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Fall of Pakistan Governments

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Fall of Pakistan Governments – Social-Historical
Analysis
Pakistan has witnessed a long chain of political instability- and also change of government either
through coups ot street fighting. The trend started right after murder of Liaquat Ali Khan, the then
Prime Minister. That was a sign of things to come. There have so far been four major political
movements in Pakistan that led to overthrowing a sitting government. Three of these movements were
against military rule and one targeted an elected civilian setup. Though three of the movements (two
against military rule and one against a civilian government) were actually successful in initiating a
sequence of events that bought the government down, the eventual successes of these movements were
soon soiled by the consequential emergence of greater social and political crisis compared to the ones
that the movements had pointed their demonstrations against.
The four movements include the 1968-69 uprising against Filed Martial Ayub Khan’s military-backed
regime; the 1977 movement of opposition parties against the civilian government of Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto; the 1983 movement led by the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against the
military dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq; and the 2007 protest movement led by radical lawyers and
aided by opposition parties against the pro-military set-up of General Parvez Musharraf.
The movements against Ayub, Musharraf and Bhutto were successful in gradually ousting these men.
But each one of these successes were soon followed by certain weighty events that were largely
triggered by the immediate consequences of the movements i.e. weakening of the economy, political
bedlam, and the withering of the social contract between the state and society that encouraged
indiscipline and confusion within state institutions and in society in general.
Ayub’s regime fell in 1969. Though his fall was followed by Pakistan’s first ever general election based
on adult franchise (in 1970), in 1971 Pakistan lost a civil war in its Eastern wing (East Pakistan) and
then a war against India whose forces aided the separation of East Pakistan from its Western wing.
The weakening of Bhutto’s regime due to intense protests against it in 1977 was almost immediately
followed by a reactionary military coup that lasted for eleven years. The dictatorship’s legacy today is
widely considered to be one of the most damaging to the country’s social and political fabric.
The movement against Musharraf forced him to hold an election in 2008 that allowed the return of the
country’s two main parties (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the PPP); and the same year he was
forced by the newly elected government and parliament to resign as head of state and Army chief.
However, his exit further intensified episodes of anarchic terrorism by religious extremists and
militants who had first emerged during his regime. Thousands of civilians, politicians, soldiers and
policemen were killed in the militant violence and bombings that erupted during the regimes that
followed his ouster.
Of course, the movements that ousted Ayub, Bhutto and Musharraf can’t be entirely blamed for such
devastating quandaries because the roots of the ultimate damage that followed their ouster also lie in
the shortcomings of their respective governments. But it is also true that the economic, political and
social consequences triggered by the movements did intensify the magnitude of the rot that had been
brewing within the country’s state and society before the movements began.
1. Good bye Ayub
Many people who as young men and women took part in the widespread protest movement against the
military rule of Ayub Khan in the late 1960s suggest that Ayub relinquished power after he was told
what some of the protesters had started to call him. In 1968 at the height of the movement against him,
young protesters in Karachi and Lahore began describing him as a dog. This was a time when

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politicians and rulers in Pakistan hardly ever used any derogatory language against their opponents, so
Ayub was shocked when he heard that some of his children (the term he used to describe his subjects),
had decided to call him a dog.
Ayub had come to power in 1958 on the back of a popular military coup (Pakistan’s first), and had
enjoyed a significant run of admiration from a majority of Pakistanis in the first four years of his
dictatorship.
Vowing to make Pakistan a powerful and influential military-industrial state, Ayub encouraged and
facilitated an unprecedented growth in the process of industrialisation in the country. He also initiated
the introduction of technical innovations in agriculture and brought Pakistan closer to the United States,
thus benefitting from the military and financial aid that came with the enhanced relationship.
By 1961 the Ayub regime had largely restored the country’s economy that had begun to weaken from
the mid-1950s onwards, mainly due to the political chaos that prevailed in the country, as various
factions of Pakistan’s first ruling party, the Muslim League, indulged in constant infighting and
intrigues, and were unable to address the growing disenchantment and cynicism exhibited towards
politicians by those who were kept out from the political process dominated by the country’s political-
bureaucratic elite.
Ayub was at the height of his power and popularity when he decided to lift Martial Law in 1962 and
restore at least a semblance of political activity by the parties that had been banned in 1958. He became
President and handpicked an assembly through a complex electoral system called ‘Basic Democracies’.
After discarding the 1956 Constitution, his assembly passed a brand new Constitution that enshrined
Ayub’s idea of Jinnah’s Pakistan. The idea revolved around the construction of a strong military-
industrial state, propped up by state-backed capitalism, free enterprise, agricultural reforms and a
progressive interpretation of Islam that was compatible with science, technology and modernity.
Ayub detested politicians, from both the left as well as the right sides of the conventional ideological
divide. His regime came down hard on left-wing parties and then went on to ban certain fundamentalist
parties such as the Jamat-i-Islami (JI) (though the ban was overturned by the courts).
The leftists accused him of encouraging capitalist cronyism, the exploitation of the workers, and the
suppression of the rights and ethnic-nationalism of of the Bengalis (in East Pakistan), Sindhis, the
Baloch and the Pakhtun, and of dislodging the Urdu-speakers (the Mohajirs) from important state and
government institutions that they had helped build after Pakistan’s creation in 1947.
The religious right denounced him of being overtly secular. Ayub easily glided through the many
periodical protests that took place against him after 1962 and then won a second term as President in a
controversial Presidential race in 1965.
Buoyed by his victory and his firm status as a benevolent dictator, Ayub then made an uncharacteristic
mistake , advised by the hawks in his cabinet (led by his young Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto),
to crown his economic and political achievements with a military triumph against India. India had
suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese army in 1962 and Bhutto and his supporters in
the cabinet were convinced that the Pakistan army would be able to crush the weakened Indian armed
forces.
Though the Pakistani armed forces made rapid gains in the initial period of the 1965 Pakistan-India
War, the conflict soon turned against Pakistan and the control of Lahore virtually passed to India. Ayub
settled for a ceasefire, sending Bhutto into a rage. Ayub eased out Bhutto from the government but the
damage was done. The war had drained the country’s resources and the economy began its detrimental
slide.
Ayub’s opponents accused him of coping out and of losing the war on the negotiation table. Bhutto
went on to form his radical left-liberal party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and along with the
already established left-wing groups, such as the National Awami Party (NAP) and the National

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Students Federation (NSF), he became the most prominent face of left-wing opposition in West
Pakistan.
In Bengali-dominated East Pakistan, Shiekh Mujeebur Rehman’s Awami League (AL), upped the ante
against the regime and accused it of leaving East Pakistan open to an Indian attack during the 1965 war.
As the Bengali nationalist movement led by AL and by various militant/Maoist Bengali nationalist
groups in East Pakistan gathered pace, in West Pakistan, Ayub was suddenly faced by a spontaneous
students’ movement when in October 1968, a large contingent from the NSF gate-crashed a ceremony
being held by the government at Lahore’s Fortress Stadium to celebrate the ‘Decade of Progress’. The
students began to chant anti-Ayub slogans and clashed with the police. They accused the regime of
enriching a handful of cronies and letting everyone else suffer unemployment and economic hardship.
Then in November 1968, police opened fire on a left-wing student rally in Rawalpindi, killing three
protesters.
In response to the killings, the students formed a Students Action Committee and announced that
students across Pakistan would begin a concentrated protest movement against the regime. As the
students began their campaign (with most of the student groups demanding a socialist system and
parliamentary democracy), Bhutto’s PPP joined the fray along with NAP and their entry brought with it
the participation in the movement of the radical trade and labour unions that were associated with these
parties.
By late 1968 the movement had spread beyond Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar and reached
the smaller cities and towns of Punjab and Sindh. Meanwhile in East Pakistan, AL and other Bengali
nationalist groups began to demand complete provincial autonomy for East Pakistan. Schools, colleges
and universities stopped functioning; workers went on strike and closed down a number of factories,
and white-collar professionals refused to attend office, further crippling an already deteriorating
political and economic order.
After failing to quell the protests (through police action and wide-scale arrests), Ayub invited
opposition parties to hold a dialogue with the government. But the PPP and NAP boycotted the
negotiations that were largely attended by religious parties and some moderate right-wing parties.
However, Mujeeb’s AL did participate, but the talks ultimately broke down. By early 1969 the
movement had also been joined by peasant committees and organizations in the country’s rural areas.
In March 1969 a group of senior military men advised Ayub to step down, fearing the eruption of a full
scale civil war in East Pakistan and political and social anarchy in the country’s west wing. A weakened
and tired Ayub finally decided to throw-in the towel and resigned, handing over power to General
Yayah Khan who immediately imposed the country’s second Martial Law. He promised to hold the
country’s first general election based on adult franchise and relinquish power after introducing
parliamentary democracy in Pakistan. With this announcement, the movement came to a halt.
The elections were held in 1970. In East Pakistan AL won 98 percent of the allotted national and
provincial assembly seats, whereas in West Pakistan, the PPP swept the polls in the region’s two largest
provinces, Punjab and Sindh. NAP performed well in the former NWFP and Balochistan. Most of the
status quo parties (such as the many Muslim League factions), and most religious outfits (except Jamiat
Ulema Islam), were decimated. However, a three-way political deadlock between AL, PPP and the
Yayah regime (over a power-sharing formula) triggered a grave crisis that finally saw the feared
eruption of a civil war in East Pakistan and then India’s entry into the deadly conflict.
Pakistani armed forces, exhausted by the anti-Ayub movement and facing negative sentiments due to
the fall-out of Ayub’s departure, lost both the civil war and the consequential battle against Indian
forces. A group of military officers (most of them Bhutto sympathizers), forced Yayah to resign and
then invited Bhutto and his party to form the country’s first parliamentary government.
2. Bhutto’s paradox

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