Friday, November 14, 2008

General Elections in Pakistan 1947-2002

[Pics and Graph above is from The Washington Post]

In 1947, when Pakistan gained independence, a limited elective principle was in practice for more than 60 years. The British rulers of united India introduced the principle of representation for the first time in 1892. Under this system, the non-official members of the provincial legislatures elected some of the members of the Central Legislature. Moreover, the Local-Self Government Boards, Chambers of Commerce and Universities elected a relatively larger portion of the members in the Provincial Legislatures.

The Government of India Act 1909 for the first time introduced a system of election (indirect) for the law-making assemblies. The total membership of the Central Assembly was fixed at 68 of whom 27 were elected.

The Government of India Act 1919 created a bicameral legislature at the centre. The Act introduced direct elections for the upper house at the centre and for the Provincial Legislatures. The central lower house was to be elected indirectly by the provincial legislatures.

In 1920, the total membership of the Legislative Assembly in the centre was 145 out of which 104 members were elected. The total electorate was 909,874. In 1931, the number of the electorate went up to 1,142,948. In the Provincial Legislative Councils (1931), the total membership was 823 out of which 640 were elected. The total electorate was 6,375,000.

Elections were held in 1937 under the Government of India Act 1935. Under this law, the total number of seats in all the Provincial Assemblies had risen to 1851, which were elective by an electorate of 41 million. These elections have a special significance for Pakistan’s electoral and political history. The people who got elected in these elections in the areas which later made up Pakistan continued to hold sway over the country’s politics until their death. Afterwards, the sons and relatives of these people maintained their grip on politics. The families of these people are popularly known as the ‘political families’ of Pakistan.

In the elections of 1945-46, nearly 15 per cent of the population was entitled to vote on a qualifications of literacy, property, income and combatant status. The first direct elections held in the country after independence was to the provincial Assembly of the Punjab between March 10-20 1951. The elections were held for 197 seats. As many as 939 candidates contested the election for 189 seats, while the remaining seats were filled unopposed. Seven political parties were in the race. The election was held on adult franchise basis with about a million voters. The turnout remained low. In Lahore, the turnout was 30 per cent of the listed voters and in rural areas of Punjab it was much lower. The Electoral reforms Commission observed that the elections in Pakistan were not entirely free and fair.

On December 8 1951, elections were held on adult franchise basis to the Provincial legislature of the North West Frontier Province. The elections were massively rigged. Similarly, in May 1953 elections to the provincial legislature of Sindh were held and they were also massively rigged. In April 1954, elections were held for East Pakistan Legislative Assembly, which marked the fall of the Pakistan Muslim League in East Pakistan and heralded the rise of Bengali nationalism.

In October 1958, Army Chief Gen Ayub Khan imposed martial law in the country. He introduced an indirect method of elections through the Basic Democracy (BD) system. According to this system, the voters elected 80,000 representatives, called Basic Democrats. This number was later increased to 12,000, who formed the electorate for the election of members of the national and provincial assemblies. Each of 80,000 BD constituencies consisted of 200-600 voters.

Pakistan's First Illegal Regime i.e. Martial Law of General Ayub Khan.

Jacqueline Kennedy with President Mohammad Ayub Khan of Pakistan, Lahore, Pakistan, March 21, 1962 Coat (1962) in pale blue silk-and-wool Alaskine by Oleg Cassini (American, b. France, 1913); Hat (1962) in pale blue baku straw by Bergdorf Goodman (American, est. 1910)John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

The first elections for BDs were held during the end of December 1959 and early 1960.In West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan), the turnout was 75 per cent and in the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) about half of the registered voters cast votes. In Karachi, the turnout remained low - only 35 percent.

In March 1962, Gen Ayub Khan announced a constitution for the country and elections were held for the legislature. The political parties were banned. A total of 595 contestants were in the field for 150 National Assembly seats and 1,862 candidates for 300 Provincial Assembly seats. An average of 500 BD members were to elect an MNA and nearly 250 members were to determine each Provincial Assembly seat. The turnout was high: 98.96 per cent in the NA elections and 97.8 percent in the PA elections. The first session of the NA was held on June 8 1962.

In October-November 1964, another election was held to elect BDs. Political parties were allowed to contest the elections. The elected BD members formed an Electoral College to elect the President of Pakistan in January 1965’s presidential election. Ayub Khan was the candidate for presidency from the platform of the Pakistan Muslim League (Convention), which was founded in December 1963. Ayub was president of the party as well. Miss Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the father of the nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was the joint candidate of all the opposition parties. Ayub Khan won the elections in both wings of the country. He secured 49,951 (63.3percent) out of 79,700 votes cast. Miss Jinnah got only 28,691 votes (36.36 percent) of the total votes cast.

Late Mohammad Ali Jinnah with his sister Late. Ms. Fatimah Jinnah

On March 21 1965, elections to the NA were held under the BD system, but on party-basis. The PML (Convention) secured 120 seats, the opposition (COP 10 and NDF 5) secured 16 seats. The rest of those elected were independents. Afterwards, the elections to the PA were held. In West Pakistan, the PML (Convention) won 96 seats, independents 49 seats and the Jamaat-i-Islami one. In East Pakistan, the PML failed to secure an absolute majority. It secured only 66 seats while 58 went to the independents and 23 to the opposition parties.

In March 1969, following an agitation, Gen Ayub Khan resigned and Army Chief Gen Yahya Khan imposed the second martial law. In December 1970, Gen Yahya held the first ever general elections on the basis of adult franchise. Over 1500 candidates were in the field for 300 seats and 25 parties contested the elections. None of these parties contested all the seats throughout the country. The two parties, the Awami League and the Pakistan People’s Party, which emerged as the leading political parties, concentrated on the two wings of East and West Pakistan respectively. The Awami League contested only eight NA seats in the West Wing and the People’s Party did not set up any candidate in the East Wing.

General Yayah Khan

Sheikh Mujib ur Rahman

There was a high level of participation in the 1970 elections. The turnout was 63.4 percent - 60 percent in Sindh, 68.7 percent in Punjab, 48.1 percent in NWFP, 40.5 percent in Balochistan 57.6 percent in East Pakistan. 87 percent (241) of the total seats (300) were won by two parties, the AL and the PPP. Eight other parties had only 59 seats among themselves. Not a single party had seats from all the four provinces of Pakistan and nor did any party have seats from both the two wings of then Pakistan. The Awami League had no seats from West Pakistan yet had a majority in the NA by virtue of its tremendous victory in East Pakistan. Similarly, the PPP had no seats from East Pakistan and Balochistan and only one seat from the NWFP, yet was the second largest party in the assembly by virtue of its overwhelming victory in the two provinces, the Punjab and Sindh.

Gen Yahya Khan did not transfer the power to the single largest party, Awami League. A long and bloody civil war followed, and East Pakistan gained its independence and became Bangladesh in December 1971. Soon after dismemberment of the country, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto assumed power first as martial law administrator and then as elected Prime Minister of Pakistan under the newly adopted 1973 Constitution.

Fall/Surrender in Former East Pakistan now Bangladesh 1971.

Late. Zoulfiquar Ali Bhutto
After four years, on March 7 and 10 1977, the general elections to provinnacial and nional assemblies were held. On January 11 1977, all major and some minor opposition parties had cobbled together an electoral alliance, the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), to contest elections against Bhutto’s PPP. The official turnout figure was 63 percent – if 19 uncontested seats were discounted, the turnout was 80 percent. The PPP won 58.1 percent of all the votes that were cast, and 136 of the 173 contested NA seats. The PNA won only 35.1 per cent of the vote and 36 seats. PPP had already won 19 NA seats unopposed including the home seat of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Larkana. The PNA levelled allegations of massive rigging in the polling and boycotted provincial elections. An agitation followed and on 5 July 1977 Gen Ziaul Haq imposed the third martial law.

General Zia

Henry Kissinger

Maulana Mawdudi

General Zia and Ronald Reagan

On December 19 1984, General Ziaul Haq held a presidential referendum of a dubious nature for his own election as president in which he was the only candidate. The question on ballot papers was whether the voter supported Islamisation process or not. A yes vote meant a vote for Ziaul Haq. The Election Commission of Pakistan announced a turnout of almost 60 percent whereas the opposition parties and the independent observers claimed a low turnout of 5-10 percent.

In February 1985, Gen Ziaul Haq held non-party elections. The opposition parties, joined under the umbrella of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD), boycotted the polls. There were 3,35,89,996 registered voters in the country. Out of these 1,72,50,486 cast their votes. Thus, the elections were well participated in with a turnout of 52.93 percent and considered relatively fair. Muhammad Khan Junejo was appointed Prime Minister and later formed a new faction of the Pakistan Muslim League within the house. On December 30 1985, the 1973 Constitution was restored with massive amendments.

On 29 May 1988, President Gen Ziaul Haq dismissed the government of Mr Junejo and all assemblies by using his powers under Article 58(2-b) of the Constitution. On August 17, Gen Zia died in a plane crash. Senate Chairman Ghulam Ishaq Khan became caretaker President.

Ghulam Ishaq Khan
General elections were held to the National Assembly on November 16 1988 and Provincial Assemblies on November 19 1988. There were a total of 47,961,670 registered voters. The turnout was low, i.e. 42 percent because of the mandatory National Identity Card condition for a voter. The PPP, led by Ms Benazir Bhutto, won 93 of 207 NA seats (38.5 percent votes) and the Islami Jamhoor Ittehad (IJI), a conglomerate of several parties, won 55 National Assembly seats (30.2 percent votes.) On December 2 1988 Ms Bhutto took the oath as Prime Minister. Later, on December 12 1988 the parliament and four provincial assemblies elected Ishaq Khan as President for five years.

Late. Benazir Bhutto

On August 6 1990, President Ishaq Khan dismissed the Bhutto government along with the National Assembly and four Provincial Assemblies. On October 24, the general elections were held to the National Assembly. There were a total of 48,648,960 registered voters. The turnout was 45 percent. The Islami Jamhoori Ittehad won 105 NA seats (37.3 percent votes) and the PPP-led coalition Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDA) won 45 NA seats (36.9 percent votes.) The PPP alleged the elections were rigged. Former Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif took the oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

On April 18 1993, President Ishaq Khan dismissed the government of Nawaz Sharif along with the National Assembly. The Supreme Court restored his government but the power struggle led to resignation of both the President and the Prime Minister on 18 July 1993. Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad took over as acting President.

Mr Nawaz Sharif

On October 6 and 9 1993, general elections were held to the National Assembly and four Provincial Assemblies respectively. These elections were considered relatively free and fair. There were a total of 52,297,568 total registered voters (including Muslim and non-Muslim). A total of 200,20,538 valid votes were polled out of 4,96,48,821 registered Muslim votes, i.e. 40.32 percent. The PML(Nawaz) won 73 NA seats ( 39.9 percent votes), the PPP won 86 seats (37.9 percent votes) and the PML(J) 6 seats (3.9 percent votes.) On October 17 Ms Bhutto again became Prime Minister of the country. This was the first time in Pakistan parliamentary history that nomination papers were filed for the election of Prime Minister. Later, on November 13 1993 Farooq Khan Leghari, a central PPP leader, was elected as president of the country.

Tummandar Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Laghari
On November 5 1996, President Farooq Leghari dismissed the Bhutto government along with the National Assembly and four Provincial Assemblies. On February 3 1997, general elections were held for the National Assembly and four Provincial Assemblies simultaneously. A total of 19,506,855 voters polled their votes out of 54,189,534 registered voters for 204 Muslim constituencies, i.e. a turnout of 35.99 percent. The PML(N) won 135 of 204 contested seats (45.9 percent votes), the PPP won 18 NA seats (21.8 percent votes).

The losing party made allegations of rigging in the results. PML(N)’s Nawaz Sharif was again sworn in as Prime Minister. On October 12 1999, COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf overthrew his government and took over as Chief Executive of the country.
General Parvez Musharraf

On April 30, Gen Musharraf held a presidential referendum to extend his tenure as president for the next five years. He was the only candidate. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, 55 percent voters voted and 98 percent of them elected Gen Musharraf as President. The opposition and independent monitors alleged that the turnout was extremely low and massive bogus voting was carried out in Gen Musharraf’s favour.

[Text is the courtesy of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan]

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