Pakistan ZULFIQAR ALI BHUTTO AND A NEW CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM
Source: The Library of Congress Country Studies
On assuming power on December 20, 1971, Bhutto promised to make a new Pakistan out of the West Wing and to restore national confidence. He conveniently laid the entire blame for the 1971 war and Pakistan's defeat on Yahya Khan and his junta. Asserting the principle of civilian leadership, Bhutto introduced a new constitution with a modified parliamentary and federal system. He attempted to control and reform the civil service and took steps to revitalize a stagnant economy and ameliorate conditions for the poor under the banner of Islamic socialism. Bhutto's most visible success, however, was in the international arena, where he employed his diplomatic skills. He negotiated a satisfactory peace settlement with India in 1972, built new links between Pakistan and the oil-exporting Islamic countries to the west, and generally was effective in repairing Pakistan's image in the aftermath of the war.
Bhutto's program appeared to be laudable but fell short in performance. His near-monopoly of decision-making power prevented democratic institutions from taking root, and his overreaching ambitions managed in time to antagonize all but his closest friends.
The PPP manifesto was couched in socialist terms. When Bhutto issued the Economic Reform Order on January 3, 1972, banking and insurance institutions were nationalized, and seventy other industrial enterprises were taken over by the government. The Ministry of Production, which incorporated the Board of Industrial Management, was established to oversee industry. Investment in the public sector increased substantially, and Bhutto maneuvered to break the power of the approximately twenty elite families who had dominated the nation's economy during the Ayub Khan period. Trade unions were strengthened, and welfare measures for labor were announced. Although Bhutto's initial zeal diminished as he came face-to-face with economic realities and the shortage of capital, he tried to refurbish his populist image with another spate of nationalizations in 1976.
Bhutto purged the military ranks of about 1,400 officers. He also created a paramilitary force called the Federal Security Force (which functioned almost as his personal bodyguard), a watchdog on the armed forces, and an internal security force. A white paper on defense issued in 1976 firmly subordinated the armed forces to civilian control and gave Bhutto, then also prime minister, the decisive voice in all matters relating to national security. In that role, Bhutto took credit for bringing home more than 90,000 prisoners of war without allowing any of them to come to trial in Bangladesh for war crimes. In 1976 Bhutto replaced Tikka Khan, whose term had expired, with General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq as chief of staff of the army. Like Ayub Khan, Zia was appointed over several more senior generals. Also like Ayub Khan, Zia came from a community not heavily represented in the armed forces (the Arains from Punjab) and was thought to be without political ambition.
In April 1972, Bhutto lifted martial law and convened the National Assembly, which consisted of members elected from the West Wing in December 1970 (plus two from the East Wing who decided their loyalties were with a united Pakistan). The standing controversies about the role of Islam, provincial autonomy, and the form of government--presidential or parliamentary--remained on the agenda. There was much jostling for position among the three major political groups: the PPP, most powerful in Punjab and Sindh; the National Awami Party (NAP) and the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Islam (JUI), both based in the North- West Frontier Province and Balochistan. The provincial assemblies were constituted from those elected in December 1970. There was much tension during the process of drafting a new constitution, especially from members from the North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan. Bhutto reached some accommodation with opposition leaders from those two provinces on the matter of gubernatorial appointment and constitutional principle.
Pakistan's third constitution was formally submitted on December 31, 1972, approved on April 10, 1973, and promulgated on independence day, August 14, 1973. Although Bhutto campaigned in 1970 for the restoration of a parliamentary system, by 1972 he preferred a presidential system with himself as president. However, in deference to the wishes of the opposition and some in his own cabinet, Bhutto accepted a formal parliamentary system in which the executive was responsible to the legislature. Supposedly, in the interests of government stability, provisions were also included that made it almost impossible for the National Assembly to remove the prime minister. The 1973 constitution provided for a federal structure in which residuary powers were reserved for the provinces. However, Bhutto dismissed the coalition NAP-JUI ministries in Balochistan and the North- West Frontier Province, revealing his preference for a powerful center without opposition in the provinces.
Bhutto's power derived less from the 1973 constitution than from his charismatic appeal to the people and from the vigor of the PPP. Its socialist program and Bhutto's oratory had done much to radicalize the urban sectors in the late 1960s and were responsible for the popular optimism accompanying the restoration of democracy. The ideological appeal of the PPP to the masses sat uneasily with the compromises Bhutto reached with the holders of economic and political influence--the landlords and commercial elites. Factionalism and patrimonialism became rife in the PPP, especially in Punjab. The internal cohesion of the PPP and its standing in public esteem were affected adversely by the ubiquitous political and bureaucratic corruption that accompanied state intervention in the economy and, equally, by the rising incidence of political violence, which included beating, arresting, and even murdering opponents. The PPP had started as a movement mobilizing people to overthrow a military regime, but in Bhutto's lifetime it failed to change into a political party organized for peaceful functioning in an open polity.
Bhutto's predilection for a strong center and for provincial governments in the hands of the PPP inevitably aroused opposition in provinces where regional and ethnic identity was strong. Feelings of Sindhi solidarity were maintained by Bhutto's personal connections with the feudal leaders (wadera) of Sindh and his ability to manipulate offices and officeholders. He did not enjoy the same leverage in the North-West Frontier Province or Balochistan.
A long-dormant crisis erupted in Balochistan in 1973 into an insurgency that lasted four years and became increasingly bitter. The insurgency was put down by the Pakistan Army, which employed brutal methods and equipment, including Huey-Cobra helicopter gunships, provided by Iran and flown by Iranian pilots. The deep-seated Baloch nationalism based on tribal identity had international as well as domestic aspects. Divided in the nineteenth century among Iran, Afghanistan, and British India, the Baloch found their aspirations and traditional nomadic life frustrated by the presence of national boundaries and the extension of central administration over their lands. Moreover, many of the most militant Baloch nationalists were also vaguely Marxist-Leninist and willing to risk Soviet protection for an autonomous Balochistan. As the insurgency wore on, the influence of a relatively small but disciplined liberation front seemed to increase.
Bhutto was able to mobilize domestic support for his drive against the Baloch. Punjab's support was most tangibly represented in the use of the army to put down the insurgency. One of the main Baloch grievances was the influx of Punjabi settlers, miners, and traders into their resource-rich but sparsely populated lands. Bhutto could also invoke the idea of national integration with effect in the aftermath of Bengali secession. External assistance to Bhutto was generously given by the shah of Iran, who feared a spread of the insurrection among the Iranian Baloch. Some foreign governments feared that an independent or autonomous Balochistan might allow the Soviet Union to develop and use the port at Gwadar, and no outside power was willing to assist the Baloch openly or to sponsor the cause of Baloch autonomy. During the mid-1970s, Afghanistan was preoccupied with its own internal problems and seemingly anxious to normalize relations with Pakistan. India was fearful of further balkanization of the subcontinent after Bangladesh, and the Soviet Union did not wish to jeopardize the leverage it was gaining with Pakistan. However, during the Bhutto regime hostilities in Balochistan were protracted. The succeeding Zia ul-Haq government took a more moderate approach, relying more on economic development to placate the Baloch.
Bhutto proceeded cautiously in the field of land reform and did not fulfill earlier promises of distributing land to the landless on the scale he had promised, as he was forced to recognize and to cultivate the sociopolitical influence of landowners. However, he did not impede the process of consolidation of tenancy rights and acquisition of mid-sized holdings by servicemen. Punjab was the vital agricultural region of Pakistan; it remained a bastion of support for the government.
Bhutto specifically targeted the powerful and privileged Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) and introduced measures of administrative reform with the declared purpose of limiting the paternalistic power of the bureaucracy. The CSP, however, had played the role of guardian alongside the army since independence. Many of its members reacted badly to Bhutto's politicizing appointments, for which patronage seemed a more important criterion than merit or seniority.
Relations with India were, at best, uneven during the Bhutto period. He accomplished the return of the prisoners of war through the Simla Agreement of 1972, but no settlement of the key problem of Kashmir was possible beyond an agreement that any settlement should be peaceful. Bhutto reacted strongly to the detonation of a nuclear device by India in 1974 and pledged that Pakistan would match that development even if Pakistanis had to "eat grass" to cover the cost.
Bhutto claimed success for his economic policies. The gross national product (GNP--see Glossary) and the rate of economic growth climbed. Inflation fell from 25 percent in fiscal year (FY--see Glossary) 1972 to 6 percent in FY 1976, although other economic measures he introduced did not perform as well.
Bhutto pointed out that his foreign policy had brought Pakistan prestige in the Islamic world, peace if not friendship with India, and self-respect in dealings with the great powers. He felt assured of victory in any election. Therefore, with commitment to a constitutional order at stake, in January 1977 he announced he would hold national and provincial assembly elections in March.
The response of the opposition to this news was vigorous. Nine political parties ranging across the ideological spectrum formed a united front--the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). Fundamentalist Muslims were satisfied by the adoption of Nizam-i-Mustafa (see Glossary), meaning "Rule of the Prophet," as the front's slogan. Modern secular elements, however, respected the association of Air Marshal Asghar Khan. The PNA ran candidates for almost all national and provincial seats. As curbs on the press and political activity were relaxed for the election campaign, an apparently strong wave of support for the PNA swept Pakistan's cities. This prompted a whirlwind tour of the country by Bhutto, with all his winning charm in the forefront. In the background lurked indirect curbs on free expression as well as political gangsterism.
National Assembly election results were announced on March 7, proclaiming the PPP the winner with 155 seats versus thirty-six seats for the PNA. Expecting trouble, Bhutto invoked Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which restricted assembly for political reasons. The PNA immediately challenged the election results as rigged and demanded a new election--not a recount. Bhutto refused, and a mass protest movement was launched against him. Religious symbols were used by both sides to mobilize agitation; for example, Bhutto imposed prohibitions on the consumption of alcoholic beverages and on gambling. Despite talks between Bhutto and opposition leaders, the disorders persisted as a multitude of frustrations were vented. The army intervened on July 5, took all political leaders including Bhutto into custody, and proclaimed martial law.
Data as of April 1994
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