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Default History of Pakistan after Independence

History of Pakistan after Independence


Early Governments and the Constitution of 1956

The first government of Pakistan was headed by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and it chose the seaport of Karāchi as its capital. Jinnah, considered the founder of Pakistan and hailed as the Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader), became head of state as governor-general. The government faced many challenges in setting up new economic, judicial, and political structures. It endeavored to organize the bureaucracy and the armed forces, resettle the Mohajirs (Muslim refugees from India), and establish the distribution and balance of power in the provincial and central governments. Undermining these efforts were provincial politicians who often defied the authority of the central government, and frequent communal riots. Before the government could surmount these difficulties, Jinnah died in September 1948.

In foreign policy, Liaquat established friendly relations with the United States when he visited President Harry S. Truman in 1950. Pakistan’s early foreign policy was one of nonalignment, with no formal commitment to either the United States or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the two major adversaries in the Cold War. In 1953, however, Pakistan aligned itself with the United States and accepted military and economic assistance.

Liaquat was assassinated in 1951. Khwaja Nazimuddin, an East Pakistani who had succeeded Jinnah as governor-general, became prime minister. Ghulam Muhammad became governor-general. Nazimuddin attempted to limit the powers of the governor-general through amendments to the Government of India Act of 1935, under which Pakistan was governed pending the adoption of a constitution. Ghulam Muhammad dismissed Nazimuddin and replaced him with Muhammad Ali Bogra, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, who subsequently was elected president of the Muslim League.

In the 1954 provincial elections in East Pakistan, the Muslim League was routed by the United Front coalition, which supported provincial autonomy. The coalition was dominated by the Awami League. However, Ghulam Muhammad imposed governor’s rule in the province, preventing the United Front from taking power in the provincial legislature. After the constituent assembly attempted to curb the governor-general’s power, Ghulam Muhammad declared a state of emergency and dissolved the assembly. A new constituent assembly was indirectly elected in mid-1955 by the various provincial legislatures. The Muslim League, although still the largest party, was no longer dominant as more parties, including those of the United Front coalition, gained representation. Bogra, who had little support in the new assembly, was replaced by Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, a former civil servant in West Pakistan and a member of the Muslim League. At the same time, General Iskander Mirza became governor-general.

The new constituent assembly enacted a bill, which became effective in October 1955, integrating the four West Pakistani provinces into one political and administrative unit, known as the One Unit. This change was designed to give West Pakistan parity with the more populous East Pakistan in the national legislature. The assembly also produced Pakistan’s first constitution, which was adopted on March 2, 1956. It provided for a unicameral (single-chamber) National Assembly with 300 seats, evenly divided between East and West Pakistan. It also officially designated Pakistan an Islamic republic. According to its provisions, Mirza’s title changed from governor-general to president.
Unstable Parliamentary Democracy

The new charter notwithstanding, political instability continued because no stable majority party emerged in the National Assembly. Prime Minister Ali remained in office only until September 1956, when he was unable to retain his majority in the National Assembly and was succeeded by Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, founder of the Awami League of East Pakistan. He formed a coalition cabinet that included the Awami League and the Republican Party of the West Wing, a new party that was formed by dissident members of the Muslim League. However, President Mirza forced Suhrawardy to resign after he discovered that the prime minister was planning to support Firoz Khan Noon, leader of the Republican Party, for the presidency in the country’s first general elections, scheduled for January 1959. The succeeding coalition government, headed by Ismail Ibrahim Chundrigar of the Muslim League, lasted only two months before it was replaced by a Republican Party cabinet under Noon.

President Mirza, realizing he had no chance of being reelected president and openly dissatisfied with parliamentary democracy, proclaimed martial law on October 7, 1958. He dismissed Noon’s government, dissolved the National Assembly, and canceled the scheduled general elections. Mirza was supported by General Muhammad Ayub Khan, commander in chief of the army, who was named chief martial-law administrator. Twenty days later Ayub forced the president to resign and assumed the presidency himself.

The Ayub Years

President Ayub ruled Pakistan almost absolutely for a little more than ten years. Although his regime made some notable achievements, it did not eliminate the basic problems of Pakistani society. Ayub’s regime increased developmental funds to East Pakistan more than threefold. This had a noticeable effect on the economy of the province, but the disparity between the two wings of Pakistan was not eliminated. His regime also initiated land reforms designed to reduce the political power of the landed aristocracy. Ayub also promulgated a progressive Islamic law, the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961, imposing restrictions on polygamy and divorce and reinforcing the inheritance rights of women and minors.

In 1959, soon after taking office, Ayub ordered the planning and construction of a new national capital, to replace Karachi. The chosen location of the new capital in the province of Punjab was close to the military headquarters of Rawalpindi which served as an interim capital. Islamabad officially became the new capital in 1967, although construction continued into the 1970s.

Perhaps the most pervasive of Ayub’s changes was his introduction of a new political system, known as the Basic Democracies, in 1959. It created a four-tiered system of mostly indirect representation in government, from the local to the national level, allowing communication between local communities and the highly centralized national government. Each tier was assigned certain responsibilities in local administration of agricultural and community development, such as maintenance of elementary schools, public roads, and bridges. All the councils at the tehsil (sub district), zilla (district), and division levels were indirectly elected. The lowest tier, on the village level, consisted of union councils. Members of the union councils were known as Basic Democrats and were the only members of any tier who were directly elected.

A new constitution promulgated by Ayub in 1962 ended the period of martial law. The new, 156-member National Assembly was elected that year by an electoral college of 120,000 Basic Democrats from the union councils. After the legislative elections political parties were again legalized. Ayub created the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) as the official government party. The presidential election of January 1965, also determined by electoral college rather than direct vote, resulted in a victory for Ayub, although opposition parties were allowed to participate.

Ayub was skillful in maintaining cordial relations with the United States, stimulating substantial economic and military aid to Pakistan. This relationship deteriorated in 1965, when another war with India broke out over Kashmīr. The United States then suspended military and economic aid to both countries. The USSR intervened to mediate the conflict, inviting Ayub and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India to meet in Toshkent (Tashkent). By the terms of the so-called Toshkent Agreement of January 1966, the two countries withdrew their forces to prewar positions and restored diplomatic, economic, and trade relations. Exchange programs were initiated, and the flow of capital goods to Pakistan increased greatly.

The Toshkent Agreement and the Kashmīr war, however, generated frustration among the people and resentment against President Ayub. Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who opposed Pakistan’s capitulation, resigned his position and founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in opposition to the Ayub regime. Ayub tried unsuccessfully to make amends, and amid mounting public protests he declared martial law and resigned in March 1969. Instead of transferring power to the speaker of the National Assembly, as the constitution dictated, he handed it over to the commander in chief of the army, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who was the designated martial-law administrator. Yahya then assumed the presidency.

Yahya Regime

In an attempt to make his martial-law regime more acceptable, Yahya dismissed almost 300 senior civil servants and identified 32 families that were said to control about half of Pakistan’s gross national product. To curb their power Yahya issued an ordinance against monopolies and restrictive trade practices in 1970. He also committed to the return of constitutional government and announced the country would hold its first general election on the basis of universal adult franchise in late 1970.

Yahya determined that representation in the National Assembly would be based on population. In July 1970 he abolished the One Unit, thereby restoring the original four provinces in West Pakistan. As a result, East Pakistan emerged as the largest province of the country, while in West Pakistan the province of Punjab emerged as the dominant province. East Pakistan was allocated 162 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly, and the provinces of West Pakistan were allocated a total of 138.

G Civil War

The election campaign intensified divisions between East and West Pakistan. A challenge to Pakistan’s unity emerged in East Pakistan when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (“Mujib”), leader of the Awami League, insisted on a federation under which East Pakistan would be virtually independent. He envisaged a federal government that would deal with defense and foreign affairs only; even the currencies would be different, although freely convertible.

Mujib’s program had great appeal for many East Pakistanis, and in the December 1970 election called by Yahya, he won by a landslide in East Pakistan, capturing 160 seats in the National Assembly. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) emerged as the largest party in West Pakistan, capturing 81 seats (predominantly in Punjab and Sind). This gave the Awami League an absolute majority in the National Assembly, a turn of events that was considered unacceptable by political interests in West Pakistan because of the divided political climate of the country. The Awami League adopted an uncompromising stance, however, and negotiations between the various sides became deadlocked.

Suspecting Mujib of secessionist politics, Yahya in March 1971 postponed indefinitely the convening of the National Assembly. Mujib in return accused Yahya of collusion with Bhutto and established a virtually independent government in East Pakistan. Yahya opened negotiations with Mujib in Dhaka in mid-March, but the effort soon failed. Meanwhile Pakistan’s army went into action against Mujib’s civilian followers, who demanded that East Pakistan become independent as the nation of Bangladesh.

There were many casualties during the ensuing military operations in East Pakistan, as the Pakistani army attacked the poorly armed population. India claimed that nearly 10 million Bengali refugees crossed its borders, and stories of West Pakistani atrocities abounded. The Awami League leaders took refuge in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and established a government in exile. India finally intervened on December 3, 1971, and the Pakistani army surrendered 13 days later. East Pakistan declared its independence as Bangladesh.

Yahya resigned, and on December 20 Bhutto was inaugurated as president and chief martial law administrator of a truncated Pakistan. Mujib became the first prime minister of Bangladesh in January 1972. When the Commonwealth of Nations admitted Bangladesh later that year, Pakistan withdrew its membership, not to return until 1989. However, the Bhutto government gave diplomatic recognition to Bangladesh in 1974.

The Bhutto Government

Under Bhutto’s leadership Pakistan began to rearrange its national life. Bhutto nationalized the basic industries, insurance companies, domestically owned banks, and schools and colleges. He also instituted land reforms that benefited tenants and middle-class farmers. He removed the armed forces from the process of decision making, but to placate the generals he allocated about 6 percent of the gross national product to defense. In July 1972 Bhutto negotiated the Simla Agreement, which confirmed a line of control dividing Kashmīr and prompted the withdrawal of Indian troops from Pakistani territory.

In April 1972 Bhutto lifted martial law and convened the National Assembly, which consisted of members elected from West Pakistan in 1970. After much political debate, the legislature drafted the country’s third constitution, which was promulgated on August 14, 1973. It changed the National Assembly into a two-chamber legislature, with a Senate as the upper house and a National Assembly as the lower house. It designated the prime minister as the most powerful government official, but it also set up a formal parliamentary system in which the executive was responsible to the legislature. Bhutto became prime minister, and Fazal Elahi Chaudry replaced him as president.

Although discontented, the military grudgingly accepted the supremacy of the civilian leadership. Bhutto embarked on ambitious nationalization programs and land reforms, which he called “Islamic socialism.” His reforms achieved some success but earned him the enmity of the entrepreneurial and capitalist class. In addition, religious leaders considered them to be un-Islamic. Unable to deal constructively with the opposition, he became heavy-handed in his rule. In the general elections of 1977, nine opposition parties united in the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) to run against Bhutto’s PPP. Losing in three of the four provinces, the PNA alleged that Bhutto had rigged the vote. The PNA boycotted the provincial elections a few days later and organized demonstrations throughout the country that lasted for six weeks.

Zia Regime

The PPP and PNA leadership proved incapable of resolving the deadlock, and the army chief of staff, General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, staged a coup on July 5, 1977, and imposed another martial-law regime. Bhutto was tried for authorizing the murder of a political opponent and found guilty; he was hanged on April 4, 1979. The PPP was reorganized under the leadership of his daughter, Benazir Bhutto.

Zia formally assumed the presidency in 1978 and embarked on an Islamization program. Through various ordinances between 1978 and 1985, he instituted the Islamization of Pakistan’s legal and economic systems and social order. In 1979 a federal Sharia (Islamic law) court was established to exercise Islamic judicial review. Other ordinances established interest-free banking and provided maximum penalties for adultery, defamation, theft, and consumption of alcohol.

On March 24, 1981, Zia issued a Provisional Constitutional Order that served as a substitute for the suspended 1973 constitution. The order provided for the formation of a Federal Advisory Council (Majlis-e-Shoora) to take the place of the National Assembly. In early 1982 Zia appointed the 228 members of the new council. This effectively restricted the political parties, which already had been constrained by the banning of political activity, from organizing resistance to the Zia regime through the election process.

The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979 heightened Pakistan’s insecurity and changed the fortunes of General Zia’s military regime. Afghan refugees began to pour into Pakistan. After about a year, the United States responded to the crisis. In September 1981 Zia accepted a six-year economic and military aid package worth $3.2 billion from the United States. (The United States approved a second aid package worth $4.0 billion in 1986 but then suspended its disbursement in 1989 due to Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program.) After a referendum in December 1984 endorsed Zia’s Islamization policies and the extension of his presidency until 1990, Zia permitted elections for parliament in February 1985. A civilian cabinet took office in April, and martial law ended in December. Zia was dissatisfied, however, and in May 1988 he dissolved the government and ordered new elections. Three months later he was killed in an airplane crash possibly caused by sabotage, and a caretaker regime took power until elections could be held.
Shifting Civilian Governments

Benazir Bhutto became prime minister after her PPP won the general elections in November 1988. She was the first woman to head a modern Islamic state. A civil servant, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, was appointed president. In August 1990 he dismissed Bhutto’s government, charging misconduct, and declared a state of emergency. Bhutto and the PPP lost the October elections after she was arrested for corruption and abuse of power.

The new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, head of the Islamic Democratic Alliance (a coalition of Islamic parties including the Pakistan Muslim League), introduced a program of privatizing state enterprises and encouraging foreign investment. Fulfilling Sharif’s election promise to make Sharia (Islamic law) the supreme law of Pakistan, the national legislature passed an amended Shariat Bill in 1991. Sharif also promised to ease continuing tensions with India over Kashmīr. The charges against Bhutto were resolved, and she returned to lead the opposition. In early 1993 Sharif was appointed the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League.

In April 1993 Ishaq Khan once again used his presidential power, this time to dismiss Sharif and to dissolve parliament. However, Sharif appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and in May the court stated that Khan’s actions were unconstitutional, and the court reinstated Sharif as prime minister. Sharif and Khan subsequently became embroiled in a power struggle that paralyzed the Pakistani government. In an agreement designed to end the stalemate, Sharif and Khan resigned together in July 1993, and elections were held in October of that year. Bhutto’s PPP won a plurality in the parliamentary elections, and Bhutto was again named prime minister.

In 1996 Bhutto’s government was dismissed by President Farooq Leghari amid allegations of corruption. New elections in February 1997 brought Nawaz Sharif back to power in a clear victory for the Pakistan Muslim League. One of Sharif’s first actions as prime minister was to lead the National Assembly in passing a constitutional amendment stripping the president of the authority to dismiss parliament. The action triggered a power struggle between Sharif, Leghari, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. When the military threw its support behind Sharif, Leghari resigned and Shah was removed. Sharif’s nominee, Rafiq Tarar, was then elected president.

Pakistan was beset by domestic unrest beginning in the mid-1990s. Violence between rival political, religious, and ethnic groups erupted frequently in Sind Province, particularly in Karāchi. Federal rule was imposed on the province in late 1998 due to increasing violence.

Relations with India

Relations between India and Pakistan became more tense beginning in the early 1990s. Diplomatic talks between the two countries broke down in January 1994 over the disputed Kashmīr region. In February Bhutto organized a nationwide strike to show support for the militant Muslim rebels in Indian Kashmīr involved in sporadic fighting against the Indian army. She also announced that Pakistan would continue with its nuclear weapons development program, raising concerns that a nuclear arms race could start between Pakistan and India, which has had nuclear weapons since the 1970s. In January 1996, despite some controversy, the United States lifted economic and some military sanctions imposed against Pakistan since 1990. The sanctions, imposed to protest Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, were lifted to allow U.S. companies to fulfill contracts with Pakistan and to help foster diplomatic relations between the two countries.

In early 1997 Sharif resumed talks with India over the Kashmīr region; however, negotiations quickly broke down when armed hostilities erupted again. Tensions escalated further in 1998, when India conducted several nuclear tests. Pakistan responded with its own tests, detonating nuclear weapons for the first time in its history. The Pakistani government then declared a state of emergency, invoking constitutional provisions that operate when Pakistan’s security comes under “threat of external aggression.” Many foreign countries, including the United States, imposed economic sanctions against both India and Pakistan for exploding nuclear devices. In the months following the explosions, the leaders of Pakistan and India placed a moratorium on further nuclear testing, and the United States initiated negotiations between the two countries aimed at reducing tensions and circumventing an arms race in the region.

In early 1999 Sharif and Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed the Lahore Declaration, which articulated a commitment to work toward improved relations. However, in April fears of a nuclear arms race revived when both countries tested medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Furthermore, in May 1999 Kashmīri separatists, widely believed to be backed by Pakistan, seized Indian-controlled territory near Kargil in the disputed Kashmīr region. Fighting between Indian forces and the separatists raged until July, when Sharif agreed to secure the withdrawal of the separatists and India suspended its military campaign.

The Pakistani military accused Sharif of giving in too easily to pressure from India and for pinning the blame for the Kargil attack on army chief Pervez Musharraf. In October 1999 Sharif tried to dismiss General Musharraf from his position. He attempted to prevent Musharraf’s return to Pakistan from abroad by refusing to let his airplane land. The commercial airplane was forced to circle the Karāchi airport until army forces loyal to Musharraf took over the airport. Army forces also seized control of the government in a bloodless coup that lasted less than three hours.

Pakistan Under Musharraf

Musharraf declared himself the chief executive of Pakistan, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the legislature. He appointed an eight-member National Security Council to function as the country’s supreme governing body. Many Pakistanis, already chafing under Sharif’s increasingly autocratic rule and suffering from a sagging Pakistani economy after ten years of government excesses and corruption, welcomed the coup. Sharif was arrested, and in April 2000 he was convicted of abuse of power and other charges and sentenced to life imprisonment; his sentence was subsequently commuted and he was allowed to live in exile in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Pakistan set a deadline of October 2002 for holding national elections to restore civilian rule. The Commonwealth of Nations, however, formally suspended Pakistan’s membership because the coup ousted a civilian government.

After assuming power, Musharraf’s military government adopted a reformist posture. It identified economic reform as the most urgent measure needed to restore the confidence of foreign and local investors. As part of this strategy, Musharraf initiated an ambitious program based on accountability, improved governance, and widening of the tax net. However, in the wake of the coup new international sanctions were imposed to oppose the military regime. Donor agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were unwilling to provide new loans or reschedule Pakistan’s foreign debt.

Pakistan Allies with United States

In 2001 Pakistan established itself as a vital U.S. ally and key regional player after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Pakistan became a frontline state of high strategic importance as the U.S.-led war on terrorism unfolded in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan had been an ally of the Taliban, which had established a fundamentalist Islamic regime in Afghanistan in 1996. The Taliban was accused of harboring the suspected mastermind of the terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban and bin Laden’s international terrorist network, al-Qaeda, became the target of U.S.-led air strikes in Afghanistan that began on October 7. The Musharraf government agreed to provide logistical support and use of Pakistan’s airspace for the offensive, and to share military intelligence to fight global terrorism. Formally breaking with the Taliban, Pakistan withdrew all of its diplomats from Afghanistan and officially closed its shared border. On September 22, meanwhile, the United States lifted most of the economic sanctions it had imposed after Pakistan exploded nuclear devices in 1998, brightening prospects for Pakistan’s economy.

Musharraf’s cooperation with the United States evoked hostility from hardline Islamic fundamentalist groups within Pakistan. In December 2003 the Pakistani president survived two assassination attempts. Suspicions centered on militant Islamic groups within Pakistan, on al-Qaeda, or a joint conspiracy between the two groups. The attacks appeared to encourage Musharraf to crack down on the militant fundamentalists and to bolster Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States in pursuing al-Qaeda and Taliban forces along the Pakistani border with Afghanistan.

Constitutional Amendments and Elections

Musharraf pledged to hold provincial and parliamentary elections in October 2002. In a bid to secure his position as president, a title he had adopted in 2001, Musharraf called a referendum in April 2002 on extending his presidency for five years. The referendum returned a majority of votes in favor of the proposal, although low voter turnout, loose voting rules, and the absence of poll monitors tainted the results. In addition, political parties denounced the referendum because under the constitution, the president is to be selected by members of the national and provincial legislatures. Musharraf granted himself sweeping new powers in August, when he decreed 29 amendments to Pakistan’s constitution. Among other powers, the amendments allow him to dissolve the parliament, force the resignation of the prime minister, and appoint military chiefs and Supreme Court justices.

In December 2003 the parliament approved the 17th Constitutional Amendment, which ratified most of the powers Musharraf sought, including the power to dissolve parliament and dismiss the prime minister. In exchange General Musharraf agreed to step down as the chief of army staff by the end of 2004. He also promised that the parliament would serve out its five-year term. Parliament agreed to extend Musharraf’s term to 2007. Meanwhile, Britain announced that in restoring an elected civilian government, Pakistan qualified for readmission to the Commonwealth of Nations.

Prior to the legislative elections scheduled for October, Musharraf banned former prime ministers Sharif and Bhutto (who were both living in exile) from running as candidates. In the elections, no single party or coalition of parties won a majority of seats in the National Assembly (lower house). The Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), a new PML faction formed as a pro-Musharraf party, won the largest number of seats. However, pro-democracy opposition parties and hardline Islamic parties also made a strong showing. In November the National Assembly chose Musharraf loyalist Mir Zafarullah Jamali as prime minister.

Regional Diplomacy

Tensions escalated between Pakistan and India following violent attacks on Indian targets by Kashmīri separatists in late 2001 and early 2002. By mid-2002 the two countries had amassed an estimated 1 million troops along their shared border, with most of the military buildup in the disputed Jammu and Kashmīr region. The threat of armed conflict between the two nuclear powers prompted intense international diplomacy, which ultimately helped defuse the crisis.

In May 2003 India and Pakistan agreed to restore diplomatic ties. High-level contacts followed. In late November Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee accepted Musharraf’s offer of a cease-fire in Jammu and Kashmīr. For the first time in 14 years, artillery fire ceased along the 1,100-km (700-mi) border. The two leaders also made moves toward restoring and improving trade and transportation ties between their countries. In January 2004 India and Pakistan agreed to resume talks on a range of issues, including the status of Kashmīr.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program

In February 2004 the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted that he had shared nuclear weapons technology with other nations. Through these deals Khan became enormously wealthy. In a nationally televised address Khan apologized for his actions. The next day Musharraf pardoned Khan, who is regarded as a national hero within Pakistan. Khan’s ties with Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons laboratory had previously been severed in 2001 due to financial irregularities. He was placed under house arrest in early 2004 after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and several Western intelligence agencies confronted Musharraf with overwhelming evidence that Khan had passed nuclear weapons secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

Muhammad Adnan
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