Previous polls in Pakistan not very encouraging

February 17th, 2008 - 5:38 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) As Pakistan holds its 10th parliamentary elections Monday, a recap into the previous polls shows that they have not been very encouraging. The first elections in 1970 saw division of the country. The second polls in 1973 were allegedly widely rigged and the PPP ruled the country more like a dictator. During this period, the Ahmedis were declared non-Muslims and Friday was declared weekly off day instead of Sunday.

The third polls in 1977 resulted in another martial law that ended with the death of president General Zia-ul Haq in a mysterious plane crash that also killed the American ambassador to Pakistan. In 1986, Zia held party-less polls and ran the assembly according to his will and never allowed parliament to act independently. These were the fourth elections in the country.

Zia also introduced a law under which the president was authorised to sack the government and suspend the assembly, which he used against his own handpicked prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo just two months before his death.

Three presidents after Zia’s death used the controversial 58-2B clause of the constitution to suspend parliament. Two governments of Benazir Bhutto and one of Nawaz Sharif were sacked under this law by civilian presidents. But in 1998, Sharif after getting two-thirds majority in parliament abolished the law.

Bhutto won the fifth elections in 1988, but her government was sacked by president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Sharif got into power after the sixth polls in 1990, but his government too was sacked by the same president in 1993. Bhutto again became prime minister in 1994 and appointed her party confidante Sardar Farooq Leghari as president. But he sacked her government in 1996.

Sharif emerged the all-powerful prime minister in the country’s eighth elections in 1997. However, his tussle with the then army chief Pervez Musharraf resulted in a coup and he was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1999.

Sharif was sent into forced exile a year after his government was overthrown. However, he managed his return in November last year but has been barred from contesting the polls. He has fielded his party’s candidates throughout the country.

Bhutto, who left the country in April 1999 and returned in October last year to lead her party in the elections, was assassinated Dec 27 minutes after she addressed an election rally in Rawalpindi’s historic Liaquat Bagh. Her husband Asif Ali Zardari is now leading the party in elections and is hopeful of winning Monday’s polls by a big margin.

Musharraf, under pressure from the international community, held elections in 2002, which were allegedly rigged in favour of his favourites who formed the government. Instead of the sacking the assembly, Musharraf got the prime minister changed.

The assembly completed its term last November, but just before that Musharraf got himself elected as president for another five years. Before taking oath as civilian president he quit the army chief’s office. He is the only president who was elected in uniform but took oath as a “civilian”.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in South Asia |