Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan

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The Constitution (Thirteenth Amendment) Act, 1997 was an amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan passed in 1997 by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It stripped the President of Pakistan of his right or reserve power to dissolve the National Assembly, call for new elections, and dismiss the Prime Minister.

In Pakistan, once legislators are elected to national or provincial assemblies, the people cannot recall them before the end of their five-year terms. In the past, this has contributed to a sense of immunity on the part of members of the ruling party, and to rampant corruption among leading politicians.

The combined effect of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments was to take away institutional Checks and Balances on the Prime Minister's power, giving him immunity from being legally dismissed.

Nawaz Sharif's government became increasingly unpopular after the passage of these amendments, even though it was the election of his Pakistan Muslim League by a heavy majority that enabled him to alter the Constitution in the first place. The storming of the Supreme Court by political-party goons in 1997, and the forced resignation of the Chief Justice, strengthened the perception that the country was becoming a civilian dictatorship.

In 1999, Pervez Musharraf assumed power in a military coup. Among the reasons he gave for doing so were the destruction of institutional checks and balances, and the prevailing corruption in the political leadership. The coup was widely welcomed in Pakistan, and the Supreme Court later validated it on the grounds that a situation had arisen for which the Constitution had no remedy, the Thirteenth Amendment having removed a constitutional means of dismissing an unpopular Prime Minister.

In October 2002, elections were held in Pakistan. In December 2003, Parliament passed the Seventeenth Amendment, which partially restored the reserve power of the Presidency, but made it subject to Supreme Court approval.

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