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History Of Pakistani Democracy

Pakistan is a country that has always been under scrutiny because of its instable political situation. The country has been under the military rule several times, but democracy has a unique history in Pakistan. The country came into existence on 14th August 1947, and since then, democracy has been a crucial element for the development of the country. However, the country has witnessed many challenges to its democracy in the form of autocratic military dictators, corrupt politicians and the ever-growing influence of extremist groups.

The early years after independence in 1947 saw Pakistan adopting a parliamentary system of government, following the British model. Pakistan's first constitution was adopted in 1956, which established the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as a federal parliamentary republic. Pakistan was initially ruled by the Pakistan Muslim League, headed by the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. However, the democratic system was short-lived, as Jinnah’s death in 1948 led to political instability and uncertainty.

Soon after, Pakistan faced its first military coup when General Ayub Khan declared martial law and took over the government in 1958. He stayed in power until 1969, when he handed over power to Yahya Khan, who also ended up declaring martial law in 1971 and plunged Pakistan into a political crisis that led to the disintegration of the East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh.

The country saw another glimpse of democracy in 1970 when the first general elections were held, which led to the formation of a civilian government under the leadership of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto’s government was seen as a turning point in Pakistani democracy, and he is often regarded as one of the most popular and charismatic leaders Pakistan has ever had.

Bhutto’s rule was cut short in 1977 when another military general, Zia-Ul-Haq, staged a coup and declared martial law. General Zia ruled with an iron fist. His rule ended in 1988 when he died in a plane crash near Bahawalpur.

After his death, Pakistan saw its second democratic government, which was once again led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir Bhutto. Benazir's government was also short-lived, as her government was dismissed in 1990 on accusations of corruption and bad governance.

The 1990s saw a series of military and civilian governments, each facing their own set of challenges, including corruption, sectarianism, and political instability. The country saw the rise of political parties like the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) during this period.

In 1999, another military coup took place, this time led by General Pervez Musharraf. His rule continued until 2008, when he was forced to resign in the wake of rising public pressure and an opposition alliance that swept him from power. He was replaced by a democratically elected government led by Asif Ali Zardari, the widow of Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007.

The recent past example of democratic rule in Pakistan was the government headed by Imran Khan, who assumed power in 2018 after his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won the general elections. The PTI government faced many challenges, including allegations of rigging in the elections, blame game of selected government and a struggling economy.

In April 2022, a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan led to the removal of his government. Under Article 58 of the Constitution of Pakistan, a PM can’t hold office if 172 out of 342 members vote in favour of no-confidence in the lower house of Parliament, National Assembly. Many political parties joined hands together in this motion and made PTI government go home.

In conclusion, Pakistan's democracy has a chequered history, with several ups and downs. The country has seen the power of an effective democratic system to bring about change, but it has also witnessed the devastating consequences of military dictatorships. While the current government has taken some steps towards consolidating the democratic gains in the country, it is only time that will tell if Pakistan’s democracy will truly transform and prosper.

About Sami Ullah Rafiq

Sami Ullah Rafiq

Sami Ullah Rafiq has done Masters in English Literature and doing M.Phil. By profession he is teacher of English language and literature. Sami is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected]. He tweets at @SamiUll77300967.