Pakistan Factsheet: National Assembly

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Introduction

The Constitution of Pakistan, adopted unanimously by the National Assembly (NA) in April 1973, provides for a parliamentary system of government, with the President as the Head of State and the Prime Minister as the Head of Government. The Majlis-e-Shura (the Parliament) of Pakistan is the country’s bicameral legislature consisting of the Senate and the NA.[1] The NA is the Lower House of Parliament and is currently controlled by the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP).

Brief History

From 1947 to 1973, the country had a unicameral legislature. The first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was held in 1947 in the Sindh Assembly Building in Karachi. On 11 August 1947 Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder and the first Governor-general of Pakistan, was elected unanimously as the President of the Constituent Assembly. With the 1973 Constitution, Pakistan adopted a bicameral legislature, called “Majlis-e-Shura, the Parliament.” Originally, the NA was made up of 200 general seats and 10 additional seats reserved for women. In 1985 a Presidential Order[2]  raised the total number of seats to 237, adding several general seats and reserved seats for women, as well as creating 10 reserved seats for non-Muslims to be filled through a separate electoral system.

Structure of the Current National Assembly

The number of seats increased most recently in 2002, bringing the current level of representation to 342 members, including 60 seats reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims[3]. The general and reserved women seats in the NA are allocated to each Province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) based on population, as officially published in the last census. The 10 seats for non-Muslims are not assigned to Provinces.

Figure 1: Seat Allocation by Province and Seat Type[4]

 

Punjab

Sindh

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Balochistan

FATA

ICT

Total

General

148

61

35

14

12

2

272

Women

35

14

8

3

0

0

60

Non-Muslims

--

--

--

--

--

--

10

Total

183

75

43

17

12

2

342

 

Electoral System

The electoral system for NA general seats is based on single-member geographic constituencies in which members are elected by direct vote through a first-past-the-post or simple majority system (unlike the Senate where members are elected indirectly by the members of the Provincial Assemblies and the National Assembly members representing FATA and ICT.). Reserved seats for women and non-Muslims are filled through a separate electoral system. Members in these seats are elected through an indirect proportional representation list system. The political parties file their lists of candidates for reserved seats with the Election Commission of Pakistan prior to the election. After the results for the general seats are finalized, reserved women’s seats are distributed to parties in proportion to the number of general seats secured in each of the provinces. Non-Muslim seats are allocated to political parties in proportion to the overall number of general seats secured. [5]

National Assembly Leadership

During the first meeting of the NA following a General Election, members elect a Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The Speaker, and in his/her absence the Deputy Speaker, presides over the sessions of the Assembly. Both the Government and the Opposition also have leaders in the NA. The Leader of the Opposition is elected by the opposition parties and the Leader of the House is the Prime Minister.

Functions of the Assembly

The NA is a legislative body whose main functions are:

  • To elect the Prime Minister and take part in the indirect election of the President of Pakistan. The Prime Minister is her/himself a Member of the NA and is elected to the post by the Members of the NA. The President is indirectly elected by an electoral college made up of representatives from the NA, Senate and Provincial Assemblies.
  • To pass national legislation under the powers spelled out in the Constitution.
  • To legislate spending, including passing the annual and supplementary budgets.
  • To hold the government accountable. The opposition in the NA keeps a check on the Government through debates, adjournment motions, question hour, and Standing Committees. The opposition ensures the government functions within the parameters set out in the Constitution and that it does not violate the mandate given to it by the people of Pakistan.
  • To assist the Government in formulating national policies and provide guiding principles for foreign relations.

Dissolution of the Assembly

The NA is dissolved at the expiration of its five-year term, but its mandate can be terminated earlier by the President upon the advice of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The President may also dissolve the NA at his/her own discretion if a motion of no-confidence is passed against the incumbent Prime Minister and no other member of the Assembly commands the confidence of a majority of members.[6] The term of the current NA is set to expire on 18 March 2013.

By-Elections

When a seat in the NA becomes vacant due to death, resignation or disqualification of a member, a by-election is held in the respective constituency within 60 days.[7] However, if a seat becomes vacant within 120 days of the expiration of the term no by-election will be held. [8] When a seat reserved for women or non-Muslims in the NA or a Provincial Assemblies falls vacant it is filled by the next person in order of preference from the list of the candidates submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan for the most recent General Election by the party whose member vacated the seat.

Candidates are allowed to run in multiple constituencies simultaneously, leading to a situation in which some candidates win seats in more than one constituency. When this happens, the candidate must resign from all but one constituency and by-elections will be held for the now vacant seats. As a result, there several by-elections immediately following General Elections. Thirty by-elections have been held for the NA since 2008.[9]

Figure 2: Political Party Representation in the Current National Assembly as of 23 October 2012[10]

Political Party

Total Seats

Female MNA

Male

MNA

Government Coalition

 

 

 

PPPP- Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian

125

33

92

PML (Q)- Pakistan Muslim League

50

13

37

MQM- Muttahida Quami Movement

25

6

19

ANP- Awami National Party

13

3

10

PML (F)- Pakistan Muslim League Functional

5

1

4

Independent Candidates from FATA

11

-

11

Opposition

 

 

 

PML (N)- Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz

92

20

72

JUI (F)- Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl[11]

8

1

7

NPP- National Peoples Party

1

-

1

BNP (Awami)- Balochistan National Party (Awami)

1

-

1

PPP (Sherpao)

1

-

1

Independent

7

1

6

Vacant Seats

3[12]

 

 

Grand Total

342

78

261

 


[1] The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan—Article 50.

[2] P.O. No. 14 of 1985

[3] The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan—Article 51.

[4] Article 51 of the Constitution

[5] The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan—Article 51.

[6] The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan—Article 58.

[7] The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan—Article 224.

[8] The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan—Article 224.

[9] As of 17 October 2012

[10] Due to by-elections the composition of the National Assembly changes frequently

[11] JUI(F) was previously part of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan (MMAP). The National Assembly website shows seats won by JUI(F) as belonging to MMAP.

[12]  The seat in NA-42 Tribal Area-VII has remained vacant since the dissolution of the last National Assembly due to security reasons and migration of residents. By-elections have been scheduled for 17 November 2012 for NA-107 Gujrat-IV and NA-162 Sahiwal-III.