The Ayub Years
Ayub ruled Pakistan almost absolutely for more
than ten years, and his regime made some notable achievements, although
it did not eliminate the basic problems of Pakistani society. A land reforms
commission appointed by Ayub distributed some 900,000 hectares (about 2.2
million acres) of land among 150,000 tenants. The reforms, however, did
not erase feudal relationships in the countryside; about 6000 landlords
still retained an area three times larger than that given to the 150,000
tenants. Ayub's regime also increased developmental funds to East Pakistan
more than threefold. This had a noticeable effect on the economy of the
eastern part, but the disparity between the two sectors of Pakistan was
Perhaps the most pervasive of Ayub's changes was
his system of Basic Democracies. It created 80,000 basic democrats, or
union councillors, who were rural influentials or leaders of urban areas
around the country. They constituted the electoral college for presidential
elections and for elections to the national and provincial legislatures
created under the constitution promulgated by Ayub in 1962. The Basic Democratic
System had four tiers of government from the national to the local level,
and each tier was assigned certain responsibilities in administering the
rural and urban areas, such as maintenance of elementary schools, public
roads, and bridges.
Ayub also promulgated an Islamic marriage and
family laws ordinance in 1961, imposing restrictions on polygamy and divorce
and reinforcing the inheritance rights of women and minors.
For a long time Ayub maintained cordial relations
with the United States, stimulating substantial economic and military aid
to Pakistan. This relationship deteriorated, however, in 1965, when another
war with India broke out over Kashmir. The United States then suspended
military and economic aid to both countries, thus denying Pakistan badly
needed weapons. The USSR intervened to mediate the conflict, inviting Ayub
and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India to Toshkent. By the terms
of the so-called Toshkent Agreement of January 1966 the two countries withdrew
their forces to prewar positions and restored diplomatic, economic, and
trade relations. Exchange programs were initiated, and the flow of capital
goods to Pakistan increased greatly.
The Tashkent Agreement and the Kashmir war, however,
generated frustration among the people and resentment against President
Ayub. Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto resigned his position agitated
against Ayub's dictatorship and the loss of Kashmir. Ayub tried unsuccessfully
to make amends, and in March 1969 he resigned. Instead of transferring
power to the speaker of the National Assembly, as the constitution dictated,
he handed it over to the commander in chief of the army, General Agha Muhammad
Yahya Khan. Yahya assumed the presidential office and declared martial
In an attempt to make his martial-law regime
acceptable, Yahya dismissed almost 300 senior civil servants and identified
30 families that were said to control about half of Pakistan's gross national
product. To curb their power Yahya issued an ordinance against monopolies
and restrictive trade practices in 1970. He also made commitments to transfer
power to civilian authorities, but in the process of making this shift,
his intended reforms broke down.
The greatest challenge to Pakistan's unity, however,
was presented by East Pakistan, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, leader of
the Awami League, who insisted on a federation under which East Pakistan
would be virtually independent. He envisaged a federal government that
would deal with defense and foreign affairs only; even the currencies would
be different, although freely convertible. His program had great appeal
for many East Pakistanis, and in the election of December 1970 called by
Yahya, Mujib, as he was generally called, won by a landslide in East Pakistan,
capturing a clear majority in the National Assembly. Bhutto's Pakistan
People's Party (PPP) emerged as the largest in West Pakistan.
Suspecting Mujib of secessionist politics, Yahya
in March 1971 postponed indefinitely the convening of the National Assembly.
Mujib in return accused Yahya of collusion with Bhutto and established
a virtually independent government in East Pakistan. Yahya opened negotiations
with Mujib in Dhaka in mid-March, but the effort soon failed. Mujib was
arrested and brought to West Pakistan to be tried for treason. Meanwhile
Pakistan's army went into action against Mujib's civilian followers, who
demanded that East Pakistan become independent as the nation of Bangladesh.
There were a great many casualties during the
ensuing military operations in East Pakistan, as the Pakistani army attacked
the poorly armed population. India claimed that nearly 10 million Bengali
refugees crossed its borders, and stories of West Pakistani atrocities
abounded. The Awami League leaders took refuge in Calcutta and established
a government in exile. India finally intervened on December 3, 1971, and
the Pakistani army surrendered 13 days later. On December 20, Yahya relinquished
power to Bhutto, and in January 1972 Bangladesh established an independent
government. When the Commonwealth of Nations admitted Bangladesh later
that year, Pakistan withdrew its membership, not to return until 1989.
However, the Bhutto government gave diplomatic recognition to Bangladesh
The Bhutto Government
Under Bhutto's leadership a diminished Pakistan
began to rearrange its national life. Bhutto nationalized the basic industries,
insurance companies, domestically owned banks, and schools and colleges.
He also instituted land reforms that benefited tenants and middle-class
farmers. He removed the armed forces from the process of decision making,
but to placate the generals he allocated about 6 percent of the gross national
product to defense. In 1973 the National Assembly adopted the country's
fifth constitution. Bhutto became prime minister, and Fazal Elahi Chaudry
replaced him as president.
Although discontented, the military remained
silent for some time. Bhutto's nationalization programs and land reforms
further earned him the enmity of the entrepreneurial and capitalist class,
and the religious elements saw in his socialism an enemy of Islam. His
decisive flaw, however, was his inability to deal constructively with the
opposition. His rule grew heavy-handed. In general elections in March 1977
nine opposition parties united in the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA)
to run against Bhutto's PPP. Losing in three of the four provinces, the
PNA alleged that Bhutto had rigged the vote. The PNA boycotted the provincial
elections a few days later and organized demonstrations throughout the
country that lasted for six weeks.
When the situation seemed to be deadlocked, the
army chief of staff, General Muhammad Zia Ul-Haq, staged a coup on July
5, 1977, and imposed another martial-law regime. Bhutto was tried for political
murder and found guilty; he was hanged on April 4, 1979.
Zia formally assumed the presidency in 1978 and
established the Sharia (Islamic law) as the law of the land. The constitution
of 1973 was amended accordingly in 1979, and benches were constituted at
the courts to exercise Islamic judicial review. Interest-free banking was
initiated, and maximum penalties were provided for adultery, defamation,
theft, and consumption of alcohol.
On March 24, 1981, Zia issued an order for a provisional
constitution, operative until the lifting of martial law in the future.
It envisaged the appointment of two vice presidents and allowed political
parties approved by the election commission before September 30, 1979 to
function. All other parties, including the PPP, now led by Bhutto's widow
and daughter, were dissolved.
Pakistan was greatly affected by the Soviet intervention
in Afghanistan in December 1979; by 1984 some 3 million Afghan refugees
were living along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, supported by the
government and by international relief agencies. In September 1981 Zia
accepted a six-year economic and military aid package (worth $3.2 billion)
from the United States. After a referendum in December 1984 endorsed Zia's
Islamic-law policies and the extension of his presidency until 1990, Zia
permitted elections for parliament in February 1985. A civilian cabinet
took office in April, and martial law ended in December. Zia was dissatisfied,
however, and in May 1988 he dissolved the government and ordered new elections.
Three months later he was killed in an airplane crash, and a caretaker
regime took power.