releases, events, media center, publication, and campaigns.

Pakistan International Human Rights Organization: This is the official website of the Pakistan International Human Rights Organization. The Pakistan International Human Rights Organization (PIHRO) was established in 1999 as an independent non-profit, non-political and non-governmental organization. It is registered as an NGO under Social Welfare Agency Ordinance 1961, Government of Pakistan. PIHRO endeavors to serve humanity, work for human welfare and to help the downtrodden and the deprived. The website consists of an introduction, their aims, objectives, missions, case studies, activities and projects.

Asian Human Rights Commission: This is the official website of the Asian Human Rights Commission. It keeps a check on the human rights issue in the Asian countries. Its website consists of an introduction, news, issues, campaigns, resources, and opinions.

Insaf Network Pakistan: Insaf Network Pakistan is a national non-governmental organization. It aims at providing a common and neutral platform to civil society organizations to work together to help the indigent, vulnerable and minority communities in areas of gender justice and legal empowerment across Pakistan. INP’s partnership with a variety of civil society organizations and the government functionaries remains its distinguished feature, offering a deeper and wider access to the development recipients at a massive scale across Pakistan. Its mission is to promote professionally informed institutional networking and programming to support civil society and the government organizations in fertilizing demand factors with supply functions for dispensation of quality justice and social services to all members of the society, especially the poor, disadvantaged and the vulnerable. Their website consists of an introduction of their organization, their projects, publications, members and a justice bulletin.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Pakistan: UNDP is a part of the United Nations and upholds the vision of the United Nations Charter. It is committed to the principle that development is inseparable from the quest for peace and human security, and that the United Nations must be a strong force for development as well as peace. UNDP's mission is to help countries in their efforts to achieve sustainable human development, by assisting them in building their capacity to design and carry out protections for women and the environment and giving first priority to poverty eradication. UNDP Pakistan addresses the issue of poverty eradication and SHD through three program areas: (a) governance; (b) gender; and (c) sustainable livelihoods. UNDP Pakistan Overview gives a quick overview of the Programme. The interested user can check out each Thematic Programme Area. A Consolidated Project Listing is also available. The site has links to the Sub Regional Resource Facility, Regional Governance Programme, Country Cooperation Framework 1998-2003, and Human Development Center. Moreover, a Media and Advocacy Page is also maintained on this site. Besides these, Performance Indicators have been identified. The UNDP main site can also be accessed from this website.

Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan: The main functions of the Commission include suggesting reforms in laws and statutes, including their modernization, unification and codification, removal of anomalies and inconsistencies in laws, repeal of obsolete provisions in statutes, adopting effective procedures for administration of laws to ensure inexpensive and speedy justice, simplifying laws for easy comprehension and suggesting steps to make the society law-conscious, developing and augmenting human resources for efficient court administration and case management, coordinating the judiciary and the executive, preparing schemes for access to justice, legal aid and protection of human rights, administering and managing the access to the justice development fund, introducing reforms in the administration of justice and recommending measures for improvement in the standards and quality of legal education. The site also has information on the laws of Pakistan and the judiciary.

The Council of Islamic Ideology: The Council of Islamic Ideology is a constitutional body that advises the legislature regarding whether a law is repugnant to Islam, namely to the Qur'an and Sunna. This website is designed to provide information about the activities of the Council in this regard. It is updated every week. The website aims to provide visitors data about Islam, Islamic law, and research in this field in Pakistan, and contains links to:

Databases on the website include:

Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP): The Election Commission of Pakistan is an independent and autonomous constitutional body charged with the function of conducting transparent, free, fair and impartial elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies. This website provides details about its organizational policies and setup, including the electoral system and rolls, demarcation and delimitation of constituencies, criteria for voter eligibility, reports, news, and events. A set of frequently asked questions and a detailed telephone directory are also available on this information-rich site.

6.7. The Ombudsman (Wafaqi Mohtasib)

The concept of Mohtasib (Ombudsman) is an ancient Islamic concept, and many Islamic States have established the office of Mohtasib to ensure that no wrong or injustice is done to the citizens. In the 18th century, when King Charles XII of Sweden was in exile in Turkey, he observed the working and efficacy of this institution in the Ottoman Caliphate. Upon regaining his throne, the King established a similar institution in Sweden. Gradually, other developed western countries also adopted this institution. In Pakistan, at present, there are five Federal Ombudsmen: Wafaqi Mohtasib, Federal Tax Ombudsman, Federal Insurance Ombudsman, Federal Ombudsman for Protection Against Harassment (FOSPAH), and Banking Mohtasib.

Wafaqi Mohtasib: In Pakistan, a beginning was made with the appointment of Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman). The primary objective of the Wafaqi Mohtasib was to diagnose, investigate, redress and rectify injustices faced by the public from Federal Government Departments. The measure of success achieved by the institution of Wafaqi Mohtasib led to the creation of Provincial Ombudsmen in the provinces of Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Federal Tax Ombudsman: The growing nature of corporate sector grievances, largely relating to inequitable application of taxation laws, and the Government's desire to promote a just and equitable business environment in Pakistan, prompted the Government to establish an independent Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO). The FTO has brought considerable relief to businesses during the last 11 years. Businessmen have now found a level of comfort, non-existent in the past, which allows them to confidently and fearlessly make investment decisions in the knowledge that an environment exists where they can expect equity, fair play and justice.

Federal Insurance Ombudsman: In pursuance of the Insurance Ordinance 2000, the Office of Federal Insurance Ombudsman (FIO) was established on 2nd May, 2006. The institution is meant to provide analysis, investigation redressal and rectification of any injustice done to a person through maladministration by any of the insurer in the private sector. The key role of the FIO is to provide timely and cost free redressal of the public grievances against alleged maladministration in an insurance company. The cases pertaining to life and general insurance business are looked after by FIO as per the requirements of the Insurance Ordinance 2000 and the Insurance Rules. For further information click here.

Federal Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment (FOSPAH): The Federal Ombudsperson has been appointed on 13th January, 2011 for protection against Harassment of Women.

Banking Ombudsman

Provincial Ombudsman (Mohtasib) Sindh: The establishment of the Mohtasib Sindh (Provincial Ombudsman Sindh) took place through the passage of Sindh Act No. 1 of 1992 (Establishment of the Office of Ombudsman for the Province of Sindh Act, 1991). This law empowers Provincial Mohtasib (Ombudsman) Sindh to diagnose, investigate, redress and rectify any injustice done to a person through maladministration of an Agency of the Government of Sindh. The Ombudsman Sindh is the first institute in the country to have a Children's Complaint Office (CCO) in the secretariat Provincial Ombudsman Sindh in collaboration with UNICEF, which specifically looks after the rights of the children and young people.

Provincial Ombudsman (Mohtasib) Punjab: The Institution of Ombudsman was established by virtue of the Punjab Office of the Ombudsman Act, 1997, which provides for the appointment of the Provincial Ombudsman for protection of the rights of the people, ensuring adherence to the rule of law, diagnosing, redressing and rectifying any injustice done to a person through maladministration and suppressing corrupt practices as enshrined in its preamble.

Provincial Ombudsman (Mohtasib) Balochistan: The ordinance for establishment of Office of Ombudsman for province of Balochistan, 2001 provides a comprehensive procedure to discharge duty for redressal of grievances of needy people and to control the state functionaries to implement the decisions against maladministration. The Provincial Ombudsman and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Balochistan has signed an agreement for establishment of a children complaint office, on 21st October 2009 in order to provide an opportunity to children to be heard in judicial or administrative proceedings and decisions thereof which affect them and to redress their grievances.

Provincial Ombudsman (Mohtasib) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: The Provincial Ombudsman Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been established under The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Ombudsman ACT, 2010 for protection of the rights of the people, ensuring adherence to the rule of law, redressing and rectifying any injustice done to a person through maladministration, suppressing corrupt practices and ensuring good governance.

Azad Jammu & Kashmir Mohtasib (Ombudsman): The Mohtasib (Ombudsman) Secretariat was established in 1991 through an ordinance. It is a quasi-judicial institution. Its mandate is to undo the injustice done through maladministration and to redress the grievance of an aggrieved person/persons.

6.8. Jirga

Jirga, a Persian word, means a gathering or a consultation. Tribes had recourse to Jirga to solve their various problems, and hence jirga is now known as the tribal justice system. What started as an informal, community-based body that was meant to settle small claims, the jirga, or council of tribal elders, has in Pakistan been allowed to emerge as a powerful force protecting the interests of the powerful. A recent report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on jirgas traces their history, citing several published sources according to which a British officer, Lt. Sandeman, introduced this system of resolving disputes among the Baloch tribes, although it already existed in the Peshawar area.

On April 24, 2004, the Sindh High Court imposed a ban on holding jirgas in the province, but government functionaries, ranging from chief ministers to union council nazims, continue to participate in these meetings, according to the list compiled from newspaper reports by the HRCP. Recently, on January 16, 2019, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in a petition filed by the National Commission on Status of Women, declared that jirgas were unconstitutional and negated Pakistan’s international commitments under the UDHR, ICCPR and CEDAW. The only exception made to their operation was as arbitrators/mediators/negotiators or reconciliation forums in civil disputes where the contesting parties willingly opted for the medium of Jirga.

In an effort to enforce compliance, on April 27, 2023 the Sindh High Court ordered that in the event of occurrence of a Jirga, the SSP and SHO of the relevant district(s) would be liable to prosecution under the Pakistan Penal Code and be exposed to departmental proceeding. IGP Sindh was also directed to ensure compliance.

The Federal Laws of Pakistan are published by the government in a document called the Gazette of Pakistan. The well-known law reporters, like the Pakistan Legal Decisions (PLD) and the Pakistan Law Journal (PLJ), also contain the statutes in their statute’s sections. The major compilation of statutes, however, is the Pakistan Code. The current code is spread over twenty-one (21) volumes dating from the year 1836 C.E. Volume 21, the last published volume, contains the laws passed up to the year 1988. Code volumes for the years after 1988 are yet to be published and made publicly available. The Ministry of Justice, Law and Parliamentary Affairs does publish individual Acts when they are amended, but this is done through the Official Gazette. This means that the published Code may not contain the updated law, and hence one must wait for the new edition of the Code to find the updated version. The latest versions of the laws are available from the government documents (Official Gazette) outlets and bookstores. The Acts sold by the bookstores are usually, but not always, the exact copies of the laws published officially. Thus, in many cases, the Acts available from the market do not contain the official notes added by the Ministry.

Judgments of the superior courts are reported in journals published by the following:

Judgments of the superior courts and important enactments can be found online here:

Publishers and suppliers of law books:

Current important legal news in Pakistan may be accessed here:

Selected Important Government Websites:

More Information on the Political and Constitutional History can be found at: