General Elections in PAKISTAN – A Brief History

Democracy is Government of the people, by the people, for the people

Election is the backbone of any form of democracy. It gives an opportunity to the voter to express his / her acceptance or rejection, and to bring in power the party to whom he / she believes that will work for a better
future and prosperity of the country. Pakistan is one of 167 countries in the world where Democracy is opted as the form of running state affairs. The state of Islamic Republic of Pakistan is being operated under parliamentary democracy. A system of government in which people directly elect representatives to the parliament is known
as Parliamentary democracy. The parliament elects the prime minister from within its members and through the parliament the Prime Minister and his cabinet are directly answerable to the people. The parliament is responsible for making laws and taking other important decisions for the country.


The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is an independent, autonomous, permanent and constitutionally established federal body. ECP is responsible for organizing and conducting of elections to state upper and
lower houses of the parliament, provincial and local governments and elections to the office of Pakistans President. Furthermore the delimitation of constituencies and preparation of Electoral Rolls also come under the basic responsibilities of ECP. As per the principles mentioned by the constitution of Pakistan, the commission makes such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted fairly, transparently and in accordance with
law. Also these corrupt practices are guarded against The Election Commission which was formed on 23 March 1956, and has been restructured and reformed at various occasions in the countrys history. Under the Article 213 & 216, the Chief Election Commissioner and four retired judges of the High Courts from respective four provinces of the country were appointed by the President, in the manner provided in the clauses (2A) and (2B) of Article 213 of the
constitution. As of present, Justice (R) Sardar Muhammad Raza is the current Chief Election Commissioner. Election Commission of Pakistan has a 5-member panel, out of which 4 members are from each of the four provinces (Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) headed by a Chief Election Commissioner.The Commission
transacts its business by holding meetings. All members of the Election Commission have equal status and say in the
decisions of the Commission.

The Independence Act of 1947 made the existing Constituent Assemblies the dominion legislatures with the authority to exercise all the powers that were formerly exercised by the central legislature in addition to the powers regarding the framing of a new constitution, prior to which all the territories were to be governed in accordance with the Government of India Act, 1935. In the first session of First Constituent Assembly, on August 11, 1947 Muhammad Ali Jinnah was elected unanimously the President of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, and the national flag was formally approved by the Assembly. On October 24, 1954, the then Governor General Ghulam Muhammad dissolved First Constituent Assembly.

The second constituent Assembly of Pakistan was created on May 28 under Governor Generals Order No. 12 of 1955. The electoral college of this assembly was the Provincial Assemblies of respective provinces. The strength of this assembly was 80 members, half each from East & West Pakistan.

On March 5, 1956, Major General Iskander Mirza became the first elected President of Pakistan. According to the Constitution of 1956, the President was the Executive Head Of the Federation and was to be elected by all members of the National and Provincial assemblies for the period of five years. Legislative powers vested in the Parliament, which consisted of the President and the National Assembly comprising 300 members divided into half between East and West Pakistan. In addition to those 300 seats, 5 seats for women were reserved for each of the two wings for a period of ten years.

President Iskander Mirza abrogated the constitution by declaring Martial Law on October 7, 1958 and dissolved the National and Provincial Assemblies. He appointed General Muhammad Ayub Khan, Commander-in-Chief of the Army as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. General Ayub Khan became the second President of Pakistan on October 27, 1958. He introduced a system of local self-government known as Basic Democracies (BDs) promulgated under Basic Democracies Order on October 27, 1959. On February 14, 1960, President Ayub Khan won referendum and assumed power of Presidency by securing 95.6 percent of the votes and framed a new constitution on March 1, 1962.

1st general elections were held in 1962, under the rule of military dictator General Ayub Khan.
2nd general elections were conducted in 1965 in which parliamentarians were elected indirectly by 80,000 BD members or members of local governments.

85s National Assembly was dominated by the rural landlords. The only change was that the younger generation of landlords had taken over from their elders

3rd general elections were held by Ayubs successor, General Yahya Khan, in 1970, described as the fairest the country had held so far. But in a bitter irony they triggered the countrys most devastating political crisis. Separatist Bengali leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehmans Awami League party swept the vote in the East Pakistan and Zulfikar
Ali Bhuttos Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won a majority in West Pakistan. In the wake of the crisis, a war erupted between Pakistan and India, with the eastern wing splitting off to become an independent Bangladesh and Bhutto becoming prime minister of the smaller, unified Pakistan in 1971.

4th general elections were held in 1977 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but rigging allegations were raised by a nine-party alliance, Pakistan Qaumi Ittehad. General Zia-ul-Haq toppled Bhutto in a coup in July 1977 and promised to hold fresh polls within 90 days that never happened. Zia hanged Bhutto two years later and got himself elected as president in a rigged referendum.

5th general elections of the National and Provincial Assemblies were scheduled in 1985 by General Zia-ul-Haq on non-party basis with a precondition that a candidate must be supported by at least 50 people to be eligible.These were very strange elections. More than 800 important political personalities were arrested in a crackdown before elections. Election campaign was not allowed and a ban was imposed on political parties, processions, rallies and even loudspeakers. 85s National Assembly was dominated by the rural landlords. The only change was that the younger generation of landlords had taken over from their elders. The social background of the new members of parliament can be judged from the fact that 75% of total number of these bodies was big landlords.

The people of Pakistan witnessed a divine cycle of fortune as on August 17, 1988, when General Zia-ul-Haq along with other notables died in a C-130 plane crash near Bahawalpur. Under the constitution, the Chairman Senate, Ghulam Ishaq Khan became the acting President. On October 2, 1988, Supreme Court of Pakistan permitted the political parties to participate in the upcoming elections.

6th general elections were held in November, 1988. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) under the leadership of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto emerged as the single largest party by receiving 38.52% votes.

It captured 93 of the 207 directly-contested seats in parliament, which has 237 members. IJI was able to grab 30.16% of the votes, but only 55 seats. After the womens seats were apportioned, the Pakistan Peoples Party controlled 105 of the 237 seats. The PPP formed a coalition-government with the MQM. On December 2, 1988 Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as not only the first ever female Prime Minister of Pakistan but also the Islamic world. The provincial elections, held on November 19, initially resulted in PPP governments in three out of four provinces. However, in Punjab, IJI leader Nawaz Sharif became the Chief Minister.

7th general elections were held in August 1990, after the dismissal of Benazir government. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif took oath as the new Prime Minister. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan again dissolved the assemblies
on 18th April 1993 and appointed Balakh Sher Mazari as the interim Prime Minister. Supreme Court of Pakistan invalidated the Presidential Order and re-instated Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister. However, the political crisis resulted in the resignation of both the Prime Minister and President on July 18, 1993. Moeen Qureshi, a World Bank official, took over the charge as caretaker Prime Minister.

8th general elections held in October 1993. No mainstream party was able to gain majority as PPP obtained 86 seats and PML stood second with 72. At this time late Benazir Bhutto played her cards very intelligently. She defeated Mian Nawaz Sharif with 121-71 margin for the Leader of the House and also elected former PPP Foreign
Minister Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari as the President. Unfortunately, on November5, 1996, President Leghari dismissed PPPs government.

9th general elections were scheduled to be held in February 1997. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif took oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan as he acquired a landslide victory by attaining ultimate 2/3 majority in the house.

Still the nightmare was not over as on October 12, 1999; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dismissed Mr. Pervez Musharraf, who was the Chief of Army Staff at that time. Mr. Nawaz Sharif could not control the situation as senior Army generals refusedto accept it and the Generals ousted Mr. Nawaz Sharif from power.

On October 12, 1999; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dismissed Mr. Pervez Musharraf, who was the Chief
of Army Staff at that time

Chief of Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf assumed the title of Chief Executive through a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) issued on October 14th, 1999. He suspended all constitutional organs of the state including the Senate, National and Provincial Assemblies, Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate, Speaker, Deputy Speaker including National and Provincial Assemblies and dismissed the Federal and Provincial governments.

The special feature of 12th general elections was the thundering entry of a new player; Pakistan Tehrik-i Insaf (PTI) led by the legend Imran Khan

10th general elections were held in October 2002. The Kings party, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q), a faction of the former Pakistan Muslim League (PML) obtained the largest share of seats, 77 but not the majority. The Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P) stood second by securing 63 seats. Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), an alliance of six Islamist parties, won 45 seats. Mir Zafarullah Jamali was elected as the Prime Minister of Pakistan by securing 172 votes out of 329, but he resigned on 26 June 2004 and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain replaced him as the interim Prime Minister, who was later replaced by Mr. Shaukat Aziz.

11th general elections in 2008 are considered as the victory of political and democratic forces for restoration of democracy and continuity of electoral process in the country, but during political campaign in Rawalpindi, the
chairperson of PPP-P, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007. Violence erupted, resulting into rescheduling of elections to a new date on February 18, 2008. PPP Parliamentarian emerged as the single largest
party whose total figure reached to 123 seats while the PML-N stood 2nd with 93 seats in national assembly. The former ruling PML-Q (now PML) could manage to win only 53 seats in national assembly. The regional parties like MQM and ANP won 25 and 13 seats respectively, while 19 candidates were elected as independent candidates. In Punjab, PML-N formed the government while Sindh and Baluchistan fell with PPP-P and ANP took over Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

12th general elections were held in May 2013. The special feature of this election was the thundering entry of a new player; Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) led by the legend Imran Khan. It is important to know that PTI of Imran
Khan participated in 1997, 2002 elections and boycotted 2008 elections but could not attract the voters. During 2013 elections, the voter turnout was amazingly 55%. PML-N emerged as the single largest party whose total figure reached to 189 seats. PPP Parliamentarian stood 2nd largest party with 44 seats while PTI got 3rd position with 32 seats. KPK proved the base camp of PTI as they formed the first ever government since its inception. PML (N) formed its government in Punjab and Baluchistan while Sindh remained with PPP-P.