The National Assembly unanimously adopted the Constitution Bill, the Thirteenth Amendment, in April 1997 by a two-third majority. The Thirteenth Amendment was put before the National Assembly on April 1, empowering the Prime Minister to repeal 58(2) b, and advise the President on the appointments of three forces’ chiefs, the J. C. S. C. Chairman and the Governors. Thus the discretionary power to appoint the chiefs of the armed forces was taken away from the President. In the proposed Amendment Bill, clauses to restore the women parliamentarian seats and to convert the Ordinance into an act of the Parliament were also incorporated. The power of the Governor to dissolve the Provincial Assemblies under Article 112(2) b was also done away with.
Through the Thirteenth Amendment the controversial Eighth Amendment was repealed and thereby the President was divested of many discretionary power in order to restore the supremacy of the Parliament.
The infamous Eight Amendment had been inserted in the Constitution in 1985, by the non-party based Parliament, when General Zia-ul-Haq was the Chief Martial Law Administrator and President of Pakistan. Its most notorious and troublesome provision, 58(2) b, had empowered the President to sack the Prime Minister and his Cabinet and dissolve the National Assembly. The provision had since been used by three successive Presidents since 1985, and four Prime Ministers, along with their Cabinets and the National Assemblies, had been dismissed.
Having announced the Thirteenth Amendment, Nawaz Sharif said that it had been introduced to revive the democratic concept, as envisaged by the Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal.
Although it seemed that a complicated and sensitive constitutional issue was solved in an amicable way through consensus, and it was anticipated that through the Thirteenth Amendment a new era of democratic freedom and political stability would start, all the hopes dashed to the ground when once again the democratic process was demolished all of a sudden. A military coup not only sacked Nawaz Sharif and his Cabinet, but also dissolved the National Assembly and the Provincial Assemblies.
This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003