Yahya – Phases of democracy and dictatorship in Pakistan

Power shift from Ayub to Yahya

Ayub Khan before stepping down wrote a letter to Yayha praising him for his dedication and patriotism.  Yayha was advised to use foresightedness to deal with internal disorders and external threats. Ayub was unable to realize that the situation ahead was beyond Yayha’s control. Initially Yayha started off well his initiative of dissolving One Unit turned out to be extremely popular. Furthermore he was greatly admired for holding free and fair elections and its uncensored and unrestricted coverage on Pakistan television PTV. Yayha failed to settle the crises of East Pakistan according to people’s desire because he lacked the essential skills of a statesman. Consequently a fierce war broke out in East Pakistan which led to the emergence of present day Bangladesh.

Yayha at various occasions had acknowledged that the civil groups had the potential to govern yet he took no measures for their development. Yayha was earnest in arranging the return of civil rule in the country yet he never wanted the military to fully quit politics. The Legal frame Order of 1970 was planned to provide Yayha the much needed civilian cover furthermore he wanted the military to have a permanent Constitutional role. One political observer after analyzing Yayha’s short regime asserted that “military intervention becomes a habit and one which is difficult to cure.” Furthermore the regime wanted to act as an arbitrator between the disjoined political parties to protect its long term interests. On 4th August 1969 a new Cabinet was appointed comprising of a retired Major General, a former Chief Justice, retired bureaucrats, politicians and educationalists. The new Cabinet seldom discussed important matters like the foreign and defense policy. The Yahya regime dealt with the bureaucrats rather harshly therefore a three member committee was set up to enquire the assets of the Senior Civil Servants. One of the most striking actions taken against the civil servants by the regime was their dismissal and early retirement. Some International observers have praised Yayha for being truthful in claiming his responsibility for Pakistan’s disintegration.

 Some political observers contend that the unwillingness of Yayha’s regime to shift power to the civilians resulted in the separation of East Pakistan. However, some observers have fastened the blame of the debacle on both the political leadership and the military elite for failing to deal with the post –election situation.

The 1970 elections were won by Mujib ur Rehman‘s Awammi League in the Eastern wing and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s PPP in the Western wing. Awammi League won 161 out of 162 seats emerging as the single biggest party in the Electoral College. Likewise, Bhutto’s PPP won 87 seats in West Pakistan appearing as the second largest party in the Electoral College. Majib ur Rehman, in spite of his constitutional right to form government was denied by Yayha Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The Six point’s agenda presented by Mujib ur Rehman was not acceptable to Bhutto as he did not want to share power with Majib ur Rehman. In West Pakistan, Mujib ur Rehman’s formula of coalition government was perceived to be indicating separatism. The refusal of Mujib’s six point’s formula created a turbulent situation in East Pakistan. Consequently, a military operation under the supervision of General Tikka was launched in East Pakistan to calm the Bengali agitators demanding a separate homeland.  The involvement of the Indian Army led to the separation of Bengal on 16th December, 1971. Yayha Khan being afraid of the situation ahead handed over the government to the civil representatives and stepped down on 20th December 1971.

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