The Politics of Pakistan

One of the most controversial democracies of the world, the state of politics in Pakistan makes for an interesting read. From the time it gained independence in 1947, it has been riddled with problems regarding the authority of the civilian head and the role of the military head. The first decade was marred with controversies resulting in the collapse of the civilian government on more than one occasion. From 1947 to 1958 as many as seven Prime Ministers resigned or were thrown out of power. This chaos in the state of affairs resulted in the first takeover when in 1958, the civilian President Iskander Mirza conspired with the army general Mohammed Ayub Khan to impose martial law in the country.


He was followed by General Yahya Khan in 1969, after being forced to resign due to serious unrest in the country. Yahya Khan reimposed martial law but had to give up his office in the wake of the defeat in the 1971 war which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh and military rule was suspended for some time. From 1972 to 1977 civilian rule which was autocratic in nature continued under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who introduced a new Constitution to govern Pakistan. He was deposed by General Zia –ul- Haq in a coup which again led to establishment of martial law. This remained in force till 1985. In 1988, after the death of General Zia, Benazir Bhutto was elected as the first woman prime minister of the country. She was followed by Nawaz Sharif who was again deposed in a military coup in 1999 by General Pervez Musharraf. Pervez Musharraf’s regime came to an end in 2008, when widespread protests against the impeachment of Chief Justice Chaudhary led to his resignation transferring power to Asif Ali Zardari. His leadership has not been very smooth either because a few days back, during his visit to Iran, there were suspicions about him being overthrown by General Kayani and Prime Minister Gilani.


Pakistan has officially been a federal republic since 1956. However, its democratic rule has more often than not been overarched by military rule.


It foreign relations have also been affected as a result of its turbulent domestic situation. Historically, it has had hostile relations with India. From the days of the Cold War, it has been an ally of the US, who in its national interest has used the government of Pakistan to further its own needs. The close ties between the two nations were evident in the 1971 war, when US provided widespread military assistance to Pakistan.


Pakistan’s civil government suffers from its own problems such as that of corruption. However, what has prevented the country from becoming a fully developed democracy is the role of the military and the ISI in its political affairs. Almost all historical turmoil, including the partition of the country into Pakistan and Bangladesh and the situation in 1999 and 2001-02 can be attributed the interference of the military. Since the army places its own interest over that of the country, it is the people who ultimately suffer the brunt of bad governance. The result of this turmoil is that its economy is in a terrible condition with inflation touching 24%, Taliban has taken control over its tribal areas, Baluchistan is in turmoil, there are problems between Sind and Punjab and sectarian violence is on the rise. Above all of this is the problem of increasing Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan’s policies.


With increasing terrorist attacks and suicide bombings taking place all over the Pakistani province, Taliban is soon establishing its power over the weak government. If it is not controlled in due time, it would lead to severe repercussions for India and the world.


Ridhi Kabra

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