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Pakistan Governments and Political Senario

Since its founding, the republic of Pakistan has mutated among parliamentary, presidential and martial law forms of government. Presently, it has a parliamentary government but with a president who is rather more than ceremonial, Thank to amendments to the 1973 constitution made by General Zia in 1985 and never repealed.         

Legislative & Executive

Parliament has two houses – the Senate and the National Assembly. The Senate is mainly advisory; the Assembly does most of the work, and has sole responsibility for fiscal bill. The 237 members of the National Assembly (MNAs) are directly elected for five-year terms; 20 of these seats are set aside for women and 10 for non-Muslims. The 87 Senators consist of 19 elected by each of the four provincial Assemblies, eight from the Tribal Areas and three from the Islamabad capital territory. The totals are periodically adjusted to reflect population shifts. Adults over 21 may vote in the multi-party elections.

The President, Head of State, must be a Muslims and is elected by the Senate and Assembly for a five-year term. The Prime Minister, Head of government, is elected by the Assembly, to whom he and his cabinet are responsible.

The President appoints a Governor for each province, and each Governor appoints a Chief Minister. Each province has a directly elected assembly, member of which are called MPAs. Authority devolves down through provincial sub-units; Divisions headed by a Commissioner, Districts headed by a Deputy Commissioner, Subdivisions or  tehsils headed by an Assistant Commissioner, etc.

Zia’s constitutional amendments allowed the President to dismiss the Prime minister and the National Assembly (as Ghulam Ishaq Khan did with Benazir Bhutto’s government in 1990) and appoint and retire provincial governors and armed forces chiefs, among other things. They also absolved Zia from legal responsibility for all his prior actions as military ruler.

 In reality much of Pakistan is governed in the old ways. In most rural areas people do not go to their MPA or MNA but directly to their zamindars (landowner) or tribal chief to get problem sorted out. If something needs to be settled officially, he will pass the matter onto the relevant MPA or MNA – If he isn’t one himself – who will most probably have relied on feudal patronage to get elected in the first place.

Pakistan’s Provinces & Divisions 

There are four provinces which are further broken down into divisions. Provincial capitals are given in parentheses.

Punjab (Lahore): Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Faisalabad,

        Gujranwala, Lahore, Multan, Deri Ghazi Khan,


Sind (Karachi): Hyderabad, Sukkur, Karachi

North-West Frontier Province (Peshawar): Peshawar,

           Kohat, Hazara, Dear Ismail Khan, Malakand,

            Tribal Areas (autonomous)

Baluchistan (Quetta): Quetta, Sibi, Kalat, Makran,      

The Northern Areas and Azad Jammu &

Kashmir are not provinces but federally administered regions. Their primary subunit are not divisions but districts Regional capitals are given in parentheses.

Northern Areas (Gilgit): Gilgit, Ghizar, Diamar,

        Skardu, Ghanche,

Azad    Jammu      &       Kashmir (Muzaffarabad):

     Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Poonch, Kotli, Mirpur,


Pakistan has a Supreme Court with a Chief  Justice and 15 other justices, and each province has a High Court. Beneath these are District Courts and a welter of special courts. Since 1980 there has also been a Federal Shariat Court (established by Zia) made up of at least some High Court judges, that can decide whether any law violates Islamic principles; its decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Tribal Areas

The Tribal Areas in the NWFP are essentially autonomous, with internal government, laws and administration of justice according to tribal traditions (for more on these see the North-West Frontier Province chapter). Their interactions with the NWFP government are through Political Agents, roughly equivalent to Deputy Commissioners. There is one for each of the seven tribal agencies.

Northern Areas, Azad Jammu & Kashmir

These regions don’t formally belong to Pakistan but are administered under terms of the 1949 UN cease-fire with India. To give them provincial status would, in Pakistan’s view, be to acquiesce to the partition of Kashmir.

In the bureaucratic hierarchy they’re treated not like provinces but like divisions, answerable directly to the federal Minister of  State for northern Areas, Frontier Regions and Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad. The people send no-one to the federal parliament and cannot take cases to the Supreme Court.

The Northern Areas elect a 16-member Northern Areas Council, but it’s headed by a federally appointed Commissioner. Azad Jammu & Kashmir actually has a President, Prime Minister, Legislative Assembly and High Court.

History of Pakistan
British Times
Pakistan After Independence


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