Military Rule in Pakistan (1958-1971)

In 1958, military rule was set up in Pakistan by President Mirza and Ayub Khan took control under martial law. In 1959, Ayub Khan set up a system called the Basic Democracies Order, which was an indirect elective government system. Some thought of this new way of rule as “representational dictatorship.” Later in 1962, a constitution was created which consolidated the power to the president, giving him absolute power. The constitution also tried to make Pakistan to be a secular state, dropping Islamic from its name The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, although the first amendment changed Pakistan’s name back to its original state. The constitution was also based off of the Basic Democracies system of representational government and martial law was officially ended.  In the election of 1965, Ayub Khan was reelected as president despite opposition from Fatima Jinnah, who opposed Ayub Khan’s rule openly in her campaign. One reason for her defeat was that in the Basic Democracy System, the president has much influence and has the ability to manipulate the elected body to choose the favorable candidate. In 1969, Ayub Khan, with great public opposition to his rule, resigned and put in place the chief of the army, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan. Yahya Khan declared martial law, but promised elections in the near future. In 1971, general elections were held and the Awami League, with its democratic principles, was victorious gaining the title of Pakistan’s major political power.  Zulifikar Bhutto was president at the time and refused to accept the fact that Mujibur Rahman (head of the Awami League) had gained the power to become Prime Minister. This conflict soon rose to noncooperation and then Civil War between East (Rahman) and West (Bhutto) Pakistan. During this time Yahya Khan went to Dhaka, East Pakistan to resolve these conflicts. After making no headway on the issues facing the government, Yahya Khan secretly left Dhaka on March 25 for Karachi, ordering the army to attack to restore order after he left. That night, the army conducted Operation Searchlight, which killed thousands East Pakistanis in an uncalled for massacre. They also arrested Mujibur Rahman and took him to be detained in West Pakistan. As a result of this conflict, on March 26, East Pakistan, under the guidance of the Awami League, declared themselves independent under the new name of Bangladesh. This conflict between the Awami League and the Pakistani military would cost the lives of hundreds of thousands and cause ten million refugees to flee to neighboring West Bengal. With the situation growing worse, Yahya Khan stepped down from office on December 6, 1971, which led to a civilian rule in the near future.

Fatima Jinnah (left) and Ayub Khan (right) in conversation despite political rivalry

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