A Brief History of Pakistan
Taken from Us Depratment of State website www.state.gov
Archeological explorations have revealed impressive ruins of a 4,500-year
old urban civilization in Pakistan's Indus River valley. The reason for the
collapse of this highly developed culture is unknown. A major theory is that
it was crushed by successive invasions (circa 2000 B.C. and 1400 B.C.) of Aryans,
Indo-European warrior tribes from the Caucasus region in what is now Russia.
The Aryans were followed in 500 B.C. by Persians and, in 326 B.C., by Alexander
the Great. The "Gandhara culture" flourished in much of present-day
The Indo-Greek descendants of Alexander the Great saw the most creative period
of the Gandhara (Buddhist) culture. For 200 years after the Kushan Dynasty was
established in A.D. 50, Taxila (near Islamabad) became a renowned center of
learning, philosophy, and art.
Pakistan's Islamic history began with the arrival of Muslim traders in the
8th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Mogul Empire dominated
most of South Asia, including much of present-day Pakistan.
British traders arrived in South Asia in 1601, but the British Empire did not
consolidate control of the region until the latter half of the 18th century.
After 1850, the British or those influenced by them governed virtually the entire
In the early 20th century, South Asian leaders began to agitate for a greater
degree of autonomy. Growing concern about Hindu domination of the Indian National
Congress Party, the movement's foremost organization, led Muslim leaders to
form the all-India Muslim League in 1906. In 1913, the League formally adopted
the same objective as the Congress -- self-government for India within the British
Empire -- but Congress and the League were unable to agree on a formula that
would ensure the protection of Muslim religious, economic, and political rights.
Pakistan and Partition
The idea of a separate Muslim state emerged in the 1930s. On March 23, 1940,
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, formally endorsed the "Lahore
Resolution," calling for the creation of an independent state in regions
where Muslims constituted a majority. At the end of World War II, the United
Kingdom moved with increasing urgency to grant India independence. However,
the Congress Party and the Muslim League could not agree on the terms for a
constitution or establishing an interim government. In June 1947, the British
Government declared that it would bestow full dominion status upon two successor
states -- India and Pakistan. Under this arrangement, the various princely states
could freely join either India or Pakistan. Consequently, a bifurcated Muslim
nation separated by more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 mi.) of Indian territory
emerged when Pakistan became a self-governing dominion within the Commonwealth
on August 14, 1947. West Pakistan comprised the contiguous Muslim-majority districts
of present-day Pakistan; East Pakistan consisted of a single province, which
is now Bangladesh.
The Maharaja of Kashmir was reluctant to make a decision on accession to either
Pakistan or India. However, armed incursions into the state by tribesman from
the NWFP led him to seek military assistance from India. The Maharaja signed
accession papers in October 1947 and allowed Indian troops into much of the
state. The Government of Pakistan, however, refused to recognize the accession
and campaigned to reverse the decision. The status of Kashmir has remained in
With the death in 1948 of its first head of state, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and
the assassination in 1951 of its first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, political
instability and economic difficulty became prominent features of post-independence
Pakistan. On October 7, 1958, President Iskander Mirza, with the support of
the army, suspended the 1956 constitution, imposed martial law, and canceled
the elections scheduled for January 1959. Twenty days later the military sent
Mirza into exile in Britain and Gen. Mohammad Ayub Khan assumed control of a
military dictatorship. After Pakistan's loss in the 1965 war against India,
Ayub Khan's power declined. Subsequent political and economic grievances inspired
agitation movements that compelled his resignation in March 1969. He handed
over responsibility for governing to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General
Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, who became President and Chief Martial Law Administrator.
General elections held in December 1970 polarized relations between the eastern
and western sections of Pakistan. The Awami League, which advocated autonomy
for the more populous East Pakistan, swept the East Pakistan seats to gain a
majority in Pakistan as a whole. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), founded and
led by Ayub Khan's former Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, won a majority
of the seats in West Pakistan, but the country was completely split with neither
major party having any support in the other area. Negotiations to form a coalition
government broke down and a civil war ensued. India attacked East Pakistan and
captured Dhaka in December 1971, when the eastern section declared itself the
independent nation of Bangladesh. Yahya Khan then resigned the presidency and
handed over leadership of the western part of Pakistan to Bhutto, who became
President and the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator.
Bhutto moved decisively to restore national confidence and pursued an active
foreign policy, taking a leading role in Islamic and Third World forums. Although
Pakistan did not formally join the non-aligned movement until 1979, the position
of the Bhutto government coincided largely with that of the non-aligned nations.
Domestically, Bhutto pursued a populist agenda and nationalized major industries
and the banking system. In 1973, he promulgated a new constitution accepted
by most political elements and relinquished the presidency to become Prime Minister.
Although Bhutto continued his populist and socialist rhetoric, he increasingly
relied on Pakistan's urban industrialists and rural landlords. Over time the
economy stagnated, largely as a result of the dislocation and uncertainty produced
by Bhutto's frequently changing economic policies. When Bhutto proclaimed his
own victory in the March 1977 national elections, the opposition Pakistan National
Alliance (PNA) denounced the results as fraudulent and demanded new elections.
Bhutto resisted and later arrested the PNA leadership.
1977-1985 Martial Law
With increasing anti-government unrest, the army grew restive. On July 5, 1977,
the military removed Bhutto from power and arrested him, declared martial law,
and suspended portions of the 1973 constitution. Chief of Army Staff Gen. Muhammad
Zia ul-Haq became Chief Martial Law Administrator and promised to hold new elections
within three months.
Zia released Bhutto and asserted that he could contest new elections scheduled
for October 1977. However, after it became clear that Bhutto's popularity had
survived his government, Zia postponed the elections and began criminal investigations
of the senior PPP leadership. Subsequently, Bhutto was convicted and sentenced
to death for alleged conspiracy to murder a political opponent. Despite international
appeals on his behalf, Bhutto was hanged on April 6, 1979.
Zia assumed the Presidency and called for elections in November. However, fearful
of a PPP victory, Zia banned political activity in October 1979 and postponed
In 1980, most center and left parties, led by the PPP, formed the Movement
for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). The MRD demanded Zia's resignation,
an end to martial law, new elections, and restoration of the constitution as
it existed before Zia's takeover. In early December 1984, President Zia proclaimed
a national referendum for December 19 on his "Islamization" program.
He implicitly linked approval of "Islamization" with a mandate for
his continued presidency. Zia's opponents, led by the MRD, boycotted the elections.
When the government claimed a 63% turnout, with more than 90% approving the
referendum, many observers questioned these figures.
On March 3, 1985, President Zia proclaimed constitutional changes designed
to increase the power of the President vis-a-vis the Prime Minister (under the
1973 constitution the President had been mainly a figurehead). Subsequently,
Zia nominated Muhammad Khan Junejo, a Muslim League member, as Prime Minister.
The new National Assembly unanimously endorsed Junejo as Prime Minister and,
in October 1985, passed Zia's proposed eighth amendment to the constitution,
legitimizing the actions of the martial law government, exempting them from
judicial review (including decisions of the military courts), and enhancing
the powers of the President.
The Democratic Interregnum
On December 30, 1985, President Zia removed martial law and restored the fundamental
rights safeguarded under the constitution. He also lifted the Bhutto government's
declaration of emergency powers. The first months of 1986 witnessed a rebirth
of political activity throughout Pakistan. All parties -- including those continuing
to deny the legitimacy of the Zia/Junejo government -- were permitted to organize
and hold rallies. In April 1986, PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfiqar
Ali Bhutto, returned to Pakistan from exile in Europe.
Following the lifting of martial law, the increasing political independence
of Prime Minister Junejo and his differences with Zia over Afghan policy resulted
in tensions between them. On May 29, 1988, President Zia dismissed the Junejo
government and called for November elections. In June, Zia proclaimed the supremacy
in Pakistan of Shari'a (Islamic law), by which all civil law had to conform
to traditional Muslim edicts.
On August 17, a plane carrying President Zia, American Ambassador Arnold Raphel,
U.S. Brig. General Herbert Wassom, and 28 Pakistani military officers crashed
on a return flight from a military equipment trial near Bahawalpur, killing
all of its occupants. In accordance with the constitution, Chairman of the Senate
Ghulam Ishaq Khan became Acting President and announced that elections scheduled
for November 1988 would take place.
After winning 93 of the 205 National Assembly seats contested, the PPP, under
the leadership of Benazir Bhutto, formed a coalition government with several
smaller parties, including the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM). The Islamic Democratic
Alliance (IJI), a multi-party coalition led by the PML and including religious
right parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), won 55 National Assembly seats.
Differing interpretations of constitutional authority, debates over the powers
of the central government relative to those of the provinces, and the antagonistic
relationship between the Bhutto Administration and opposition governments in
Punjab and Balochistan seriously impeded social and economic reform programs.
Ethnic conflict, primarily in Sindh province, exacerbated these problems. A
fragmentation in the governing coalition and the military's reluctance to support
an apparently ineffectual and corrupt government were accompanied by a significant
deterioration in law and order.
In August 1990, President Khan, citing his powers under the eighth amendment
to the constitution, dismissed the Bhutto government and dissolved the national
and provincial assemblies. New elections, held in October of 1990, confirmed
the political ascendancy of the IJI. In addition to a two-thirds majority in
the National Assembly, the alliance acquired control of all four provincial
parliaments and enjoyed the support of the military and of President Khan. Muhammad
Nawaz Sharif, as leader of the PML, the most prominent Party in the IJI, was
elected Prime Minister by the National Assembly.
Sharif emerged as the most secure and powerful Pakistani Prime Minister since
the mid-1970s. Under his rule, the IJI achieved several important political
victories. The implementation of Sharif's economic reform program, involving
privatization, deregulation, and encouragement of private sector economic growth,
greatly improved Pakistan's economic performance and business climate. The passage
into law in May 1991 of a Shari'a bill, providing for widespread Islamization,
legitimized the IJI government among much of Pakistani society.
After PML President Junejo's death in March 1993, Sharif loyalists unilaterally
nominated him as the next party leader. Consequently, the PML divided into the
PML Nawaz (PML/N) group, loyal to the Prime Minister, and the PML Junejo group
(PML/J), supportive of Hamid Nasir Chatta, the President of the PML/J group.
However, Nawaz Sharif was not able to reconcile the different objectives of
the IJI's constituent parties. The largest religious party, Jamaat-i-Islami
(JI), abandoned the alliance because of its perception of PML hegemony. The
regime was weakened further by the military's suppression of the MQM, which
had entered into a coalition with the IJI to contain PPP influence, and allegations
of corruption directed at Nawaz Sharif. In April 1993, President Khan, citing
"maladministration, corruption, and nepotism" and espousal of political
violence, dismissed the Sharif government, but the following month the Pakistan
Supreme Court reinstated the National Assembly and the Nawaz Sharif government.
Continued tensions between Sharif and Khan resulted in governmental gridlock
and the Chief of Army Staff brokered an arrangement under which both the President
and the Prime Minister resigned their offices in July 1993.
An interim government, headed by Moeen Qureshi, a former World Bank Vice President,
took office with a mandate to hold national and provincial parliamentary elections
in October. Despite its brief term, the Qureshi government adopted political,
economic, and social reforms that generated considerable domestic support and
In the October 1993 elections, the PPP won a plurality of seats in the National
Assembly and Benazir Bhutto was asked to form a government. However, because
it did not acquire a majority in the National Assembly, the PPP's control of
the government depended upon the continued support of numerous independent parties,
particularly the PML/J. The unfavorable circumstances surrounding PPP rule --
the imperative of preserving a coalition government, the formidable opposition
of Nawaz Sharif's PML/N movement, and the insecure provincial administrations
-- presented significant difficulties for the government of Prime Minister Bhutto.
However, the election of Prime Minister Bhutto's close associate, Farooq Leghari,
as President in November 1993 gave her a stronger power base.
In November 1996, President Leghari dismissed the Bhutto government, charging
it with corruption, mismanagement of the economy, and implication in extra-judicial
killings in Karachi. Elections in February 1997 resulted in an overwhelming
victory for the PML/Nawaz, and President Leghari called upon Nawaz Sharif to
form a government. In March 1997, with the unanimous support of the National
Assembly, Sharif amended the constitution, stripping the President of the power
to dismiss the government and making his power to appoint military service chiefs
and provincial governors contingent on the "advice" of the Prime Minister.
Another amendment prohibited elected members from "floor crossing"
or voting against party lines. The Sharif government engaged in a protracted
dispute with the judiciary, culminating in the storming of the Supreme Court
by ruling party loyalists and the engineered dismissal of the Chief Justice
and the resignation of President Leghari in December 1997. The new President
elected by Parliament, Rafiq Tarar, was a close associate of the Prime Minister.
A one-sided accountability campaign was used to target opposition politicians
and critics of the regime. Similarly, the government moved to restrict press
criticism and ordered the arrest and beating of prominent journalists. As domestic
criticism of Sharif's administration intensified, Sharif attempted to replace
Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999, with a family
loyalist, Director General ISI Lt. Gen. Ziauddin. Although General Musharraf
was out of the country at the time, the Army moved quickly to depose Sharif.
On October 14, 1999, General Musharraf declared a state of emergency and issued
the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), which suspended the federal and
provincial parliaments, held the constitution in abeyance, and designated Musharraf
as Chief Executive. While delivering an ambitious seven-point reform agenda,
Musharraf has not yet provided a timeline for a return to civilian, democratic
rule, although local elections are anticipated at the end of calendar year 2000.
Musharraf has appointed a National Security Council, with mixed military/civilian
appointees, a civilian Cabinet, and a National Reconstruction Bureau (think
tank) to formulate structural reforms. A National Accountability Bureau (NAB),
headed by an active duty military officer, is prosecuting those accused of willful
default on bank loans and corrupt practices, whose conviction can result in
disqualification from political office for twenty-one years. The NAB Ordinance
has attracted criticism for holding the accused without charge and, in some
instances, access to legal counsel. While military trial courts were not established,
on January 26, 2000, the government stipulated that Supreme, High, and Shari'a
Court justices should swear allegiance to the Provisional Constitutional Order
and the Chief Executive. Approximately 85 percent of justices acquiesced, but
a handful of justices were not invited to take the oath and were forcibly retired.
Political parties have not been banned, but a couple of dozen ruling party members
remain detained, with Sharif and five colleagues facing charges of attempted
Date/Time Last Modified: 3/3/2003 11:12:17 AM
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