Muhammad Zahid Raffat

Month of August in the calendar year is already important because in this month we celebrate our independence every year on August 14.

But at least for the present, this month has gained more importance as within few days from now the country is going to have a new Prime Minister on the basis of mandate given by the people in the general election to the 15th  National Assembly  in the very fair, transparent, peaceful and orderly manner held on July 25, 2018.

The new Prime Minister in the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad is going  to be none else but Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) Imran Khan. As a matter of fact, both Imran Khan and his party PTI are new in the corridors of powers at the national level. PTI was the ruling party during last five years in the province of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa on the basis of mandate of the people it had secured in 2013 general election.

PTI and allies have adequate number of seats in the National Assembly to form the new government after Imran Khan is voted as the new Prime Minister in the new National Assembly inaugural session in couple of days. United Opposition parties including former ruling parties PML(N) and PPP and religious parties revived alliance Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and other parties have put up PML(N) President and formerly Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif as their joint candidate for the top slot of the Prime Minister mainly to ensure that the PTI Chairman is not elected as the new Prime Minister just unopposed.

PTI is the newest ruling party at the national level in about 71 years politically chequered history of Pakistan. Previous  ruling parties for varying periods were Pakistan’s founding party Muslim League, Awami League,Republican Party, Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League , Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam).

These ruling parties are besides the bitter fact that the country has been ruled for longer and shorter period by four military dictators in Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan , General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, General Muhammad Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf. Till now, the country had seven caretaker Prime Ministers also in Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Mir Balakh Sher Mazari, Moeenuddin Ahmad Qureshi, Malik Meraj Khalid, Muhammedmian Soomro,  Mir Hazar Khan Khoso and Justice ® Nasirul Mulk for running day to day affairs and supervising holding of  general election or mid-term or full term basis.

It is pertinent to mention here, mainly for record purposes, that during the electoral campaigns to July 25, 2017 general election, PML(N) President Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilawal Zardari and PTI Chairman Imran Khasn had made it quite ominous that in case their parties emerge victorious in the polls, then either of them will be the new Prime Minister of the country. And, the people have voted in favour of PTI Chairman to occupy the office of the Prime Minister for next constitutional tenure of five years.

Historically and statistically speaking for keeping the records state, Pakistan is about to turn 71 in few days from now on August 14, 2018 with the continued blessings of Almighty Allah despite all the internal and external challenges and problems it had and still facing all these years. Being 71 is obviously quite small period in the life of the nation which had come out in existence out of nowhere on August 14, 1947 under the inspiring leadership and principled statesmanship of  Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah  and is destined to remain on the world map as long as blessed by Almighty Allah.

But most unfortunately and due to persisting political instability and fragile democracy every now and then, Imran Khan will be assuming the high office as the 22nd Prime Minister of the country despite the bitter that the post had remained abolished during the varying periods of four military dictators, as mentioned above,  and seven caretaker Prime Ministers.

The post of the Prime Minister was created  at the time of creation of Pakistan. Since the post of the Governor General had not been abolished in the beginning, the Prime Minister in office initially  did not have all the executive powers . Following the 18th Constitutional Amendment passed only in 2010, the Prime Minister is the executive head of the State of Pakistan and as such the incumbent in the office enjoys more powers than any other government officials including the President.

After the first political murder and unfortunately assassination of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan  on October 16, 1951 while he was addressing a public meeting in Gol Bagh, Rawalpindi, there were as many as seven different  prime ministers  within the short span of six years. All of them were from Pakistan founding party Muslim League except  Malik Feroze Khan Noon who was the first one from the newly-formed Republican Party and also Huseyn Shaheed Surhawardy who hailed from Awami League.

It is also a bitter fact that none of the 21 Prime Ministers somehow had not completed their tenure  due to varying reasons and factors. PPP”s Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani  held the post  for four years two months and 25 days prior to his being unseated and convicted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Previously, Liaquat Ali Khan had served the longest period of four years two months and 2 days as the first Prime Minister.

PML(N) own faction chief Nawaz Sharif had become the Prime Minister three times but still ion aggregation his three tenures, all remaining incomplete somehow,  totalled up to 5 years, two months and 27 DAYS.  After aggregating  Benazir Bhutto’s two terms, her total period in power  comes to four years 8 months and 21 days. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif somehow could not complete even a single five years constitutional tenure though they duly elected Prime Ministers twice and thrice respectively.However, both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto  are the longest serving prime ministers though non-consecutively.

The governments of Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif  were dismissed twice and once respectively  by Presidents Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Sardar Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari. However, Nawaz Sharif on being removed in April 1993 was reinstated in May and then he had resigned the office in July 1993 along with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan after both of them had reached point of no return and following an agreement brokered by the high quarters concerned to save the situation. Nawaz Sharif’s second term was curtailed in October 1999 when Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee/Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf seized power through a coup.. Nawaz Sharif’s third term  as an off shoot of the 18th Constitutional Amendment  was cut down in July 27, 2017 when he was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Panama Papers Leaks case.

 Then after the first coup d’etat of the newly born country staged by General Muhammad Khan in October 1958, the post of the prime minister had remained  abolished for a pretty  long period of 13 years and 2 months including short tenure of second military ruler General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan till 1971.

There was a short period of recreation of the post when Nurul Amin was appointed as the Prime Minister merely for 13 days in December 1971. Alongside him, General Yahya Khan  had also illegally made PPP’s Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Awami League’s Sh Mujibur Rahman as the Vice-Prime Ministers  though they had not acquired these positions.

Former ruling parties have been mentioned already briefly, regular Prime Ministers names  in short are Liaqat Ali Khan, Khwaja Nazimuddin, Muhammad Ali Bogra, Ch Muhammad Ali, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar, Malik Feroze Khan Noon, Nurul Amin, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,Muhammad Ali Junejo, Benazir Bhutto,  Nawaz Sharif, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Shaukat Aziz, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Rana Pervaiz Ashraf and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Ironically, Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam), Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz )  had completed  their constitutionally tenure  of five years each between 2002 to 2018 one after the other. However, due to varying reasons, PML (QA) had three, PPP two and PML(N) also two Prime Ministers during their respective constitutional tenures.

Total duration of democratically elected Prime Minister  aggregates to 34 years 11 months and 14 days, the four military dictators ruled the country as Chief Martial Law Administrator/President almost for the same period.

Lot more in this regard after country’s 22nd Prime Minister is inducted in the office  and the Nation celebrates another Independence Day within next few days, please.

The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy              Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.

Originally published in Daily The Nation (August 11, 2018)