Phases of dictatorship and democracy in Pakistan – Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

Democracy in Pakistan

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto after rising to power was faced with the challenge of creating appropriate civil military relations. After making several changes the president now had direct command over the three forces. The military was very supportive towards the civilian regime under the command of general Tikka. General Mohammad Sharif took charge of the first Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) and General Tikka was appointed the new Defense Minister. In March 1976 a Junior Corps Commander General Zia Ul Haq was promoted to Chief of Staff replacing seven Generals.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto emerged as a successful leader most of his success relied on his demand for modernization of Pakistan. Bhutto at several occasions had used the term modernization yet some party members and prominent individuals came up with their own interpretation of the term. Mohammad Kasuri, Hanif Rammay and some urban democrats interpreted “modernization” as restoration of democracy which provides citizens their basic rights. The rural population under the influence of Sheik Rashid interpreted “modernization” as bringing an end to landed aristocracy. Bhutto in his party manifesto had been a supporter of creating a strong center based on Parliamentary system. His supporters Mohammad Kasuri and Hanif Rammay were reassured of the restoration of the representative democratic institutions as long as their support was needed.  These two gentlemen were dropped out of People’s party as soon as the process of Institutional construction began. Some political observers have lamented over the fact that Pakistan was transformed into an autocratic system after Bhutto had reconstructed political, judicial and bureaucratic institutes. Bhutto had been criticized for drifting away from his own ideology promoted during the campaign against Ayub’s authoritarian regime.

Bhutto’s regime was severely criticized for purging 1300 civil servants never the less this decision was justified as the disposed civil servants had corruption charges. Bhutto had a tussle with the civil servants thus he wanted to limit their powers so that the politicians could exercise control over them. The guarantees given to the civil servants by the two previous Constitutions were withdraw in the 1973 Constitution.  The previous two Constitutions had provided the civil servants a sense of protection hence they could go to the courts under provision which protected their rights. Hitherto it was impossible to remove a civil servant without a proof given by the hiring authority that he was unfit for his post. Bhutto had the gumption of making the civil servants accountable so that he could freely exercise his power. The imposition of the vice regal system through the Indian Act 1935 as the interim law was perceived to be yet another authoritarian move by Bhutto. Furthermore Bhutto’s desire of controlling the federation and the provinces not only led to regionalism in the country but also infuriated his fellows and foes.

The Land reforms introduced by Bhutto later turned out to be a contributing factor in his downfall. These land reforms were more benefitting for the big landowners than they were for middle size farmers. The land given to some military bureaucrat’s during the previous regimes were now given to tenants.  Bhutto’s inability to cooperate with the industrial financial groups eventually led to his downfall. Some political observers have identified Bhutto’s loss of popular support and the allegations of rigging of the 1977 elections as the main factors of his downfall. Moreover replacing General Tikka with General Zia ul Haq led to Bhutto’s ultimate downfall.

Zulifqar Ali Bhuttos’s wife Nusrat Bhutto filed a Constitutional petition under article 184(3) challenging the validity of the Martial Law imposed by General Zia ul Haq. In addition to this the petition also challenged the confinement of the disposed Prime Minister and 10 other party members arrested under Martial Law Regulation No 12 on 17th September 1977. Furthermore Nusrat Bhutto argued that the military intervention was tantamount to treason as specified by Article 6 of 1973 Constitution.  On 10th November 1977 the Court rendered its verdict dismissing Nusrat Bhutto’s petition referring to the Doctrine of necessity. The Supreme Court of Pakistan maintained Bhutto’s death sentence passed by the Lahore High Court. On 4thApril 1979 Bhutto was put to death on the Murder charges of Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan Kausuri.



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