The same reason which induced the Romans to have two consuls, makes it desirable there should be two chambers: that neither of them may be exposed to the corrupting influence of undivided power, even for the space of a single year.\" John Stuart Mill.
A peep into the political history of the world reveals that the ancient Roman Empire had a bicameral political structure as early as the Sixth Century BC. The popular assemblies of the ancient Roman Empire were known as Comitia whereas the second chamber was called the Senate, a nomenclature in vogue even today in most of the countries having a bicameral political disposition. The Senate proved to be the most enduring element in the Roman government, surviving about 1200 years, from the sixth century BC to the end of the Roman Empire in 580 AD.
In the modern times, the earliest trace of bicameralism can be found in England towards the end of the thirteenth century. It began with the institution of a Chamber for high aristocracy and brought together the feudal aristocracy and the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, an arrangement which still exists in England although the aristocratic character of the House of Lords has been slightly reduced by the appointment of life Peers.
Gradually, in addition to North America, almost all democracies in the mainland Europe and some of the British dominions adopted bicameralism by the first decade of the twentieth century, Notable countries amongst this group include France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Holland and British dominions of South Africa, Australia, Canada and India.
At the close of the twentieth century, we find that the trend for bicameralism is on the increase and 61 Parliaments in the world today have two chambers whereas the remaining about 120 Parliaments are unicameral in character.
Advent in South Asia
The Government of India Act, 1919 provided for a bicameral legislature in place of the Imperial Council consisting of one chamber. The names of the two houses of the parliament were the Central Legislative Assembly and the Council of States. After the first reference to bicameralism in the montage Chelmesford Reforms of 1918, it continued to figure in all following constitutional reports/acts, including the Simon Commission Report and the Government of India Act, 1935.
The interesting feature of bicameralism provided in the Act of 1935 was that the members of the Second Chamber (The Council of States) were to be elected directly whereas the elections for the Federal Assembly were to be held indirectly.
The Objectives Resolution passed by the first constituent assembly of Pakistan on 12 March, 1949 provided for the federal system, but left it to the assembly to decide about the system of government and the nature of parliament. However, the constituent assembly appointed a Basic Principles Committee on 12 march, 1949 to devise a federal constitution.
The first report of the Basic Principles Committee was presented on 28 September, 1950. It provided that there should be a central legislature with two houses. It further Laid down that the two houses should have equal powers and in case of dispute on any question.
A joint sifting of both the houses should be summoned for taking the final decision thereon.
The upper house, known as the House of Units, was to consist of an equal number of representatives from all the provinces while the lower house was expected to give representation on population basis. Thus the first draft provided for a bicameral system with equal representation of various units in the upper house and equality of powers between the two houses.
The second draft of the committee was presented to the constituent assembly by the then Prime Minister, Khawaja Nazimuddin, on 22 December, 1952. The proposed federal legislature, under the second draft, had to comprise of two houses as in the first draft. The house of Units was to consist of 120 members and the House of People was allocated 400 seats. The seats of the both houses were equally divided between the two wings of the country.
The term of each house was fixed at five years. Both were given equal powers, but the money bills had to originate in the lower House only. In case of any conflict between the Houses, the joint sittings of both the Houses were provided for in which simple majority would decide the issue. With regard to the amending process, it was provided that the Constitution would be amended with the agreement of both the central and provincial legislatures subject, however, to certain conditions.
The publication of the report containing the second draft resulted in an unending controversy which centered around the nature of the federal structure, particularly the quantum of representation of the eastern and western wing of the country.
After the dismissal of Khawaja Nazimuddin’s government, Muhammad Ali Bogra was appointed Prime Minister in 1953. He considered it as one of his principal tasks to overcome the constitutional deadlock. He was soon successful in achieving a compromise on the issue of representation between East and West Pakistan in the federal legislature. His formula known as the Mohammad Au. Formula was presented to the Constituents Assembly on 7 October, 1953 and subsequently adopted by the Assembly before it was dissolved in October 1954.
The Mohammad Ali Formula reads as follows:
The federal legislature should be composed of two Houses; the House of Units and the House of the People. The total strength of the House of Units would be fifty, to be equally divided among the five units, viz the East Bengal; Punjab; North-West Frontier Province, Frontier States, and tribal areas; Sindh and Khairpur; Baluchistan, Baluchistan States Union, Capital of the Federation (Karachi) and the State of Bahawalpur.
The House of Units would be elected indirectly by the legislatures of the units, and where there was no legislature the system of election was to be determined by an act of the federal legislature.
There was provision for a joint session of the two Houses for the election of the Head of the State and for disposal of the votes of confidence. Decisions were to be made by a simple majority, provided however that such a majority must include at least thirty per cent of the members for each zone, i.e. East and West Pakistan.
In case of a difference of opinion between the two Houses, a joint session would be called, and the measure might then be passed by the majority vote, provided that the majority included thirty per cent of the members from each zone. If the difference could not be resolved, the formula originally provided that the head of the State could dissolve the legislature, but this clause was amended when the formula was adopted by the Constituent Assembly.
Similarly, the provision that the Head of the State would be elected from a zone different from that to which the Prime Minister would belong was also amended. The formula, however, brought some improvements compared with the first and second drafts of the Basic Principles Committee; while it maintained the principle of parity between East and West Pakistan it made a substantial departure from the parity clause of the second draft.
The distribution of seats in the upper House was made in accordance with the geographical facts of the country. As West Pakistan had the major part of the country\'s territory. It was given a clear majority in the House of Units. In the lower House, East Pakistan having the majority of the country\'s population, got a clear majority of seats in accordance with the democratic principle.
But the distribution of seats in the two Houses combined was made in such a way as to ensure parity between East and West Pakistan. Each zone got 175 seats in the joint session of the two Houses, and it was at the joint session that the issues of controversial nature were likely to be decided. By providing for a minimum vote of thirty per cent for each zone at the joint session, the formula sought to provide not only parity but interdependence of the two.
After the dissolution of the first constituent assembly in 1954, the second constituent assembly was indirectly elected by the provincial legislatures in 1955. The second constituent assembly produced results more quickly than its predecessor.
Its inaugural session took place in July 1955 and in January 1956 it presented draft constitution to the country which, with certain changes and amendments, was finally adopted in February 1956. The draft envisaged unicameral legislature to be called the National Assembly consisting of 300 members to be elected on the basis of parity between East and West Pakistan. The draft became the first Constitution of Pakistan.
After the proclamation of Martial Law in 1958, the assemblies were dissolved and the constitution was abrogated. The second Constitution was promulgated in 1962 and that also provided for unicameral legislature.
In January 1969, President Muhammad Ayub Khan resigned and second Martial Law was enforced.
The first ever direct elections in the history of Pakistan were held under the legal frame-work order of the then martial Law Administrator in December 1970. The eastern wing of the country seceded after the war in December 1971.
The Second Chamber
In 1972, all parliamentary parties reached an agreement on constitutional reforms envisaging two houses of Parliament; the National Assembly and the Senate. The main purpose for the creation of the Senate was to given equal representation to all the federating units since the membership of the National Assembly was determined on the population basis. It was, therefore after the introduction of 1972 Constitution, which was adopted on 12 April, 1972 that a bicameral Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) consisting of the National Assembly and the Senate, was constituted.
The Senate, which is popularly called the Upper House, primarily functions as a Legislative Body. It came into existence on 6 August, 1973, when the members took oath of the Office and signed the Roll of Members.
Senate, as a legislative body, derives equal representation from all the four federating units regardless of their size and population. The Senate of Pakistan is a permanent legislative institution and symbolizes a process of continuity in the national affair. About one-half of the members are elected for a six year term after every three years.
The Senate of Pakistan, ever since its inception in 1973, has played its parliamentary role with distinction and has always come up to the expectations of the people of Pakistan. The membership, which was originally restricted to 45, was raised to 63 in 1977 and was again enhanced to the present 87 by a constitutional amendment passed in 1985. The idea of the obligatory inclusion of 20 seats, reserved for the Ulema, Scholars, and Technocrats in the Senate, gave a new life, fervour and quality to the debates and proceedings of the Senate.
The continuation of the democratic process and the institutions after their restoration in 1985 has culminated into a parliamentary history which one should be genuinely proud of. The quality and standards of debate, contribution in bringing out quality legislation, accountability of the state machinery under successive governments and the most importantly the established committees system are the main visible parliamentary functions of which the nation might feel proud of the Upper House of its Parliament.
The past quarter of a century have witnessed certain inevitable ups and downs of which the imposition of Martial Law in 1977 was the worst when the Constitution of Pakistan experienced a rare concept of suspension and when the Senate - constitutionally a permanent body - had also to go dormant.
The period from 5 July, 1977 to 20 March, 1985 remains a big question mark as to why the nation was deprived of having in suspension the upper chamber of its Parliament, a House which the Constitution envisaged to be permanent in character, while it was still existing in the deep abyss created by the martial Law.
However, past 13 years have witnessed a gradual maturity in the business and proceedings of the Senate of Pakistan. It has held as many as 84 rewarding and fruitful sessions till early May and played its parliamentary role quite successfully and also to the satisfaction of the people. It has, as a permanent House of the Parliament of Pakistan, has held the banner of democratic norms high and represented the will and voice of the people of Pakistan even during the short intervals when the lower house i.e. the National Assembly, was not there in existence.
Contributed by \"SENATE OF PAKISTAN
To celebrate the \"Silver Jubilee of Senate of Pakistan 1973-98\" Pakistan Post Office is issuing a set of 2 stamps, denomination of Rs. 2/- & Rs. 5/- on August 6, 1998.