History of Elections in Pakistan

Pakistan is inching closer to the new elections and people of Pakistan will soon elect their representatives for the next five years. At this point, let’s take a look at the past elections held in Pakistan.

In the General Elections 1970, twenty-four political parties contested for 300 National Assembly seats; 13 were reserved for women. Parties were allowed to begin their election campaigns from January 1, 1970.

A total of 1,957 candidates filed nomination papers for 300 National Assembly seats, however, 1,579 eventually contested the elections. Awami League ran 170 candidates, of which 162 were for constituencies in East Pakistan. Jamaat-i-Islami fielded 151 candidates. The Pakistan Peoples Party ran only 120 candidates, of which 103 were from constituencies in the Punjab and Sindh. The Pakistan Peoples Party had no candidates in East Pakistan. The Convention Muslim League ran 124 candidates, the Council Muslim League 119 and the Qayyum Muslim League 133.

Awami League emerged as the single largest party 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. The PML (Qayyum), PML (Council), PML (Convention), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Jamiyat Ulema-e-Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami won only 37 National Assembly seats.

In the provincial elections, the Awami League won 288 of the 300 seats in the East Pakistan Assembly, but none in any of the four West Pakistan assemblies. The Pakistan Peoples Party did well in the Punjab and Sindh Assemblies but failed to win any seats in East Pakistan.

The Assemblies of the North West Frontier Province and Balochistan were dominated by the more conservative National Awami Party (Wali) and the PML (Qayyum).

Elections of the National and Provincial Assemblies were scheduled to be held in February 1985 on non-party basis. To contest the elections, a precondition was that a candidate must be supported by at least 50 people to be eligible.

The elections were held on February 25 and 28, 1985 for national and provincial assemblies respectively. More than 800 important political personalities were arrested in a pre-election crackdown; election campaigns were not allowed and a ban was imposed on political parties, processions, rallies and even loudspeakers.

The National Assembly continued to be dominated by the rural landlords. The only change was that the younger generation of landlords had taken over from their elders. The social background of the new members of parliament can be judged from the following figures:
Nearly 75 per cent of the 847 members of these bodies were big landlords.

On August 17, 1988, General Zia along with 31 other notables died in a C-130 plane crash near Bahawalpur. Under the constitution, the Chairman Senate, Ghulam Ishaq Khan became the acting president. On October 2, 1988, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that political parties would be allowed to participate in the upcoming elections.

The elections proved, mainly,  a two-party race between Pakistan People’s Party and a coalition of right-leaning parties called the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI). Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by Ms. Benazir Bhutto and the conservative Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI), headed by Mr Nawaz Sharif, as well as a multitude of other groups, fielded some 1,370 candidates for the Assembly’s 217 popularly-chosen seats.

Elections for the National Assembly were held on 16 November, 1988. PPP emerged as the single largest party by receiving 38.52% votes. It captured 93 of the 207 directly-contested seats in parliament, which has 237 members. IJI was able to grab 30.16% of the votes, but only 55 seats.

After the women’s seats were apportioned, the Pakistan People’s Party controlled 105 of the 237 seats. The PPP formed a coalition-government with the MQM. On December 2, 1988 Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as the prime minister of Pakistan.
The provincial elections, held on November 19, initially resulted in PPP governments in three out of four provinces. However, in Punjab, JI leader Nawaz Sharif became Chief Minister.

On August 6, 1990, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Benazir government and announced new elections on 24 October, 1990. He chose the leader of the opposition in the former National Assembly, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, as the new caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan.

1. Pakistan Democratic Alliance, established by PPP together with Asghar Khan’s Tehrik-i-Istiqlal, and two smaller parties.
2. IJI, the coalition that had also competed with the PPP in the 1988 elections.
3. Altaf Hussain’s MQM, Khan Abdul Wali Khan’s Awami National Party, Jamiat-ul-Ulama-e-Islam and the Jamhoori Watan Party.
The results showed that IJI secured a booming victory, winning 106 of the 217 general seats. The PDA could win only forty-five seats. Candidates of small ethnic parties and independents captured the remainder.

Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif was elected Prime Minister by the National Assembly on November 1, 1990.
President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dissolved the assemblies on 18th April 1993 on corruption and other serious charges. General Elections were scheduled to be held on July 14, 1993.

The President appointed Balakh Sher Mazari as the interim Prime Minister. On May 26, 1993, the Supreme Court revoked the Presidential Order and reinstated Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister. However, both the prime minister and the President resigned on 18 July 1993. Moeen Qureshi, a top World Bank official, became the next caretaker PM.

Elections for National Assembly and Provincial assemblies were scheduled for October 6 and 9 respectively.

1,485 candidates, in all, contested polls for the National Assembly. None of the main parties gained a controlling majority; PPP obtaining 86 seats to PML’s 72.

The first session was held on 15th October 1993. Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani took oath of the office of the Speaker National Assembly on 17th October 1993. Ms. Bhutto was sworn in on 19 October after she defeated Mian Nawaz Sharif with 121-71 margin for the Leader of the House slot. On 14 November, former PPP Foreign Minister Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari was elected President.

On November 5, 1996, President Leghari dismissed Ms Bhutto’s Government and appointed Malik Meraj Khalid, Rector of the International Islamic University, as caretaker Prime Minister. The next elections were scheduled to be held on February 3, 1997.

Benazir Bhutto filed a petition with the Supreme Court but on January 29, 1997, only six days before the general elections, the Supreme Court rejected her petition.

After the dissolution of Benazir Government, the elections for eleventh National Assembly were held on 3rd February 1997. Besides PPP, main contenders were: Pakistan Muslim League (PML) Nawaz, Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM); and Jamaat-e-Islami. A total of 6,289 candidates contested the election.

The first session was held on 15th February 1997 whereas Mr Illahi Bukhsh Soomro took oath of the office of the Speaker National Assembly on 16th February 1997. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif took oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan on 17th February 1997.

On 12 October 1999, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered Musharraf’s dismissal. However, senior Army generals refused to accept it and in a coup, the Generals ousted Sharif administration. Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf assumed the title of Chief Executive. Through Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) issued on October 14th 1999, he held the Constitution in abeyance, suspended the Senate, National and Provincial Assemblies, Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate, Speaker, Deputy Speaker National and Provincial Assemblies and dismissed the Federal and Provincial governments.

On 12 May 2000, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered Pervez Musharraf to hold general elections by 12 October 2002. On 11 July 2002, the President and Chief Executive of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, announced that general elections for the National Assembly and four Provincial Assemblies would be held on 10 October 2002.

The National and Provincial elections were held on the same day. More than 72 million registered voters aged 18 and above from a population of 140 million, elected members for the 342 National Assembly seats and 728 seats of the four Provincial Assemblies. A total of 2,098 candidates contested for 272 general seats of the National Assembly. The remaining 60 seats were reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims.

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q), a faction of the former Pakistan Muslim League (PML) obtained the largest share of seats, 77, but fell short of  majority. The Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P) came second with 63 seats. Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), an alliance of six Islamist parties, won 45 seats.

On November 19, 2002, Chaudhry Amir Hussain was elected the new Speaker of the National Assembly while on November 21, 2002, Mir Zafarullah Jamali was elected as the 21st Prime Minister of Pakistan by securing 172 votes out of 329 votes. However, he resigned on 26 June 2004 and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain replaced him as the interim Prime Minister who was later replaced by Shaukat Aziz.

Elections 2008
On 8 November 2007, Musharraf announced that the election would be held by 15 February 2008. Later the election date was changed to occur on or before 9 January 2008. Even later, he suggested 8 January 2008 as the election date. On 15 November, 2007, Mohammad Mian Soomro was appointed as caretaker prime minister at the expiry of the term of the previous government.

The year 2007 saw numerous political crises culminating in the December 27 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Five main parties who contested these elections were:
(1) Pakistan People’s Party
(2) Pakistan Muslim League- Q
(3) Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz
(4) Awami National Party
(5) Mutahidda Qaumi Movement

Now, Pakistanis have another opportunity to send their elected representatives to the parliament through their votes. This time apart from PML (N), PPP, MQM and PML (Q), Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is among the major parties that are going to contest the polls. Imran Khan is focusing the youth and is expected to make a major upset in the results.


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