Since achieving independence from the British yoke on August 14, 1947, Pakistan had been under army rule for almost a half of the period of its life. Martial law was declared in this period for three times. These coups happened because initial years of Pakistan’s life were tumultuous to such an extent that country’s first premier, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in Rawalpindi on October 16, 1951, and after him no government was allowed to work freely. Here is a brief overview of the military rule in Pakistan:
1. First Martial Law (1958)
After Governor General Ghulam Muhammad was compelled to go on a two-month leave to the United Kingdom, Major General Iskander Mirza entered the office of the Governor General on August 7, 1955. President Iskander Mirza could not develop proper working relations with all the coming premiers. Muhammad Ali Bogra (April 17, 1953 to August 11, 1955) was the first prime minister under Mirza but he soon resigned and was replaced by Chaudhry Muhammad Ali (August 11, 1955 to September 12, 1956), Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy (September 12, 1956 to October 18, 1957), I. I.Chundrigar (October, 18, 1957 to December 16, 1957) and Malik Feroze Khan Noon (December 18, 1957 to October 7, 1958).
During Mirza’s rule, the new Constitution was approved by the Constituent Assembly on February 29, 1956, and was promulgated on March 23, 1956. The Constitution was based on the Objectives Resolution, which was adopted on March 12, 1949. This constitution proclaimed the Dominion of Pakistan as Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Iskander Mirza was sworn in as its first president.
Then came the fateful day of October 7, 1958 when Iskander Mirza proclaimed martial law throughout the country and appointed the Army Chief, General Muhammad Ayub Khan, as Chief Martial Law Administrator. The constitution was abrogated, central and provincial governments were dismissed, National and provincial assemblies stood dissolved, and all political parties were abolished. Next day, the president appointed an Advisory Council, consisting of secretary-general and seven secretaries of ministries. However, on October 10, the president promulgated an Order stating that notwithstanding abrogation of 1956 Constitution, Pakistan shall be governed as nearly as may be in accordance with the late Constitution.
On October 24, 1958, President Mirza constituted a 12-man Central Cabinet, including General Azam Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Manzoor Qadir. General Ayub Khan was appointed prime minster. Iskander Mirza relinquished his office of president on October 27, 1958, and handed over all powers to CMLA Ayub Khan, who promulgated the Presidential Cabinet Order next day according to which the Cabinet would have no prime minister and it would work directly under the president.
Exactly one year after taking power (October 27, 1959), General Ayub became Field Marshal and promulgated Basic Democracies Order, providing for constitution of Basic Democratic institutions ranging from the Union Councils to Provincial Development Advisory Councils. He held the elections for Basic Democracy Units on January 2, 1960, electing their 80,000 members by adult franchise. These BD members went to the polls on January 14, to express, through secret ballot, their confidence or lack of it, in President Ayub Khan.
Ayub Khan was sworn in as elected President on February 17, 1960. On June 8, 1962, he announced to lift martial law after nearly four years, and also took oath of the office of the President under the new Constitution, enacted by him on March 1, 1962, providing presidential form of government.
On January 2, 1965, he was re-elected president in presidential election against MS Fatima Jinnah, sister of Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and a candidate of Combined Opposition Parties. However, the COP had refused to accept the election results.
Declaration of martial law in 1958 was solely due to unpleasant and uncertain situation as well as political instability because of fast political manoeuvres and changes that took place in the country.
2. Second Martial Law (1969)
The second instance was when the then Army Chief, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, declared Martial law, dissolved the assemblies and assumed the office of the president after Ayub Khan stepped down as President on March 25, 1969, and handed over powers to him. On April 3, he formed a three-member Council of Administration with himself as its Chairman, and next day issued Provisional Constitution Order, providing basis for governance of country. On April 8, he ordered that Martial Law Administrators of East and West Pakistan will also perform duties of the governors.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Chairman Pakistan People’s Party, took over as president and the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator on December 20, 1971.
3. Third Martial Law (1977)
The army staged third coup when General Ziaul Haq overthrew the Bhutto government and took over as CMLA on July 5, 1977. The federal and provincial governments were dismissed; political parties were banned; National and provincial assemblies were dissolved; the constitution was put in abeyance; civil courts continued to function as usual but fundamental rights were suspended.
On July 15, 1977, Justice Mushtaq Hussein of the Lahore High Court was appointed chairman of a committee to formulate election procedures and laws. Two days later, Justice Mushtaq Hussein also took over as the Chief Election Commissioner and announced that elections would be held in the first fortnight of October 1977 under the supervision of the armed forces and the judiciary. October 18 was fixed for the general elections and nomination papers were invited between August 7 and 18, 1977.
On September 21, 1977, General Zia issued a 15-point code of ethics to regulate the election campaign which started from September 18. The code prohibited all actions and deeds, including words, symbolic representations, which were likely to prejudice the solidarity of Pakistan and its Islamic foundations.
On October 1, the elections were postponed indefinitely. On November 10, 1977 the Supreme Court unanimously validated the imposition of martial law, under the doctrine of necessity.
In its judgement dismissing Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s petition challenging detention under martial law of former Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto and 10 others, the nine-member court headed by Chief Justice Anwarul Haq observed that after massive rigging of elections followed by complete breakdown of law and order situation bringing the country on the brink of disaster, the imposition of martial law had become inevitable.
Zia’s martial law came to an end on December 30, 1985.
4. 1999 Coup
Pakistan came under military rule again on October 12, 1999, when General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup and dissolved elected government of Nawaz Sharif. However, no Martial law was imposed. As announced by him on July 11, 2002, general elections were held on October 10, 2002. But before the elections, a referendum was held on April 30, 2002 for him to be elected as the president for another five years. On November 3, 2007, he declared the state of emergency in the country which is claimed to be equivalent to the state of martial law as the constitution was suspended. On November 12, 2007, Musharraf issued some amendments to the Military Act, which gave the armed forces some additional powers.
Pervez Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan as Chief Executive from 1999-2002 and as president from 2001-08, resigned on August18, 2008 in the face of impeachment. Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Shaukat Aziz served as elected prime ministers during his era.
Politics in Pakistan has been tarnished by corruption, inefficiency, domestic political upheavals and wrong policies of the ruling elite; and alternating periods of civilian and military rule have, so far, not been able to establish stability. Due to their unrealistic policies, supplemented by anti-Pakistan elements, we could not maintain its integrity and their actions resulted into the unfortunate break-up of the hard-earned country in 1971.