The United States Constitution was the outcome of a constitutional convention held in Philadelphia from May to September, 1787. It is being hailed as a miracle. The stormy, dramatic session produced the most enduring document of all times. The opening paragraph reads as under:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America”.

There have been twenty six amendments to the history of one of the most significant documents, the last one being in 1971. By contrast, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has experienced four constitutions. It took us nine years (1947 – 1956) to frame the first constitution but it was abrogated in October 1958 before its full enactment and elections. The 1962 constitution was drafted by a team appointed by Ayub Khan. All work was done secretly and then all of a sudden was forcibly enforced in the country. The method of direct election by adult franchise was discontinued and replaced by indirect election by a new system of basic democracies. The elected Basic Democrats (BD) constituted an electoral college who elected the President. It was a rigid constitution with a difficult amendment method. As it was against the wishes of the people, it failed and was abrogated by General Yahya Khan after the forcible removal Ayub Khan due to street protests and student unrest.

The first free and fair elections were held in 1970 on the basis of Adult Franchise. When the inaugural session of constituent assembly was postponed in Decca, Civil war started in the Eastern Wing and Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) as the leader of West Pakistan was inducted as the new head of state and Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). At that time Asma Jillani had already challenged the detention of her father Malik Ghulam Jillani by CMLA in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP). Chief Justice Hamood-ur-Rehman was inclined to declare his detention illegal together with the two martial laws. In order to avoid confusion, an interim constitution was adopted by the national assembly on April 21, 1972.

The unanimously passed 1973 Constitution was declared the supreme law of the State of Pakistan. It was enforced on August 14, 1973. ZAB took oath as the first elected and tenth Prime Minister of Pakistan. Fazal Elahi Chaudhry the Speaker of National Assembly was elevated as the President. It is a rigid constitution, requires 2/3 majority of both houses of the parliament for an amendment. So far a total of 21 amends have been made mostly through the bullet instead of the ballot. However, on important national issues there is a provision of referendum in the constitution.

Like the US constitution, this one is no less a miracle. It is a gift from the only truly elected assembly ever. The two Pirzadas from Sindh, Abdul Sattar and Abdul Hafiz have played a pivot role in framing of constitutions in the country. While Sattar Sahib was a key player in the formulation of 1956 constitution, Hafiz Sahib’s contribution in the 1973 document will be long remembered. He is a leading constitutional expert in the country unlike Sharifuddin who is called juggler of Jeddah and tormentor of democracy.

It is a pity that ever since its enactment, the hounds have been hounding this article of faith. The Khakis, Qazis and Baboos have all connived to take away the individual liberties enshrined in the constitution. Instead of protecting the document, the Qazis have gone out of their way to bestow upon Khaki usurpers the right to amend the supreme law of the State of Pakistan. The unilateral Khaki amendments are disgraceful and deserve to be annulled in totality as the due constitutional process of change has been violated. It did not stop here, after disfiguring the constitution every election has been manipulated to produce third rate political leadership to mislead the nation. Instead of serving the interests of the nation these vital pillars of state have worked against them not once but ten times between 1977 to 2013. This process must come to an end with massive re-orientation of institutions to serve public interests; otherwise like Iran, they will end up in the gallows.

The constitution is a sacred document and must be respected; not repeatedly attacked for personal/institutional motives. Perhaps Pakistan is a unique democratic country having experienced four constitutions in 26 years.

In 1977, when the first elections under the new constitution were disputed, both parties agreed to hold re-elections which remain the only viable option in case of allegations of rigging. The 2013 ballot has become controversial and is a test of the viability of the constitution to resolve such a crisis.

When the parliament is unable to resolve an issue, the Constitution allows the holding of a referendum enabling the people to give their verdict. Both Zia and Musharraf used a manipulated referendum to prolong their misrule, but this time it should be free and fair. The question asked should be, “Do the people of Pakistan desire fresh elections under an independent and reformed election commission’? If the answer is yes then elections should be held this year under the supervision of Khakis as in 1970. The civil administration should be contained and fully neutral even if officers have to be flown in from other provinces.

Let 2013 be the last disputed ballot under the 1973 constitution. Tinkering with the constitution must be punished as laid out in Article 6. The document is a social contract between the people and the state whose protection is the responsibility of every national institution. In case of violation, the people and civil society must come out on the streets.