NationalVOLUME 19 ISSUE # 7

Constitutional guarantees vs. ground realities

In the pages of Pakistan’s Constitution, a robust framework of articles and clauses promises equal rights and protection to all citizens. However, the lived experiences of the common man narrate a different tale, one where the fear of eviction still lingers, preventing individuals from occupying seats freely. This dissonance between constitutional assurances and ground realities unveils the enduring struggle for true equality in the social fabric of Pakistan.

Ali Zafar Panwaar recounts an incident at a Lahore police station that transported him back almost 35 years. The memory harks back to a day when he boarded a Multan-bound train at Karachi Cantonment station. In that second-class compartment, an elderly Sindhi man entered, finding it unusually empty despite the typical crowd. Instead of taking a seat, the old man settled on the floor, prompting Panwaar to question this choice. The old man’s candid response revealed a deeply ingrained mindset – a fear of eviction, a residual impact of historical oppression by waderas and jagirdars, denying him the right to occupy a seat he rightfully paid for.

Panwaar reflects on how, even after 40 years of Pakistan’s existence, the oppressive legacy persisted. Fast forward 35 years, and Panwaar finds himself in a Lahore police station, seeking information about the robbery of his cellphone and wallet. Despite filing an FIR two weeks prior, the investigation officer focused solely on interrogating him. During this ordeal, an influential figure, a former naib nazim, arrived with his entourage. The investigation officer, eager to show deference, instructed Panwaar to vacate his seat for the “respectable guests.” When Panwaar resisted, the assistant sub-inspector was summoned to remove him, emphasizing the persisting social hierarchy.

This incident led Panwaar to question the real change in the rights of common citizens in Pakistan, even after 76 years of its creation and 50 years since the inception of the Constitution. Despite constitutional guarantees of equal rights, as stated in Article 25, the lived experiences of individuals like Panwaar suggest a stark contrast, where social status, religion, and connections continue to dictate unequal treatment and subjugation.

Besides it, fundamental rights are enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Chapter 1 of the Constitution contains articles about fundamental rights. Articles 8 to 28 of the Constitution deal with all fundamental rights provided to the citizens of Pakistan. The crux of these articles is as under:

  1. No person shall be deprived of life or liberty, save in accordance with law (article 9)
  2. Slavery, forced labour is prohibited and no child under the age of 14 year be employed in factories and mines.
  3. Freedom of movement to everyone
  4. Freedom of assembly for all citizens
  5. Freedom of association for all citizens
  6. There shall be freedom of trade, business and profession for all citizens.
  7. Freedom of speech for all citizens
  8. All citizens shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance under article 19A.
  9. Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institution in country
  10. All citizens have the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property in any part of Pakistan.
  11. All citizens are equal and there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex etc.
  12. Free and compulsory education to all children of age 5 to 16 by government


Despite the comprehensive set of articles and clauses in the Constitution of Pakistan that ostensibly guarantee rights to all citizens, the stark reality on the ground reveals a persistent disparity. The common man continues to harbor fears of sitting on a seat, anticipating potential eviction. Even when someone gathers the courage to occupy a seat, the threat of forceful removal looms large.

The chasm between constitutional promises and the lived experiences of citizens is evident. The constitutional framework, with its provisions ensuring equal rights and protection before the law, has not translated into a tangible transformation in societal attitudes and practices. The prevalence of such incidents, where individuals are forcibly ejected from seats based on social hierarchies or connections, underscores the enduring challenges in implementing and upholding the principles enshrined in the Constitution.

This disconcerting disjunction between legal guarantees and societal realities underscores the need for a concerted effort to bridge the gap between constitutional ideals and the everyday experiences of the common man. It prompts reflection on the efficacy of legal frameworks and their enforcement mechanisms in ensuring the genuine empowerment and protection of all citizens, regardless of their social standing or affiliations.

As we reflect on the constitutional promises, it becomes painfully clear that the ground situation has not undergone significant transformation. The common man’s reluctance to sit without fear and instances of forced eviction underline the persistent challenges in translating legal guarantees into tangible societal change. Bridging this gap requires a collective effort to dismantle entrenched hierarchies and ensure that the principles enshrined in the Constitution become a lived reality for every citizen, fostering a society where equal rights are not just words on paper but a cornerstone of everyday life.


The writer is a physician by profession. She has worked as an intern at the Capital Health (New Jersey) & the Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital (New York). Rights and gender issues are the areas of special interest to her. She can be reached at: [email protected]