Politics of Pakistan - Political Background

Political Background

Pakistan has been ruled by both democratic and military governments. The first decade was marred with political unrest and instability resulting in frequent collapses of civilian democratic governments. Since 1947 till present now, Pakistan has been governed by various of both right-wing conservative governments and left-wing socialistic oriented governments, while neither far-right and far-left had failed to achieve enough majority to claim the exclusive mandate.

From 1947 to 1958 as many as seven Prime Ministers of Pakistan either resigned or were ousted. This political instability paved the way for Pakistan’s first military take over. On October 7, 1958 Pakistan’s civilian and first President Iskander Mirza in collaboration with General Mohammad Ayub Khan abrogated Pakistan’s constitution and declared Martial Law.

General Ayub Khan was the president from 1958 to 1969, and General Yahya Khan from 1969 to 1971, Chief Justice Habib Khan Marvath elected first Chairman Senate of Pakistan. Civilian, yet socialist-oriented autocratic, rule continued from 1972 to 1977 under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but he was deposed by General Zia-Ul-Haq. General Zia was killed in a plane crash in 1988, after which Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was elected as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was the youngest woman ever to be elected the Head of Government and the first woman to be elected as the Head of Government of a Muslim country. Her government was followed by that of Nawaz Sharif, and the two leaders alternated until the military coup by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999. From the resignation of President Rafiq Tarar in 2001, to his own resignation in 2008, Musharraf was the President of Pakistan. In 2008, Asif Ali Zardari was elected president.

Nation-wide parliamentary elections were held in October 2002, with the PML-Q winning a plurality of seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan, and Zafarullah Khan Jamali of that party emerging as Prime Minister. Jamali resigned on June 26, 2004. PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain became interim PM, and was succeeded by Finance Minister and former Citibank Vice President Shaukat Aziz, who was elected Prime Minister on August 27, 2004 by a National Assembly vote of 191 to 151.

In the October 2002 general elections, the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), a sub-party of the PPP, won a plurality of National Assembly seats with the second-largest group being the General Musharraf sponsored Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q). The military regime as opposed to democratic precedent refused to extend an invite to the PPPP to prove majority and install its Prime Minister. The regime further suspended articles of Constitution to allow floor-crossing across party lines engaging in a buy-out of members of opposition party. Thus after the defection of ten PPPP members from Punjab rechristening themselves as the Pakistan Peoples Party Patriots; Zafarullah Khan Jamali of PML-Q emerged as Prime Minister but resigned on 26 June 2004 and was replaced by PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as interim Prime Minister. On 28 August 2004 the National Assembly voted 191 to 151 to elect the Finance Minister and former Citibank Vice President Shaukat Aziz as Prime Minister. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of Islamic religious parties, won elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and increased their representation in the National Assembly - until their defeat in the 2008 elections.

The Pakistan's federal cabinet on April 12, 2006 decided that general elections would be held after the completion of the assemblies constitutional term by the end of 2007 or beginning of 2008.

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