The First Term of Benazir Bhutto In a Split House

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Position of Benazir Bhutto in polls

The polls in 1988 gave the Benazir Bhutto ( PPP) and the IJI a split decision. Despite not winning a majority in the National Assembly’s 207 general seats, the PPP came out on top with 93 seats, followed by the IJI’s 55 seats. 11 seats were still necessary for the PPP to hold a majority. The independents had won 27 seats, which was a crucial aspect because each of them could tip the scale in either direction and had complete freedom to choose. The MQM, which won 13 seats in the National Assembly, all from the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad, was another significant element in the national elections, while other political parties did poorly. Only JUI (Fazl ur Rahman Group) managed to secure 7 seats, including 3 from NWFP and 4 from Balochistan’s Pakhtoon regions.

Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Race for the crown

Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif

The PPP, led by Benazir Bhutto, was tasked with building coalitions with independents or other political parties to demonstrate its majority in the National Assembly and get an invitation to form the government. The day after the national elections, IJI leader Nawaz Sharif declared that he would form a new government. With 55 seats out of 207, it was impossible to see how he could form a government or win a vote of confidence. It appears that Nawaz Sharif was counting on interim President Ghulam Ishaq to influence events in his favor. The establishment, in particular the ISI, had assisted him in the organizing of the elections, and the results showed that they had. The establishment, especially the ISI, had assisted him in the election planning, and the results showed that the number of seats he had won was significantly greater than what it had anticipated.

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Benazir Nominated Prime Minister

Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister

The president’s ability to nominate the prime minister was a key component of the power balance. The prime minister was supposed to be chosen by the National Assembly during the first session under the Constitution, right after the Speaker and Deputy Speaker had been chosen. As a result of the RCO’s amendment to the Constitution, the president was given the authority to choose as prime minister, at his discretion, any member of the National Assembly who, in his judgment, could win the support of the majority of the National Assembly. This clause was changed by the Eighth Amendment, which set a five-year time limit on the President’s authority. After that date, on March 20, 1990, the President was required to invite the member of the National Assembly who received the most votes in an election to Take over as prime minister.

As a result, in 1988, the president had the unrestricted authority to choose the prime minister, which was especially important in the event of a divided vote in which no party had an absolute majority. Undoubtedly, the prime minister-designate had to win the support of the National Assembly within a sixty-day window, but those in positions of authority could handle this. The independents, in particular, were inclined to support whoever the president selected and had so gained the presidency. The IJI was relying on this presidential authority. The president would have had sixty days to win over fifty additional members to constitute a majority and win a vote of confidence if he had chosen to propose a member of the IJI. Ishaq, a skilled bureaucrat who had worked in practically every significant administrative job and had survived under all Pakistani governments, had other ideas. After all, he was only the acting president and was vying for a full, five-year term. The iji was in his possession because it was an invention of the organization he oversaw. Ishaq had a variety of options because he had strong connections with the military leaders.

He could get the IJI’s vote as well as the other votes that the establishment could give him. The PPP was the only opponent he could encounter. By choosing Benazir as prime minister, Ishaq could reach an agreement with the PPP. He had already given, with the support of the establishment, a majority in the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, ensuring Nawaz Sharif’s appointment as Chief Minister and allowing him to be used to restrain Benazir Bhutto at the center.

Benazir sought power for her purposes. She got two different pieces of advice. Perhaps the more sensible course of action was to avoid compromise and avoid pursuing the position of the prime minister at any cost. She had plenty of time because she was just 35 years old. She could not succeed and would fall into the trap of those who intended to show that she was not up to the task since the hostile administration in Punjab was protected by the establishment and the President, and she was under constant pressure from the establishment. She should not pass up the chance to seize power, was the other piece of counsel.

The majority of her party members were desperate to take power no matter what conditions were presented to them since they had endured eleven years of suffering at the hands of Zia and his junta. Benazir chose the second choice and started down the path of running for prime minister. She started by forming ties with the MQM and the JUI (FR). She easily won the majority in the National Assembly thanks to these coalitions. Additionally, several of the independents were converted.

The pact with Ishaq Khan, who was given the PPP’s complete support in the upcoming presidential race, was the most significant action, though. This ultimately led to Benazir’s selection as Pakistan’s prime minister on December 1st, 1988.

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Ishaq was Elected President with the help of Benazir

Benazir Bhutto
Ghulam Ishaq

Ishaq received the PPP’s support when the agreement between him and Benazir was finalized. Ishaq had also been chosen as the IJI’s candidate. Other candidates, Nawabzada Nasrullah being the most notable, were not taken into consideration. The MRD, which battled alongside the PPP to overthrow Zia, had Nawabzada’s party as a constituent. The PPP disregarded its longtime friend in favor of a senior bureaucrat who made deals thanks to his position.

Election results showed that Ishaq had a resounding victory. Ishaq, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, Ahmad E.H. Jaffar, and Muhammad Nauroz Malik were the four candidates who participated in the voting. They received votes, which were counted following the Constitution’s specified procedure. The results were:

  •  Ahmad E.H. Jaffar = 6 votes
  •  Ghulam Ishaq Khan = 603 votes
  •  Muhammad Nauroz Khan Malik = 3 votes
  •  Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan = 140

The Awami National Party (ANP) chose to support the Nawabzada from Punjab even though Ishaq was from the NWFP. This was reportedly done because the ANP believed in Nawabzada Nasrullah’s political credentials rather than those of Ishaq, whom they referred to as a technocrat and ardent defender of Zia’s legacy. In the same vein, Jamiat-i Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) endorsed Nawabzada as the superior candidate. The JUI believed that Ishaq should not be supported because he was once a Zia ally and could be harmful to Pakistan’s chances of achieving democracy.

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Benazir and Nawaz engaged in a fierce battle for the crown, but Benazir ultimately won. Despite being a secular and democratic party, the PPP works with conservative Fazal Rahman and military favorite Ghulam Ishaq. It is clear from this that the democratic PPP adopted certain undemocratic tactics to be in power, which proved very short and a big mistake.

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