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A Transnational Actor on a Dramatic Stage – Sir Ivor Jennings and the Manipulation of Westminster Style Democracy: The Case of Pakistan


Across first Asia and then Africa new states rose from colonial rule in the post-war era that sought to build New Westminster constitutions. The Westminster model was the transnational trend after 1945 in constitution-making for much of the world emerging from colonial rule and was promoted by the Colonial Office, Indigenous leaders and constitutional advisers such as the ubiquitous Sir Ivor Jennings. However, this flexible and ambiguous regime type caused many political and constitutional crises that questioned the wisdom of applying Westminster to these states. Jennings worked across Africa and Asia including in Ceylon, Nepal, Malaya, Singapore, the Maldives, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Africa, and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It is Pakistan, however, that sticks out as Jennings’s most controversial role where he effectively, legally and politically, contentiously defended a “constitutional coup” by the Governor- General against the Constituent Assembly in 1954. The case also serves to demonstrate how the manipulation and divisive interpretations of Westminster conventions and institutions in the first decade of Pakistan led to the breakdown of democracy and laid conspicuous precedents for dictatorship and military rule, which have explanatory value in understanding the country’s prevalent fragility in embedding accountability and democracy.

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