No Prime Minister in Pakistan has ever completed his full term; All you need to know

Both Pakistan and India became independent nations in the same year 1947. Despite this, they have had very different trajectories since then. No Prime Minister has even been able to complete a full term in our neighboring state.

While Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, was assassinated, many others left office due to the dissolution or removal of their governments or the imposition of martial law.

Many have also resigned from their posts and the remaining others have been disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. These facts gain importance as the incumbent Prime Minister – Imran Khan – stares intently at a no-confidence vote or no-confidence motion proposed against him, and his government on the verge of collapse.

Khan will also be the first-ever prime minister to leave office through a vote of no confidence if he fails to prove his majority.

Graphic: Pragati Srivastava
Graphic: Pragati Srivastava

A look at the formation of Pakistan

Let’s go back in time 75 years to February 20, 1947, then British Prime Minister Clement Atlee declared that colonial rule on the South Asian subcontinent would end “on a later date in June 1948”. Almost a month later, on March 22, 1947, Sir Louis Mountbatten arrived in Delhi as the last Viceroy of India with a mission to transfer power and leave the country as soon as possible.

Three months later, in June, Mountbatten, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and five other leaders sit around a conference table and agree to divide the subcontinent. After this meeting, the viceroy announces August 15 as the date of the transfer of power.

Following this, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British lawyer, who has never visited India, was commissioned to redraw the map of South Asia in 40 days. According to this map, the Muslim-majority northwest and northeast became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on August 14 and the rest became secular, independent India on August 15.

A snapshot of Pakistani politics from 1947 to 1971 and after

Pakistan was initially a parliamentary democracy with a constituent assembly tasked with drafting a constitution and serving as the new legislature, a system that was eventually shattered by an authoritarian central leadership.

After Pakistan became an independent country, its founding father or Qaed-e-Azam as it is known, Mohammad Ali Jinnah took the reins as Governor General of the newly formed country and he maintained a powerful central government under his authority. Upon Jinnah’s death in 1948, Khawaja Nazimuddin became Governor-General, but real powers went to Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan.

Liaqat Ali Khan’s tenure was marred by the resentment of the Bengali population over the non-acceptance of Bengali as an official language, the domination of the bureaucracy by non-Bengalis, and the appropriation of government-related functions and income. province by the central government.

After the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan at Rawalpindi’s Company Bagh in 1951, Khawaja Nazimuddin took office as Prime Minister and installed Ghulam Mohammad as Governor General. Nazimuddin was overthrown by Mohammad in 1953 as Mohammad sacked Nazimuddin who still had a majority in parliament and later in the entire constituent assembly soon after the 1954 general election.

Ghulam Mohammad left office in 1955 and Major General Iskandar Mirza, Governor of East Bengal and Central Minister, has now taken office as Governor General. Under Major General Mirza, East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan.

Pakistan adopted a constitution in 1956, 9 years after its independence, with a newly elected constituent assembly. In this constitution, the eastern and western wings of the country were equally represented and the federal government had extensive powers. Mirza became president and named Suhrawardy prime minister. He however orchestrated Suhrawardy’s exit and Firoz Khan Noon became Prime Minister with the support of the Awami League.

Pakistan came under military rule in 1958 for the first time after the abrogation of the Pakistani constitution and Mirza was exiled. This military rule under General Ayub Khan lasted until 1971. General Khan was appointed Chief Martial Law Administrator and appointed as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, responsible for administering the country.

He consolidated the offices of the president and prime minister to become the head of state and government. He created a cabinet of technocrats, diplomats and military officers, including Air Marshal Asghar Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. It was during Khan’s tenure as Pakistan’s prime minister that the 1965 war with India took place.

General Yahya Khan, infamous for the 1971 Bangladesh War and the atrocities that unfolded throughout the crisis, ordered elections in December 1970 as President of Pakistan and Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces. These elections were won by the Awami League led by Shiekh Mujib-ur-Rahman in eastern Pakistan and by the Pakistan People’s Party led by Zulfiqar Ali-Bhutto in western Pakistan.

After the 1971 war, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was sworn in as President of Pakistan on December 20. With his presidency, Bhutto took control of the army. He also got another job as Chief Martial Law Administrator.

After that, Bhutto became Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1973 with 108 votes in a 146-member chamber. He is considered the architect of Pakistan’s 1973 constitution and set Pakistan on the path to parliamentary democracy. On July 5, 1977, the army led by General Zia-ul-Haq staged a military coup. Following this, General Zia relieved Bhutto of power and kept him in custody for about a month.

After consecutive arrests, Bhutto was hanged in 1979 despite international pleas for clemency. Bhutto was sentenced to death for the murder of a political opponent, which was widely seen as unfair. General Zia-ul-Haq’s reign as President of Pakistan and Chief Martial Law Administrator lasted until 1988 when he was killed in a plane crash.

It was then that Benazir Bhutto took over as Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister in 1988 and her government lasted until 1990. It was then that Nawaz Sharif, also infamous for the 1999 Kargil war , was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan and his term lasted until 1993, with Benazir re-elected to the post in 1990. Nawaz Sharif returned as Prime Minister for the second time in 1997, only to be overthrown by General Pervez Musharraf in a military coup in 1999.

Three years into his rule, Musharraf won a referendum and went on to power in Pakistan until 2008. Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani won the election and led a coalition government that served for about four years. Raja Pervez Ashraf was appointed Prime Minister for a time in 2012.

Nawaz Sharif returned as Prime Minister of Pakistan for the third time in 2013 and resigned in 2017 after being disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on corruption charges. After Sharif was sacked for corruption, Imran Khan took office as prime minister to much fanfare in 2018.

(With contributions from DIU, Britannica)

Also read: Imran Khan loses majority ahead of April 3 no-confidence vote

Also read: Won’t step down, ready to face vote of no confidence: Pak PM Imran Khan

Michael J. Chiaramonte