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Pakistan Affairs Essays Outlines

Political Instability in Pakistan | Essay for CSS Exams

Political Instability in Pakistan
Written by Shahzad F. Malik


This research was performed to investigate the role of political parties in Pakistan over the last two decades. This paper also attempts to discuss how parties and their actions affect the democratic culture in the state. I have investigated the roles of the political parties in Pakistan by examining their different functions, which include the responsibility to represent the civil society, to integrate the diverse elements of the society into a political system, and to respond to the demands and needs of the public. The internal politics of political parties in Pakistan and their criteria for recruitment and training leadership are discussed, as well as their effects on the political system of Pakistan.

The data were collected by researching secondary sources that discussed and evaluated the functions of political parties in Pakistan. A content analysis method was used to analyze the data and characterize the contributions of political parties to the political culture of Pakistan and their effects on the democratic system of Pakistan.

In this thesis, I have investigated the roles and mechanism of political parties in Pakistan based on an exploration of the roles of several prominent political parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz group) (PML (N)), the Pakistan People Party (PPP), the Awami National Party (ANP), and the Mutahida Quami Movement (MQM). During the past two decades, the PPP and PML (N) parties have remained prominent through the formation of alliances with other parties. This research discusses the roles of these parties in representation, integration, aggregation, recruiting, and training leadership during times in which these parties have held both power in government and represented the opposition.


The major purpose of this research is to shed light on the problems faced by political parties and their role in the political system of Pakistan. The parties considered in this work are the Pakistan People Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Group (PML (N)), the Awami (public) National Party (ANP), and the Mutahida (united) Quami (national) Movement (MQM). These political parties have held power in Pakistan at different times over the past two decades. This paper also attempts to discuss the functions of these parties, such as representation, integration, recruiting, and training leadership, and the conduct of political parties when they are in power or in opposition.

It has been argued that parties are ―endemic to democracy, an unavoidable part of democracy. In a democratic system, political parties provide the proper mode of functioning for the government so that the majority party or a combination of parties controls the government, while other parties serve as the opposition and attempt to check the abuses of power by the ruling party. Citizens extend their desires, needs, and problems to the government through the political parties. In fact, political parties represent an essential and important tool that acts as a bridge between a society and its government. The existence of a strong and viable opposition keeps the ruling party alert. It is also the duty of political parties to promote policies that will educate the people about how a democratic system functions and offer different policy packages to the electorates. To some extent, political parties allow people to defend their rights, and the support of the people strengthens political parties. Therefore, political parties promote the welfare of the society as a whole. One basic need is to develop the political ideology and democratic roots within a state, which is a fundamental method of political development. The goals and objectives of political development could not be achieved without political parties.

Since independence was achieved in Pakistan on 14 August, 1947, only a small number of civilian governments have completed their constitutional tenure, and most of those who did were under the rule of a dictator. The political system in Pakistan has never functioned efficiently in sixty-four years of independence. During this period, Pakistan’s political system has faced four military interventions, during which the army chiefs overtook political governments and imposed martial law. Pakistan still has not found a stable political equilibrium or clear directions to resolve its fundamental political conflicts. Because of these different types of government, the people of Pakistan are unsure of whether their government should be secular or Islamic and democratic or ruled by a military dictator. The main problems faced by political development are weaknesses among institutions, such as a lack of accountability and the presence of corruption; a lack of focus on people’s needs; and an emphasis on increasing the assets of the leaders of the political parties. As stated by Rasul Bakhsh Rais: ―The history of military dictators is characterized by deceit, institutional decay, political fragmentation, moral and social rot, (that produced polarization), insurgencies and alliances of the state with violent ethnic and religious groups. The occurrence of these incidents and events can only be explained by reviewing the circumstances under which the country was created. When an electoral political regime is in power, it will seek to prolong its control and satisfy key members by awarding them critical positions in important institutions. Furthermore, many internal problems in political parties lead to problems in the political system, such as an undemocratic structure and a lack of political values and practices. These problems decrease the popularity of political parties and reduce the trust of the leaders among the people.

Background of Pakistani Politics

The month of August 1947 brought a major change to the world map with the establishment of the two independent states of Pakistan and India on the 14 and 15 of August, 1947, respectively. Independence marked the end of a long British rule that lasted nearly one hundred and fifty years. It had been decided that the division between Pakistan and India would be made on the basis of the populations of Muslims and Hindus. Muslim-majority cities would be included in Pakistan, and Hindu-majority cities would be included in India. A large number of Muslims in the Indian part of the subcontinent migrated to Pakistan. Approximately two million people were killed due to communal violence and hatred between Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims. The majority of the victims of these victims were Muslims.

Soon after independence, the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the First Governor General of Pakistan; however, he died in 1948. Quaid-e-Azam was the most influential person in the party (Muslim League), having the total support of the people of Pakistan. He was the only person who could unite all the political leaders and ordinary people under a single national identity, and his death affected the politics of Pakistan badly. His successor, Liaqat Ali Khan, became prime minister and attempted to fill Quaid-e-Azam’s gap, but he was assassinated in October 1951.

The Muslim League is the founding party of Pakistan. ―But after his death Muslim League has never been able to transform itself from a nationalist movement a national party. After Quaid-e-Azam and Liaqat Ali Khan were lost, the Muslim League faced a deficiency of competent leadership in Pakistan. Power-hungry politicians remained representing groups of opportunists who had already opposed the formation of Pakistan8. On the other hand, a struggle began between the Mohajir (refugee) community, the aristocracy, and the religious leadership for gains in political power. All the weakness and incompetency led to a lack of political non-consensus, and bureaucrats resolutely became politicians who assumed power. A former bureaucrat, Ghulam Muhammad, was appointed as prime minster, and he succeeded another bureaucrat with an army background. The ruler never attempted to pay attention to the problems of the common people during the early years. Furthermore, these politicians were not able to finalize a constitution for Pakistan.

In 1958, Pakistani politics fell into an even worse state when Skandar Mirza took full advantage of the weaknesses of the political parties. At that time, there was only one way to avoid a general election i.e. imposition of martial law. Due to the failure of the political parties, martial law was declared on 7 October, 1958. President Mirza issued a proclamation to cancel the Constitution and declare martial law throughout Pakistan. He abrogated the central and provincial governments by dissolving the national and provincial assemblies. Two weeks later, Mirza was forced to retire, and General Muhammad Ayub Khan, the chief martial law administrator and supreme commander of the armed forces, took his place. During Ayub’s regime, the bureaucracy became empowered increasingly in Pakistan as Ayub Khan depended heavily on the bureaucracy to manage the political setup. General Yahiya Khan, the commander in chief of the army, succeeded Ayub Khan. Yahiya Khan ruled Pakistan for more than two years under the cover of martial law. From 1947–1958, not a single national election was held because most of the politicians knew that the electorate would reject them. Between 1958 and 1968, two indirect elections were held, but neither was conducted on a free and fair basis.

Ayub Khan introduced the first constitution of Pakistan. The presidential form of government was introduced, and all power was vested in the president. A basic democratic system was introduced, and only eighty thousand basic democrats elected the president. The military has ruled Pakistan for more than thirty-four of the sixty-four years of Pakistani independence. The feudal landlords and the capitalist class of people did not aid in the development of democracy in Pakistan. These ―power motivated groups failed in state building and were unable to articulate or aggregate the interests of the people, which is necessary to develop meaningful socio-economic policies for newly born nation. As a result, the poor and the middle class were trapped in a cycle of poverty, and these classes continue to decline today.

The first direct general election was held in 1970, almost twenty-three years after the birth of Pakistan; only two parties participated in these elections: the PPP from West Pakistan and the ANP from East Pakistan. These two parties achieved overwhelming success in these general elections.

The results of the elections indicated that the PPP had emerged as the majority party in Pakistan with a clear majority in Punjab and Sindh. In these elections, Sheikh Mujeeb Ur Rehman ‘s ANP in East Pakistan won an absolute majority of seats in the National Assembly, and this result was not acceptable to Z. A. Bhutto, whose PPP had won a majority of seats in the assembly from West Pakistan. Hence, President Yahiya Khan dismissed the legislature. This suspension led to a cry for independence in East Pakistan, which Yahiya Khan sought to suppress by military repression, and this resulted in a historical disaster: the separation of West Pakistan (presently Bangladesh) from East Pakistan (presently Pakistan).

Z. A. Bhutto was more successful in restoring parliamentary government in Pakistan. He helped to create a new constitution, the nation’s third in twenty-six years, which was adopted in 1973. He established a National Assembly of two hundred and seven members and four provincial assemblies of proportionate size. All representatives were to be elected directly for five-year terms. Under the constitution provision, Bhutto became prime minister of the government, elected by the majority of the National Assembly.

National elections were again held in 1977, and Z. A. Bhutto faced a strong alliance of political parties (Pakistan National Alliance, PNA). Bhutto won the election, and the PNA was able to obtain only thirty-six seats out of two hundred and seven in the Pakistan National Assembly. The opposition declared that the election had been rigged and began to agitate against the PPP’s government. Bhutto called in the army to restore law and order and to negotiate with the PNA.

The army chief of staff Zia ul Haq seized the reins of the government. Hence, a new and long-lasting era of martial law began, which ended in 1988 with the assassination of Zia ul Haq. Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Z.A. Bhutto came into power with majority votes after the elections of November 1988. But in 1990, her government was dismissed for charges of corruptionby Ghulam Ishaq Khan the existing president of Pakistan at that time. Following the 1990 elections, Nawaz Sharif became prime minister of Pakistan with a majority of the votes, but his government was also dismissed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The democratic era (1988–1999) continued to alternate between B. Bhutto and Sharif until 1999, when the general public became fed up with the democratic era and the corruption of the politicians. In 1999, the dictator General Pervaz Musharaf imposed martial law and ruled until 2008 with so-called democracy. At first, the people of Pakistan welcomed this change of government in the hope that the unjust economic, social and political system would be reformed, but after two years, the economy of Pakistan fell into decline.

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Shahzad F. Malik

Shahzad Faisal Malik is the administrator of and is responsible for managing the content, design, and overall direction of the blog. He has a strong background in Competitive Exams and is passionate and sharing information with others.
Shahzad Faisal Malik has worked as a Graphic Designer/Content Creator at CSSTimes in the past. In his free time, Shahzad Faisal Malik enjoys watching Cricket, writing blogs for different websites and is always on the lookout for new and interesting content to share with the readers of this website.
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