Table of Contents
Overview of Article 159 of the Constitution of Pakistan
The Constitution of Pakistan, enacted in 1973, serves as the legal bedrock shaping the nation’s governance. Within its pages lies Article 159, a pivotal section that intricately balances the powers of the Federal Government and Provincial Governments concerning broadcasting and telecasting. This article unfolds a narrative of cooperation, delegation, and autonomy in the realm of media communication.
Article 159 States
159. Broadcasting and telecasting
- The Federal Government shall not unreasonably refuse to entrust to a Provincial Government such functions with respect to broadcasting and telecasting as may be necessary to enable that Government-
- to construct and use transmitters in the Province; and
- to regulate and impose fees in respect of, the construction and use of transmitters and the use of receiving apparatus in the Province:
- Provided that nothing in this clause shall be construed as requiring the Federal Government to entrust to any Provincial Government any control over the use of transmitters constructed or maintained by the Federal Government or by persons authorised by the Federal Government, or over the use of receiving apparatus by person so authorised.
- Any functions so entrusted to a Provincial Government shall be exercised subject to such conditions as may be imposed by the Federal Government, including, notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution, any conditions with respect to finance, but it shall not be lawful for the Federal Government so to impose any conditions regulating the matter broadcast or telecast by, or by authority of, the Provincial Government.
- Any Federal law with respect to broadcasting and telecasting shall be such as to secure that effect can be given to the foregoing provisions of this Article.
- If any question arises whether any conditions imposed on any Provincial Government are lawfully imposed, or whether any refusal by the Federal Government to entrust functions is unreasonable, the question shall be determined by an arbitrator appointed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
- Nothing in this article shall be construed as restricting the powers of the Federal Government under the Constitution for the prevention of any grave menace to the peace or tranquility of Pakistan or any part thereof.
Key Points of Article 159 of the Constitution of Pakistan
- Delegation of Functions: The cornerstone of Article 159 lies in the delegation of broadcasting and telecasting functions to Provincial Governments. This involves the construction and operation of transmitters within the provincial boundaries.
- Regulation and Fees: Provincial Governments, once entrusted with these functions, are empowered to regulate and impose fees on the construction and usage of transmitters, as well as on the use of receiving apparatus within their territories.
- Federal Conditions: While Provincial Governments enjoy delegated powers, the Federal Government retains the authority to impose conditions on the exercise of these powers. This includes financial conditions. However, the article explicitly bars the Federal Government from dictating the content broadcast or telecast by Provincial Governments.
- Arbitration Mechanism: In the event of disputes regarding the lawfulness of imposed conditions or the reasonableness of the Federal Government’s refusal to delegate functions, an arbitrator appointed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan is tasked with resolving the matter.
- National Security Exception: Article 159 acknowledges the paramount importance of national security by exempting the Federal Government from restrictions when acting to prevent a serious threat to the peace or tranquility of Pakistan.
Crux of Article 159 of the Constitution of Pakistan
At its core, Article 159 reflects a delicate dance between federal supremacy and provincial autonomy. By granting provinces the authority to manage certain aspects of broadcasting and telecasting, it acknowledges the diverse needs and perspectives across the nation. Simultaneously, it safeguards national interests, particularly in matters of security, through the retention of key controls by the Federal Government.
This constitutional provision mirrors the broader ethos of the 1973 Constitution, which sought to establish a federal structure where power is distributed between the central and provincial governments. It recognizes the importance of local governance in shaping media landscapes while preventing any compromise on overarching national interests.
Conclusion: Article 159 of the Constitution of Pakistan
In conclusion, Article 159 stands as a testament to the thoughtful equilibrium sought by the framers of the 1973 Constitution. It offers a framework for cooperative governance in the dynamic field of broadcasting and telecasting. The delegation of powers to provinces, subject to reasonable conditions, fosters a sense of regional ownership and responsiveness to local needs.
However, the careful carve-outs, including the proviso and the national security exception, demonstrate a pragmatic approach. They acknowledge the necessity of central oversight, especially in matters critical to the nation’s stability. Article 159 thus embodies the spirit of unity in diversity, ensuring that while provinces have a say in their media affairs, the nation remains steadfast in safeguarding its collective interests. As we navigate the intricate tapestry of the 1973 constitution of Pakistan, Article 159 emerges as a critical thread weaving together the principles of federalism, autonomy, and national security.