Pakistan: Brief History

                       The Beginning 1947 - 1969:

The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5,000 years, spread over much of what is presently Pakistan. During the second millennium B.C., remnants of this culture fused with the migrating Indo-Aryan peoples. The area underwent successive invasions in subsequent centuries from the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs (who brought Islam), Afghans, and Turks. The Mughal Empire flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries; the British came to dominate the region in the 18th century. The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with West and East sections) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved. With the death in 1948 of its first head of state, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the assassination in 1951 of its first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, political instability and economic difficulty became prominent features of post-independence Pakistan. On October 7, 1958, President Iskander Mirza, with the support of the army, suspended the 1956 constitution, imposed martial law, and canceled the elections scheduled for January 1959. Twenty days later the military sent Mirza into exile in Britain and Gen. Mohammad Ayub Khan assumed control of a military dictatorship. After Pakistan's loss in the 1965 war against India, Ayub Khan's power declined. Subsequent political and economic grievances inspired agitation movements that compelled his resignation in March 1969. He handed over responsibility for governing to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, who became President and Chief Martial Law Administrator. 

Emergence of the Pakistan Peoples Party 1970 - 1976

General elections held in December 1970 polarized relations between the eastern and western sections of Pakistan. The Awami League, which advocated autonomy for the more populous East Pakistan, swept the East Pakistan seats to gain a majority in Pakistan as a whole. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), founded and led by Ayub Khan's former Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, won a majority of the seats in West Pakistan, but the country was completely split with neither major party having any support in the other area. Negotiations to form a coalition government broke down and a civil war ensued. India attacked East Pakistan and captured Dhaka in December 1971, when the eastern section declared itself the independent nation of Bangladesh. Yahya Khan then resigned the presidency and handed over leadership of the western part of Pakistan to Bhutto, who became President and the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator. 
Bhutto moved decisively to restore national confidence and pursued an active foreign policy, taking a leading role in Islamic and Third World forums. Although Pakistan did not formally join the non-aligned movement until 1979, the position of the Bhutto government coincided largely with that of the non-aligned nations. Domestically, Bhutto pursued a populist agenda and nationalized major industries and the banking system. In 1973, he promulgated a new constitution accepted by most political elements and relinquished the presidency to become Prime Minister. Although Bhutto continued his populist and socialist rhetoric, he increasingly relied on Pakistan's urban industrialists and rural landlords. Over time the economy stagnated, largely as a result of the dislocation and uncertainty produced by Bhutto's frequently changing economic policies.

The Zia Era 1977 - 1988

When Bhutto proclaimed his own victory in the March 1977 national elections, the opposition Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) denounced the results as fraudulent and demanded new elections. Bhutto resisted and later arrested the PNA leadership. 
When the anti-government unrest increased, the all time powerful Army of Pakistan decided to take the opportunity to intervene. On July 5, 1977, the military sacked the elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto from power and arrested him, declared martial law, and suspended portions of the 1973 constitution. Chief of Army Staff Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq declared himself a Chief Martial Law Administrator and promised to hold new elections within three months. 
Zia released Bhutto and asserted that he could contest new elections scheduled for October 1977 with the hope that Bhotto will lose the elections by massive rigging and Zia will be able to bring his favorites in the government. However, after it became clear that Bhutto's popularity had survived his government, Zia postponed the elections and began criminal investigations of the senior PPP leadership. Subsequently, Bhutto was convicted and sentenced to death for alleged conspiracy to murder a political opponent. Despite international appeals on his behalf, Bhutto was hanged on April 6, 1979. 
Zia assumed the Presidency and called for elections again in November 1979. However, fearful of a PPP victory, Zia banned political activity in October 1979 and postponed national elections for the unlimited period. 
In 1980, most center and left parties, led by the PPP, formed the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). The MRD demanded Zia's resignation, an end to martial law, new elections, and restoration of the constitution as it existed before Zia's takeover. In early December 1984, President Zia proclaimed a national referendum for December 19 on his "Islamization" program. He implicitly linked approval of "Islamization" with a mandate for his continued presidency. Zia's opponents, led by the MRD, boycotted the elections. When the government claimed a 63% turnout, with more than 90% approving the referendum, many observers questioned these figures. 
On March 3, 1985, General Zia proclaimed constitutional changes designed to increase the power of the President vis-a-vis the Prime Minister (under the 1973 constitution the President had been mainly a figurehead). Subsequently, Zia nominated Muhammad Khan Junejo, a Muslim League member, as Prime Minister. The new National Assembly unanimously endorsed Junejo as Prime Minister and, in October 1985, passed Zia's proposed eighth amendment to the constitution, legitimizing the actions of the martial law government, exempting them from judicial review (including decisions of the military courts), and enhancing the powers of the President. 
On December 30, 1985, General Zia removed martial law and restored the fundamental rights safeguarded under the constitution. He also lifted the Bhutto government's declaration of emergency powers. The first months of 1986 witnessed a rebirth of political activity throughout Pakistan. All parties -- including those continuing to deny the legitimacy of the Zia/Junejo government -- were permitted to organize and hold rallies. In April 1986, PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, returned to Pakistan from exile in Europe. 
Following the lifting of martial law, the increasing political independence of Prime Minister Junejo and his differences with Zia over Afghan policy resulted in tensions between them. On May 29, 1988, General Zia dismissed the Junejo government and called for November elections. In June, Zia proclaimed the supremacy in Pakistan of Shari'a (Islamic law), by which all civil law had to conform to traditional Muslim edicts. 
On August 17, a plane carrying General Zia, American Ambassador Arnold Raphel, U.S. Brig. General Herbert Wassom, and 28 Pakistani military officers crashed on a return flight from a military equipment trial near Bahawalpur, killing all of its occupants. 

Road to Democracy 1988 – 1990

In accordance with the constitution, Chairman of the Senate Ghulam Ishaq Khan became Acting President and announced that elections scheduled for November 1988 would take place. 
After winning 93 of the 205 National Assembly seats contested, the PPP, under the leadership of Benazir Bhutto, formed a coalition government with several smaller parties, including the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM). The Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI), a multi-party coalition led by the PML and including religious right parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), won 55 National Assembly seats. 
Differing interpretations of constitutional authority, debates over the powers of the central government relative to those of the provinces, and the antagonistic relationship between the Bhutto Administration and opposition governments in Punjab and Balochistan seriously impeded social and economic reform programs. Ethnic conflict, primarily in Sindh province, exacerbated these problems. A fragmentation in the governing coalition and the military's reluctance to support an apparently ineffectual and corrupt government were accompanied by a significant deterioration in law and order. 
In August 1990, President Khan, citing his powers under the eighth amendment to the constitution, dismissed the Bhutto government and dissolved the national and provincial assemblies. New elections, held in October of 1990, confirmed the political ascendancy of the IJI. In addition to a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, the alliance acquired control of all four provincial parliaments and enjoyed the support of the military and of President Khan. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, as leader of the PML, the most prominent Party in the IJI, was elected Prime Minister by the National Assembly. 

Muhammad Nawaz Sharif 1990 - 1995

Sharif emerged as the most secure and powerful Pakistani Prime Minister since the mid-1970s. Under his rule, the IJI achieved several important political victories. The implementation of Sharif's economic reform program, involving privatization, deregulation, and encouragement of private sector economic growth, greatly improved Pakistan's economic performance and business climate. The passage into law in May 1991 of a Shari'a bill, providing for widespread Islamization, legitimized the IJI government among much of Pakistani society. 
After PML President Junejo's death in March 1993, Sharif loyalists unilaterally nominated him as the next party leader. Consequently, the PML divided into the PML Nawaz (PML/N) group, loyal to the Prime Minister, and the PML Junejo group (PML/J), supportive of Hamid Nasir Chatta, the President of the PML/J group. 
However, Nawaz Sharif was not able to reconcile the different objectives of the IJI's constituent parties. The largest religious party, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), abandoned the alliance because of its perception of PML hegemony. The regime was weakened further by the military's suppression of the MQM, which had entered into a coalition with the IJI to contain PPP influence, and allegations of corruption directed at Nawaz Sharif. In April 1993, President Khan, citing "maladministration, corruption, and nepotism" and espousal of political violence, dismissed the Sharif government, but the following month the Pakistan Supreme Court reinstated the National Assembly and the Nawaz Sharif government. Continued tensions between Sharif and Khan resulted in governmental gridlock and the Chief of Army Staff brokered an arrangement under which both the President and the Prime Minister resigned their offices in July 1993. 
An interim government, headed by Moeen Qureshi, a former World Bank Vice President, took office with a mandate to hold national and provincial parliamentary elections in October. Despite its brief term, the Qureshi government adopted political, economic, and social reforms that generated considerable domestic support and foreign admiration. 
In the October 1993 elections, the PPP won a plurality of seats in the National Assembly and Benazir Bhutto was asked to form a government. However, because it did not acquire a majority in the National Assembly, the PPP's control of the government depended upon the continued support of numerous independent parties, particularly the PML/J. The unfavorable circumstances surrounding PPP rule -- the imperative of preserving a coalition government, the formidable opposition of Nawaz Sharif's PML/N movement, and the insecure provincial administrations -- presented significant difficulties for the government of Prime Minister Bhutto. However, the election of Prime Minister Bhutto's close associate, Farooq Leghari, as President in November 1993 gave her a stronger power base. 

Re-emergence of Mohammad Nawaz Sharief 1996 - 1998

In November 1996, President Leghari dismissed the Bhutto government, charging it with corruption, mismanagement of the economy, and implication in extra-judicial killings in Karachi. Elections in February 1997 resulted in an overwhelming victory for the PML/Nawaz, and President Leghari called upon Nawaz Sharif to form a government. In March 1997, with the unanimous support of the National Assembly, Sharif amended the constitution, stripping the President of the power to dismiss the government and making his power to appoint military service chiefs and provincial governors contingent on the "advice" of the Prime Minister. Another amendment prohibited elected members from "floor crossing" or voting against party lines. The Sharif government engaged in a protracted dispute with the judiciary, culminating in the storming of the Supreme Court by ruling party loyalists and the engineered dismissal of the Chief Justice and the resignation of President Leghari in December 1997. The new President elected by Parliament, Rafiq Tarar, was a close associate of the Prime Minister. A one-sided accountability campaign was used to target opposition politicians and critics of the regime. Similarly, the government moved to restrict press criticism and ordered the arrest and beating of prominent journalists. 
As domestic criticism of Sharif's administration intensified, Sharif attempted to replace Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999, with a family loyalist, Director General ISI Lt. Gen. Ziauddin. Although General Musharraf was out of the country at the time, the Army moved quickly to depose Sharif. In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998. 

The military Coup 1999 - 2006

Following the October 12, 1999 nonviolent coup and subsequent ouster of the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the military-led government stated its intention to restructure the political and electoral systems. On October 14, 1999, General Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency and issued the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), which suspended the federal and provincial Parliaments, held the Constitution in abeyance, and designated Musharraf as Chief Executive. Musharraf appointed an eight-member National Security Council to function as Pakistan's supreme governing body, with mixed military/civilian appointees; a civilian Cabinet; and a National Reconstruction Bureau to formulate structural reforms. On May 12, 2000, Pakistan's Supreme Court unanimously validated the October 1999 coup and granted Musharraf executive and legislative authority for 3 additional years. On June 20, 2001, Musharraf named himself as president and was sworn in. After the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on September 11, 2001, Musharraf pledged complete cooperation with the United States in counterterrorism efforts, which included locating and shutting down terrorist training camps within Pakistan's borders, cracking down on extremist groups and withdrawing support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In a referendum held on April 30, 2002, Musharraf's presidency was extended by 5 more years. The handover from military to civilian rule came with parliamentary elections in November 2002, and the appointment of a civilian prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. Having previously promised to give up his army post and become a civilian president, General Musharraf announced in late 2004 that he would retain his military role. In August 2004, Shaukat Aziz was sworn in as prime minister, having won a parliamentary vote of confidence, 191 of 342 votes, in which the opposition abstained.

The Suspension of the Chief Justice 2007-2008

On October 6, 2007, Musharraf was elected president for a 5-year term. On November 4 he declared a state of emergency, suspending the country’s Constitution and firing the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. In November 2007, Musharraf also relinquished his army post.
After the conclusion of a 3-month-long state of emergency, legislative elections were held in February 2008. The elections brought to power former opposition parties, led by the PPP, in a coalition government; Yousuf Gilani was elected prime minister and head of government on March 24, 2008. Musharraf resigned as president on August 18, 2008, as the Parliament prepared for impeachment proceedings. Of the 13 Supreme Court justices whom Musharraf dismissed in November 2007, by the end of 2008, the new government reinstated five under a fresh oath of office. Three other judges either retired or resigned and five remained off the bench. The newly elected government also removed media restrictions adopted during the 2007 state of emergency and lifted curbs on unions imposed during Musharraf’s tenure.
On September 6, 2008, Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto, was elected president and head of state.

The PPP-led Coalition Government 2009 - 2012

The PPP-led coalition government moved forward on long-awaited constitutional reforms. In particular, on April 19, 2010, Zardari signed into law the 18th Amendment to the Pakistani Constitution. The amendment realigns executive powers by restoring the prime minister as the premier civilian official and returning the presidency to its original, more ceremonial role as head of state, which largely eliminates constitutional changes made by General Musharraf to strengthen the presidency. The reform package also abolishes the two-term limit on prime ministers; restricts the president’s power over judicial appointments; and reorganizes center-province relations, empowering provincial assemblies to elect their own chief ministers. The amendment also renamed the North-West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which means “Khyber side of the land of the Pakhtuns,” in a nod to the region’s ethnic Pashtun majority.
In Pakistan, the president is chosen for a 5-year term by an electoral college consisting of the Senate, National Assembly, and the provincial assemblies. The prime minister is selected by the National Assembly for a 4-year term. The bicameral parliament--or Majlis-e-Shoora--consists of the Senate (100 seats; members are indirectly elected by provincial assemblies) and the National Assembly (342 seats; 60 seats reserved for women, 10 seats reserved for minorities). Each of the four provinces--Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan--has a Chief Minister and provincial assembly. The Northern Areas, Azad Kashmir, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are administered by the federal government but enjoy considerable autonomy. The cabinet, National Security Council, and governors serve at the president's discretion.

The judicial system comprises a Supreme Court, provincial high courts, and Federal Islamic (or Shari'a) Court. The Supreme Court is Pakistan's highest court. With the 18th Amendment now in place, the president names the most senior Supreme Court justice to be chief justice; also, the courts’ and Parliament’s influence are increased through a new judicial commission to oversee judges’ appointments. Each province, as well as Islamabad, has a high court, the justices of which are appointed by the president after conferring with the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the provincial chief justice. The judiciary is proscribed from issuing any order contrary to the decisions of the president. Federal Sharia Court hears cases that primarily involve Sharia, or Islamic law. Legislation enacted in 1991 gave legal status to Sharia. Although Sharia was declared the law of the land, it did not replace the existing legal code.

According to the constitution, Pakistan is a federation of four provinces: Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. Governors appointed by the president head the provinces. There is also the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), comprised of seven agencies, and the Islamabad Capital Territory, which consists of the capital city of Islamabad. These areas and territory are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The Northern Areas are administered as a de facto "Union Territory" and are treated as an integral part of Pakistan. The Pakistani-administered portion of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region includes Azad Kashmir, a separate and autonomous government that maintains strong ties to Pakistan.

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The Politics in Pakistan