Pakistanis have shed blood for democracy. The country’s most recent election in May 2013 was its bloodiest. It was held during the height of the Taliban insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis. The Pakistan Taliban, known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban, made the election an explicit target, calling democracy un-Islamic, “an infidel system.” During the campaign, the Pakistan Taliban targeted candidates and political party supporters at rallies, killing more than 130 people. At first, the targets were secular or left-leaning parties—the Awami National Party (ANP) from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The week before the election, terrorists struck the Islamist Jamiat-ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) (JUI-F) as well, killing at least thirty people in two attacks. The Taliban told people to stay away from the polls, warning of more violence on election day.
The election was ultimately a success. The targeted parties curtailed some of their activities, but they did not stop campaigning. Rallies were held in a carnival atmosphere, especially in the urban areas, and mobilized many who had been unmotivated to vote in previous elections. There was a palpable energy in the air. Pakistanis were ready for a turnaround after years of insecurity and bloodshed, an energy crisis, an economy that seemed in free fall, and continued misgovernance. Citizens had become terribly disappointed with the governing PPP. According to a national Pew poll in 2013, 83 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the party’s leader, President Asif Ali Zardari (widower of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto). Yet Pakistanis placed their hopes for change firmly in elected government. A Pew poll in Pakistan in 2012 found that it was important to 88 percent of respondents that people choose their leaders in free elections.
On election day, turnout was 55 percent, despite threats of terrorist violence. This was significantly higher than voter turnout in Pakistan’s previous six elections from 1988 to 2008, when it ranged between 35 percent and 45 percent. Election-day attacks did occur: at least thirty-eight people were killed in Karachi and Balochistan, but the violence was contained relative to the Taliban’s threats. Veteran politician Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won an impressive mandate, capturing 188 out of 342 seats in parliament (a tally that includes nineteen independent candidates who switched to the PML-N post-election). Former star cricketer Imran Khan steered his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) into national prominence alongside the PPP and PML-N. The PPP was routed, especially in Punjab, winning only forty-six seats; and the PTI emerged as a solid third party, winning thirty-three seats.
In the three years since then, trends have been less sanguine. The election that brought Nawaz back as prime minister for the third time had been marred by anecdotal evidence of electoral rigging. Despite the finding of international election observers that the election was by and large fair, in the fall of 2014 Khan’s PTI launched a protest against the government, calling for Sharif to resign (with slogans of “Go, Nawaz, Go!”) and for fresh elections. Khan called off the protest only after the December 2014 terrorist attack in Peshawar that killed more than 130 schoolchildren demanded national unity in the face of extremism.
Sharif Versus Sharif
Khan’s challenge significantly weakened Nawaz Sharif’s hold on power. After the Peshawar attack, the need to improve security was vital, and the civilians were (rightfully) not deemed up for the task. This gave the military an opportunity to appropriate total control of security policy and set up military courts for terrorism cases.
Sharif suffered a further blow in 2016 when he was implicated in corrupt activities by the so-called Panama Papers, some 11.5 million documents from a Panamanian legal firm leaked to journalists revealing how the world’s rich and influential use offshore entities to avoid paying taxes and hide ill-gotten money. In Sharif’s case, the papers showed that his children own offshore companies and assets that he had not declared as part of the family’s wealth. He countered that these companies and assets were technically not in his name and that the money was legal, but has been unable to offer a credible explanation on the source of the money. Sharif said he would form an independent inquiry commission to satisfy his detractors, but proposed a vague mandate for the body, which opposition parties rejected. The squabbling over the terms of reference for the commission continues.
While Nawaz Sharif’s approval ratings have taken a hit, he remains popular. As of June 2016, 54 percent of respondents in a national Gallup Pakistan poll said they were satisfied with his performance. This is lower than the 73 percent approval rating on his performance in his first two years in power found in a poll run by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) in June 2015, but is still high.
But the army is also very popular: the June 2015 PILDAT poll found a 75 percent approval rating for the army, and a 69 percent approval rating for Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. Throughout his troubles, Nawaz Sharif has had the misfortune of being widely and unfavorably compared with his more popular namesake. This must hurt, given Sharif’s personal grievances with the army. During his second term as prime minister in 1999, his army chief, Pervez Musharraf, sacked him and took power in a coup, forcing Sharif to go into exile for years.
The army is basking in the success of its Zarb-e-Azb operation against the Pakistan Taliban that began in June 2014 and is considered responsible for reducing terrorist attacks in the past two years. The army’s operations in Karachi, led by the Rangers, have also reduced violence in that city, although the army has also meddled deeply in the city’s politics.
The army has an aggressive public relations machine, headed by an exceptionally media-savvy general, Asim Bajwa. Its publicity blitz now includes television dramas, music videos, and documentaries. No one benefits more from it all than Raheel Sharif. Posters with his face are plastered all over Pakistan—even as rickshaw art—and he is constantly in the news. The hashtag #ThankYouRaheelSharif became ubiquitous on social media last year.
Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, still makes old-school speeches from behind his desk, beginning them with “my dear countrymen,” always somewhat whiny and listless. He does not wield a compelling narrative. The public perceives him as weak and ineffectual, while Raheel Sharif exudes competence and efficiency. Nawaz and other politicians are considered as out to enrich themselves personally while the army is considered to work only for Pakistan’s interests. This perception is partly warranted (the army delivers in spite of its corruption; the politicians do not deliver because of theirs), but it also follows from the army’s successful command of the national narrative.
As the Panama Papers scandal unfolded, Raheel Sharif weighed in. He dismissed six military officers, including two generals, for corruption—making his army look better than the politicians through a relatively superficial move. He also publically called for a crackdown on corruption, saying that “enduring peace and stability [will not be established] unless the menace of corruption is uprooted.” In a country where the civilians and the military are constantly compared, harping on the worst weakness of the civilians—corruption—was especially effective.
The media issues harsh criticism of the government while largely sparing the army (the army makes clear that it does not tolerate criticism). According to a Gallup analysis of eight prominent television talk shows in May 2016, governance was the main topic discussed, and the majority of the guests were politicians. The media obsesses over political corruption, while sidestepping the army’s hegemony and appropriation of national resources.
It is a particular feature of Pakistan’s democracy that the army chief, a figure who inhabits the background in most democracies, dominates the country’s imagination more than its popularly elected leader. This dominance is no accident, as the story of Pakistan’s democracy cannot be told without reference to the army. Pakistan’s birth as a Muslim nation amid the partition of India in 1947 led to a sense of deep insecurity vis-à-vis its powerful neighbor. This has led to the disproportionate strength of the institution that defends the country and enables it to exercise dominance in politics, and ironically undermine the very democracy for which Pakistan was created. The army has ruled Pakistan for more than half of the seven decades of the country’s existence. During crises in democratically elected governments, the army is viewed as the ready alternative, a savior for the beleaguered country. Accompanying each army takeover was a heady feeling that things would be fixed; in reality, army rule left the country worse off every time. The pendulum of public opinion would swing toward democracy again, only to be followed by disappointment; the democracy-army cycle would repeat itself.
A popular observation during bad times for elected governments is that Pakistan is not suited for democracy—an argument related to the notion that Islam is incompatible with democracy. This is linked to a Pakistani insularity. Pakistanis consider the country’s problems as particular to it, as not comparable with other countries. As a result of Pakistan’s split from and great enmity with India (and the fact that Pakistan defines itself in opposition to India), Pakistanis have not learned from the nation most similar to their own country. Not surprisingly, they have not looked to the West either. Pakistanis prefer non-democratic success stories—the so-called Asian Tigers, for example—for their models. As a result, they don’t grasp the ups and downs of democracy, that its benefits are found in the long term, that it is sometimes a slog. The (military) savior in the shadows confuses people. If Pakistanis had no military alternative to civilian rule, they might think differently about their politics.
Despite the army’s prominence and popularity in Pakistani life, President Pervez Musharraf’s troubled rule from 2001–08 seems to have dealt a severe blow to any return to direct military rule. In 2007, as Musharraf’s fortunes were sinking after he sacked the chief justice of the Supreme Court and engaged in a violent military operation against a militant madrassa in central Islamabad, a Pew poll found that 77 percent of respondents thought it important that honest elections be held regularly with a choice of at least two political parties.
That shift in public opinion in favor of democracy has persisted despite crises in the post-Musharraf PPP and PML-N terms in office and the army’s current popularity. In the June 2016 Gallup poll, 84 percent of respondents said they preferred democracy to dictatorship. In the PILDAT poll the prior year, 64 percent of respondents said that democratically elected governments constitute the best system for Pakistan, and 66 percent of respondents looked favorably on the quality of democracy in the country. Only 20 percent of the respondents said that another military takeover would be beneficial for Pakistan—while not an insignificant figure, a clear minority.
In the post-Musharraf period, the major political parties are united in opposition to another army takeover. The PML-N and PPP essentially function as a “friendly opposition” to each other, protecting each other over corruption allegations and the like (although the PPP has been more aggressive this year with the Panama Papers inquiry). This is a useful strategy against the military’s ambitions—a lesson they seem to have learned from the repercussions of their hostile relationship in the 1990s—but it undermines accountability. Only Imran Khan’s PTI functions as a true opposition to the government, but instead of opposing it on substance or policy in parliament, Khan leads populist rallies and calls for the prime minister’s resignation. While Khan generates significant support (he had a 49 percent favorability rating in the PILDAT poll in 2015) and has loyal followers, the majority of Pakistanis do not seem to agree with his tactics. In the June 2016 Gallup poll, 68 percent of respondents said that it was wrong for Imran Khan to demand Nawaz Sharif’s resignation over the Panama Papers scandal. Pakistanis seem to have reconciled themselves to a corrupt democracy, because that seems to be the only kind they can get.
The army knows that popular and political opinion does not look favorably on a military takeover. It sent a clear signal during Imran Khan’s protracted protest in the fall of 2014 that it would not move against Sharif’s government, though it will gladly appropriate all the power it can, as it did with security matters following the Peshawar massacre. But the army still promotes its image as a savior, actively and through surrogates. This July, posters popped up all over the country, pleading Khuda ke liay (for God’s sake) for Raheel Sharif to take power. The army denied any involvement in the stunt.
Ultimately, Pakistan’s democracy will not be complete unless the army stops meddling in political matters and stops projecting itself as Pakistan’s savior. In order for faith in democracy to persist, citizens’ belief in the fairness of elections will need to increase. Most elections in Pakistan have been marred by allegations of some kind of rigging. A sizable minority continues to think that the 2013 election was rigged. In the 2015 PILDAT poll, this number was 30 percent (lower than 37 percent in 2014). On the other hand, 59 percent of the respondents in 2015 thought the election was “free and fair.”
The army also needs to cede its control of security and foreign policy. This may be almost impossible—it goes to great lengths to maintain this control. To be fair, it is also unclear that the civilians are competent enough to assume this control. This month, a front page article by a respected journalist in Dawn, Pakistan’s premier English daily, recounted an unprecedented showdown between Nawaz Sharif and the head of the country’s spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), in which the prime minister asked the ISI to end the protection it gives to Kashmiri and Afghan jihadists. The prime minister’s office—which likely “leaked” the story—issued three vociferous denials of the story, and after a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and General Sharif, immediately placed a travel ban on the journalist and announced an inquiry into the matter. The military’s Inter-Services Public Relations said that the leaks that led to the story were “a threat to national security.” It seems two matters are at stake: the projection of a shift in the civil-military power equation over security matters, and the reference to an internal acknowledgement of the ISI’s cover for jihadists. The reaction from the military has been intense—although most of it is behind the scenes and can be inferred from the actions of the prime minister’s office. It underscores how difficult a shift of power in the military-civilian equation on security is going to be.
Serving the Citizens?
Elected governments through the 1990s were consumed with paranoia. For them, the best outcome (never achieved) was survival through the completion of a full term. Politicians make poor decisions when they are in survival mode. They focus on the short-term, become circumscribed by crises, and are reactive rather than proactive. While Pakistan’s two main parties, the PPP and PML-N, ostensibly differ in their platforms—the PPP is left leaning and favors the rural poor, the PML-N is right leaning and pro-industry—there was little difference in how they ended up governing in the 1990s. They did not invest in improving governance, or in dealing with Pakistan’s myriad development challenges by broadening the tax base, removing barriers to public services like education and health, and improving the rule of law.
The paranoia and survival mode have been evident in the PPP’s recent term and the PML-N’s current term even as the army’s overt threat to democracy has receded. The biggest achievement of Asif Ali Zardari’s presidency between 2008 and 2013 was simply that he completed his term of office. At different points in his three years in office Nawaz Sharif has shown a resolve to adjust to the changed political climate. He has leaned less to the right than ever before, a positive development for Pakistan, but has suffered from setbacks. He has made overtures to India, only to have them voided after the January 2016 Pathankot attack on an Indian air force base that was blamed on Pakistan-based terrorists. He has taken bold moves like hanging Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of provincial governor Salmaan Taseer, a man supported by Pakistan’s Islamists—only to have Qadri sympathizers camp out in front of parliament for days and wreck the capital’s infrastructure in angry protests. Most recently, he seems to have tried to begin the process of wresting back control of security policy from the army, only to be put in his place.
Sharif has spent too much of his time putting out fires, and his policies have felt interrupted and selective. He invests in big, urban infrastructure projects—easily visible to voters—but has not invested in systemic governance reform, or in improving the lives of the rural poor. He has also shown an inability to ideologically counter extremism.
It is unclear whether Sharif will take such steps; with the PPP significantly weakened in Punjab and the PTI experiencing limits to its political ambitions, the PML-N may be able to win the next election even without doing so. But it would be unfortunate if Sharif does not make use of his political advantage. If democracy is to prevail in Pakistan, democratic regimes will have to start delivering for the average Pakistani.
Juncture of Opportunity
In large part due to the repeated interventions of the military, Pakistan’s democracy remains underdeveloped. That condition dents its effectiveness and perpetuates the cycle that makes military rule attractive at times. Pakistan’s political development needs time and protection from interruptions, whether from the army or from extremists.
By some measures, Pakistan’s democracy can be described as vibrant. A total of 333 parties are registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan. In each general election, 272 constituencies hold direct elections to the National Assembly; the other seventy seats are reserved for women and minorities. For each of the direct election constituencies, parties can field one candidate each, and candidates can run independently as well. Reserved seats are then allocated proportionately to parties that have won more than 5 percent of the vote. The party with the majority of seats in parliament forms the government; if it does not have an outright majority, it needs to form a coalition with smaller parties.
In reality, Pakistani democracy operates with many constraints. Just six out of the 333 parties hold more than ten seats in parliament (out of a total of 342), and only eighteen parties hold any seats at all. Pakistan has four provinces, Punjab, Sindh, KPK, and Balochistan, with 183, seventy-five, forty-three, and seventeen seats in parliament, respectively (the tribal areas and the federal capital hold twelve and two seats, respectively). As the numbers indicate, any party that can dominate Punjab can hold sway over national politics. This means that voters are only left with a couple of choices of political parties that are nationally viable.
Then there is the dynasty problem. The three main parties—the PML-N, the PPP, and the PTI—are all personality- and family-driven. The PML-N is associated completely with Nawaz Sharif (it is no coincidence that Nawaz is an element of the party’s name); the PPP with the Bhutto family; and the PTI with Imran Khan. There is a lack of internal democracy. It remains to be seen whether Imran Khan will succeed in transitioning the PTI into a party that is not completely tied to him.
There are barriers to entry at the candidate level—contesting elections requires wealth. In rural areas, large landowners typically win elections; in return, they use their political power to provide patronage to their constituents. It is not clear that many of them have national-level policy interests—it is patronage that helps them win votes, not their voting record in the National Assembly. The practice of horse-trading, in which politicians switch parties to ally with the party with the greater chance of winning the next election, is widespread in Pakistan—evidence of a candidate-party policy disconnect. By and large, party trumps candidate identity, at least once the candidates pass a threshold level of prominence. Thus it seems that politicians’ policy convictions are malleable. This constituency-federal level disconnect is harmful to the country’s interests. It also means party platforms are not well developed or implemented.
Institutions remain underdeveloped as well. Parliament is rowdy, and accomplishes little. It is a part-time job—if that—for most parliamentarians. Nawaz Sharif’s government has undermined it. Instead of using parliament to discuss issues of national concern—such as peace talks with the Taliban—the prime minister has called “all parties” conferences, forums with no legal basis, to discuss such topics.
Democratic governments in Pakistan tend to rely on a cadre of loyalist advisors instead of professionals, limiting their own effectiveness. The PPP and PML-N are both guilty of this. Nawaz Sharif has been especially loath to appoint advisors beyond his tight inner circle (he has appointed many of the same men this time around that he did in his previous two terms in the 1990s); he even holds the foreign and defense portfolios himself.
It is also unclear that voters understand the responsibilities of parliamentarians versus bureaucrats, or the differences in the roles of national-level parliamentarians relative to provincial and local elected officials. The decentralization of many matters from the federal to the provincial level via the eighteenth amendment to the constitution in 2010 only confuses citizens further. For voters to hold the politicians accountable, they require good information. But accountability is difficult in an environment where the division of responsibilities is murky (sometimes even to the politicians themselves).
Pakistan’s democracy is at a juncture of import. Its citizens have shown faith in it, despite continued corruption and poor governance, and in defiance of long-held narratives that undermined democracy in the country. The army has also indicated that it will not seize control of the government, although it continues to meddle in politics, and commands power over internal and external security matters.
All this gives Pakistan’s democrats space—not complete, but enough—to ensure progress in political development, governance, and delivery of public services. How Pakistan’s politicians choose to behave now will determine whether democracy persists, or whether there is another slide toward disillusionment that emboldens the army to take over once again. The democrats need to let go of paranoia, to stop governing in survival mode, and invest in Pakistan’s long-term development. They eventually need to reassume civilian control over security matters, command a compelling narrative for Pakistan’s future, and ideologically counter extremism—though this will take time and enormous effort. They must hold back on self-indulgence. The critical question facing Pakistan today is whether Nawaz Sharif’s ruling PML-N will seize the opportunity before it.
Madiha Afzal is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her recent publications include “Education and Attitudes in Pakistan: Understanding Perceptions of Terrorism,” published by the United States Institute of Peace. She has contributed to the Express Tribune, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, Washington Post, and Friday Times. She was named to Lo Spazio della Politica’s list of Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2013. On Twitter: @MadihaAfzal.
Tags: Nawaz SharifPakistanRaheel Sharif
Since its establishment in 1947, Pakistan has had an asymmetric federal government and is a federalparliamentarydemocratic republic. At the national level, the people of Pakistan elect a bicamerallegislature, the Parliament of Pakistan. The parliament consists of a lower house called the National Assembly, which is elected directly, and an upper house called the Senate, whose members are chosen by elected provincial legislators. The head of government, the Prime Minister, is elected by the majority members of the National Assembly and the head of state (and figurehead), the President, is elected by the Electoral College, which consists of both houses of Parliament together with the four provincial assemblies. In addition to the national parliament and the provincial assemblies, Pakistan also has more than five thousand elected local governments.
The Election Commission of Pakistan, a constitutionally established institution chaired by an appointed and designated Chief Election Commissioner, supervises the general elections. The Pakistan Constitution defines (to a basic extent) how general elections are held in Part VIII, Chapter 2 and various amendments. A multi-party system is in effect, with the National Assembly consisting of 342 seats and the Senate consisting of 104 seats elected from the four provinces. The Constitution dictates that the general elections be held every five years when the National Assembly has completed its term or has been dissolved and that the Senatorial elections be held to elect members for terms of six years. By law, general elections must be held within two months of the National Assembly completing its term.
In law and Constitution
The Constitution of Pakistan more broadly and briefly defines how general elections (to a basic extent) are conducted, giving the time of elections, and the framework under which the elections are to be conducted set up the Constitution of Pakistan in Article 222-226 in Chapter 2:
- No Person shall, at the same time, be a member of, both houses (National Assembly and Senate) or a House and a Provincial Assemblies.
- When the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly is dissolved, a general election to the Assembly shall be held within a period of ninety days after the dissolution, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than fourteen days after the conclusion of the polls.
|“||A general election to the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly shall be held within a period of sixty days immediately following the day on which the day on which the term of the Assembly is due to expire, unless the Assembly has been sooner dissolved, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than fourteen days before that day.||”|
|— Article 222–226: Part VIII: Elections, Chapter:2 Electoral Laws and Conduct of Elections, source: The Constitution of Pakistan|
Election Commission of Pakistan
Main article: Election Commission of Pakistan
The duty of conducting elections are established in the Constitution of Pakistan. Established in 1956, the Election Commission of Pakistan holds the purpose of elections to Houses of Parliament, four provincial assemblies and for election of such other public offices as may be specified by law or until such law is made by the Parliament. The Election Commission is constituted with comprising the Chief Election Commissioner as its chairman (who is a judge or/ retired judge of the Supreme Court) and four appointed members from each four provinces, each of whom is a judge of four High Courts of the four provinces; all appointed by the President by constitution.
After approving the consultations from the chief justices of high courts of four provinces and the chief election commissioner, the President constitutionally approved the appointments of the designated members of the election commission. The chief election commissioner is appointed by the President, in his/her discretion, for a term of 3 years. The Constitution grants the chief election commission the security of tenure and financial autonomy.
Levels of Elections
Pakistan has a parliamentary system in which, the executive and legislature are elected directly by public voting in a Constituencies on first-past-the-post system through a secret ballot. Article 222–229 of the Constitution of Pakistan forbids the candidate of occupying the membership of National Assembly and the Provincial assemblies simultaneously. In direct elections, a candidate who obtains the highest number of votes in a constituency, is declared elected as a Member of National or a Provincial Assembly.
The Seats in the National Assembly are allocated to each of Four Provinces, the FATAs and the Federal Capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding Census officially published. Members to the Seats reserved for Women and Non-Muslims, are elected in accordance with law through proportional representation system of political party's lists of candidates on the basis of total number of General Seats secured by each political party in the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly. The National Assembly has 342 seats, usually elected for five year terms; however, if the National Assembly dissolved, a general elections must be called in ninety-days period, in accordance to the constitution.
National Assembly Composition
The Senate consists of 104 members, of whom 14 members are elected by each Provincial Assembly, eight members are elected from FATAs by the Members of National Assembly from these areas, two members (one woman and one technocrat) is elected from the Federal Capital by the Members of National Assembly; four women and four Technocrats are elected by the members of each Provincial Assembly. One seat in the senate is reserved for minorities in each province.
It is the responsibility of the Chief Election Commissioner to hold and make arrangements for the Senate elections in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote through electoral colleges. The term of the members of the Senate is 6 years. However, the term of the first group of the Senators, who shall retire after completion of first 3 years of the Senate, is determined by drawing of lots by the Chief Election Commission purposes.
The President is elected in presidential elections. In an indirect election, with the winner being determined by votes casts by the electors of the Electoral College. The electoral college is composed of elected senators, members of the national and provincial assemblies. The President is a ceremonial post, head of state, and merely a figurehead with the executive powers granted to Prime Minister, by the Constitution. The Constitution grants right to both men and women to run for the presidency as it states that a presidential candidate, a Muslim, not less than 45 years of age, and a Member of the National Assembly, can contest the Presidential election. The President is elected for a term of 5 years.
It is the duty of Chief Election Commissioner to conduct elections to the office of the President in a special session of Parliament and all the Provincial Assemblies in accordance with the provisions of Second Schedule to the Constitution.
Local government elections
In order to decentralize administrative and financial authority to be accountable to Local Governments, for good governance, effective delivery of services and transparent decision making through institutionalized participation of the people at grassroots level, elections to the local government institutions are held after every four years on non party basis by the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan.
Members of Union Council including Union Administrator and Vice Union Administrator are elected through direct elections based on adult franchise and on the basis of joint electorate. However, for the election to the reserved seats for Women in Zila council proportionately divided among Tehsils or Towns shall be all members of the Union Councils in a Tehsil or Town. It is the responsibility of the Chief Election Commissioner to organize and conduct these elections.
First local government election was held in 1959 under the dictatorship of ayub khan. second local government election was held in 1979 under the dictatorship of general zia ul haq. third local government election was under right after the cope of Pervaiz Musharaf in 2000, and finally first time in history of Pakistan local body election held in Pakistan on December 7, 2013. Balochistan was the province where LBTemplate:Description needed Polls held. Punjab, Sindh and KP are all set to conduct the polls. These first time BD Election held due to the immense pressure of new merging political power of PTI on the central government of PMLN.
Methods of Voting Qualification
Qualification for membership of the Parliament
A person who is a citizen of Pakistan, is enrolled as a voter in any electoral roll under the Electoral Rolls Act 1974 and in case of National/Provincial Assemblies is not less than 25 years of age and in case of Senate not less than 30 years of age, is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic injunctions, has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practices, obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sin, is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, has not been convicted for a crime involving moral turpitude or for giving false evidence, and has not, after establishment of Pakistan, worked against the integrity of the country or opposed the ideology of Pakistan and is graduate, can contest the elections and become a member of the Parliament or a Provincial Assembly.
A person, who is a citizen of Pakistan, is not less than 18 years of age on the first day of January of the year in which the rolls are prepared or revised, is not declared by a competent court to be of un-sound mind and is or is deemed to be a resident of an electoral area, can get himself enrolled as a voter in that electoral area. The citizens registered on the electoral rolls are only eligible to cast their votes.
Voting registration system
- For the conduct of elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies, the Election Commission appoints a District Returning Officer for each District and a Returning Officer for each constituency, who are drawn from amongst the officers of the Judiciary, the Federal/Provincial Government and Local Authorities. Returning Officers are mostly Additional District & Sessions Judges.
- The list of polling stations is prepared by the Returning Officers and approved by the District Returning Officer. No polling station can be located in the premises of a candidate.
- The list of Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers and polling staff is prepared by the Returning Officer and sent to the District Returning Officer for approval at least 15 days before the polls. The Presiding Officer is responsible for conducting polls at the Polling Station and maintaining law and order. He is assisted by the Assistant Presiding Officers and Polling Officer.
- After the publication of Election Schedule by the Election Commission, nomination papers are invited from interested contesting candidates.
- Scrutiny of nomination papers is carried out by the Returning Officers and nomination papers are accepted/rejected.
- Appeals against rejection/acceptance of nomination papers are filed with the appellate tribunal, who decide such appeals summarily within such time as may be notified by the Commission and any order passed thereon shall be final.
- Final list of contesting candidates is prepared and published in the prescribed manner by the Returning Officer after incorporation of the decisions on appeals and after withdrawal of candidature by the candidates if any.
- Election Symbols are also allocated to the candidates by the Returning Officer according to their party affiliation or as an individual candidate, from the list of Election Symbols approved by the Election Commission. The Returning Officer also publishes the names of the contesting candidates arranged in the Urdu alphabetical order specifying against each the symbol allocated to him.
- The Election Commission of Pakistan provides each Returning Officer with copies of voter's list for his constituency who distributes it amongst the Presiding Officers in accordance with the polling scheme and assignment of voters to each polling station/booth.
- Voters cast their votes at specified polling stations according to their names in an electoral rolls. Since the election for both National and Provincial Assemblies constituencies are held on the same day, the voter is issued two separate ballot papers for each National Assembly and Provincial Assembly constituency.
- When an elector presents himself at the polling station to vote, the Presiding Officer shall issue a ballot paper to the elector after satisfying himself about the identity of the elector through his identity card.
- Polling is held for nine hours on the polling day without any break.
- Immediately after the close of the poll votes are counted at the polling stations by the Presiding Officers in presence of the candidates, their Election Agents, and Polling Agents.
- After counting the ballot papers the Presiding Officer prepares a statement of the count indicating the number of votes secured by a candidate, and send it to the Returning Officer along with the election material, un-used ballot papers, spoilt ballot papers, tendered ballot papers, challenged ballot papers, marked copies of the electoral rolls, the counter-foils of used ballot papers, the tendered votes lists, and the challenged votes lists.
- The Presiding Officers also announce the result of count at the polling stations and paste a copy of the result outside the polling stations.
- After the receipt of statement of counts from the Presiding Officers of the polling stations, the Returning Officer compiles the preliminary unofficial result and intimates the results to the Election Commission through fax for announcement on print/electronic media.
- After the announcement of unofficial result, the Returning Officer serves a notice to all the contesting candidates and their election agents regarding the day, time and place fixed for consolidation of the result. In the presence of the contesting candidates and election agents, the Returning Officer consolidates the results of the count furnished by the Presiding Officers in the prescribed manner including postal ballot received by him before the polling day.
- Immediately after preparing the consolidated statement the Returning Officer submits a copy to the Election Commission in the prescribed form which publishes the names of the returned candidates in the official Gazette.
History of elections in Pakistan
Past elections:General elections from 1954 to 1970
1st elections : 1954 (indirect elections) = PML
2nd elections : 1962 (indirect elections) = PML
3rd elections : 1970 = AL
4th elections : 1977 = PPP
5th elections : 1985 = PML (non-party basis elections)
6th elections : 1988 = PPP
7th elections : 1990 = IJI
8th elections : 1993 = PPP
9th elections : 1997 = PMLN
10th elections : 2002 = PMLQ
11th elections : 2008 = PPP
12th elections : 2013 = PMLN
Between 1947 and 1958, there were no direct elections held in Pakistan at the national level. Provincial elections were held occasionally. The West Pakistan provincial elections were described as "a farce, a mockery and a fraud upon the electorate"
The first direct elections held in the country after independence were for the provincial Assembly of the Punjab between 10–20 March 1951. The elections were held for 197 seats. As many as 939 candidates contested the election for 189 seats, while the remaining seats were filled unopposed. Seven political parties were in the race. The election was held on an adult franchise basis with approximately one-million voters. The turnout remained low. In Lahore, the turnout was 30 per cent of the listed voters and in rural areas of Punjab it was much lower.
On 8 December 1951 the North West Frontier Province held elections for Provincial legislature seats. In a pattern that would be repeated throughout Pakistan's electoral history, many of those who lost accused the winners of cheating and rigging the elections. Similarly, in May, 1953 elections to the Provincial legislature of Sindh were held and they were also marred by accusations of rigging.
In April 1954, the general elections were held for the East Pakistan Legislative Assembly, in which the Pakistan Muslim League lost to the pan-Bengali nationalistUnited Front Alliance.Incumbent Prime minister of East Pakistan Mr. Nurul Amin lost his parliament seat to a veteran student leader and language movement stalwart Khaleque Nawaz Khan in Mr. Amin's home constituency Nandail of Mymensingh district. Nurul Amin's crushing defeat to young Turk of United front alliance effectively eliminated Pakistan Muslim League from Political landscape of the then East Pakistan.
Political parties performances in General elections under military government(s)
All data and calculations are provided by Election Commission of Pakistan as Public domain. The General elections in 1985 were non-partisan general elections, but many technocrats belong to the one party to another.
General elections from 1977 to 2013
After the loss of East–Pakistan, democracy returned to the country. In 1977, the general elections were held but due to election violence instigated by the right-wing PNA, the martial law took advance against the left oriented PPP.
In 1988, the general elections were held again which marked the PPP coming in power but dismissed in two years following the amid lawlessness situation in the country. In 1990, the general elections saw the right-wing alliance forming the government but dismissed in 1993 after the alliance collapse. The general elections in 1993 saw the PPP forming government after successfully seeking plurality in the Parliament. Prime MinisterBenazir Bhutto made critical decisions during her era, ranging from working to strengthening the education, defense, foreign policy and pressed her policies hard to implement her domestic programs initiatives. Despite her tough rhetoric, Prime Minister Bhutto's own position deteriorated in her native province, Sindh, and lost her support following the death of her younger brother. Tales of high-scale corruption cases also maligned her image in the country and was dismissed from her post by her own hand-picked president in 1996. The 1997 general elections saw the centre-right, PML(N), gaining the exclusive mandate in the country and supermajority in the parliament. Despite Sharif's popularity in 1998 and popular peace initiatives in 1999, the conspiracy was hatched against Sharif by General Musharraf, accusing Sharif of hijacking the plane and pressed terrorism charges against Sharif in the military courts; thus ending Sharif's government.
Ordered by the Supreme Court, General Musharraf held general election in 2002, bearing Sharif and Benazir Bhutto from keeping the public office. With Zafarullah Jamali becoming the Prime minister in 2002, he left the office for Shaukat Aziz in 2004. After the deadly 9/11 attacks in the United States and Musharraf's unconditional policy to support the American war in the Afghanistan, further damaged Musharraf's credibility in the country. In an unsuccessful attempt to dismiss the Judicial system, Musharraf dramatically fall from power. The 2008 general elections allowed the PPP, assisted with the left-wing alliance, further consolidated in opposition to Musharraf, though it was plagued with loadshedding, law and order situation, foreign policy issues, and poor economic performances. In recent elections held in 2013, the PML(N) won the majority seats in the elections and is expected to be forming government in last weeks of May 2013.
Political parties performances in General elections since 1977
All data and calculations are provided by Election Commission of Pakistan as Public domain. All elections were contested under a separate electorate system, the 1990 elections had allegations of vote-rigging confirmed by foreign observers. The 'MQM' contested the 1988 elections under the name Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz, it boycotted the 1993 National elections.
2008 General elections
Main article: Pakistani general election, 2008
This election led to strong showings for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N), who signed the Bhurban Accord in response to the election results.The election was held in Pakistan on 18 February 2008, after being postponed from 8 January 2008. The original date was intended to elect members of the National Assembly of Pakistan, the lower house of the Majlis-e-Shoora (the nation's parliament). Pakistan's two main opposition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML (N)) won the majority of seats in the election. The PPP and PML(N) formed the new coalition government with Yosaf Raza Gillani as Prime Minister of Pakistan.Following the election, Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that the process had been free and fair. He conceded the defeat of the PML (Q) and pledged to work with the new Parliament. The voter turnout for the election was 35,170,435 people (44%). By-elections for 28 seats (23 provincial and 5 national) have been delayed numerous times, with most of them now held on 26 June 2008.
|Parties||Votes||%||Elected seats||Reserved seats (women)||Reserved seats (minorities)||Total||Percentile|
|Pakistan Peoples Party||10,606,486||30.6%||97||23||4||124|
|Pakistan Muslim League (N)||6,781,445||19.6%||71||17||3||91|
|Pakistan Muslim League (Q)||7,989,817||23.0%||42||10||2||54|
|Muttahida Qaumi Movement||2,507,813||7.4%||19||5||1||25|
|Awami National Party||700,479||2.0%||10||3||0||13|
|Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan||772,798||2.2%||6||1||0||7|
|Pakistan Muslim League (F)||4||1||0||5|
|Pakistan Peoples Party (Sherpao)||140,707||0.4%||1||0||0||1|
|National Peoples Party||1||0||0||1|
|Balochistan National Party (Awami)||1||0||0||1|
|Total (turnout 44%) |
Note: Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, Tehrik-e-Jafaria Pakistan and Jamiat Ahle Hadith did not participate.
|Source: Election Commission of Pakistan, Adam Carr's Electoral Archive|
Pakistani general election, 2013
Further information: Pakistani general election, 2013
Presidential elections since 1956
Promulgation of 1956 constitution, Iskandar Ali Mirza became first President of Pakistan; he was also noted of being the first East-PakistaniBengalipresident of Pakistan. In an indirect elections, the electors of the Awami League voted for Mirza's bid for presidency in 1956. Wanting a control democracy, President Mirza dismissed four prime ministers in less than two years and his position in the country was quickly deteriorated amid his actions. In 1958, Mirza imposed the martial law under its enforcer General Ayub Khan, but was also dismissed the same year. Assuming the presidency in 1958, Ayub Khan introduced a "System of Basic Democracy" which mean, "the voters delegate their rights to choose the president and the members of the national and provincial assemblies to 80,000 representatives called Basic Democrats."
Under this system, the first direct presidential election was held on January 2, 1965. Some 80,000 'basic democrats', as members of urban and regional councils, caucused to vote. There were two main contestants: Pakistan Muslim League led by President Ayub Khan and the Combined Opposition Parties (COP) under the leadership of Fatima Jinnah. In this highly controversial election with the means of using the state machinery to rigging the votes, the PML secured a thumping majority of 120 seats while the opposition could clinch only 15 seats. Fatima Jinnah's Combined Opposition Party (COP) only secured 10 seats whereas the NDF won 5 seats in East Pakistan and 1 in West Pakistan. The rest of the seats went to the independents.
Witnessing the events in 1965, the new drafted constitution created the Electoral College system, making the president as mere figurehead. In 1973, Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry became the first president from the PPP in an indirect polling. With the martial law remained effective from 1977 till 1988, civil servant Ghulam Ishaq Khan ran for the presidency on a PPP ticket in a deal to support Benazir Bhutto for presidency. With special powers granted to President GI Khan, he dismissed two elected government during period 1990 and 1993; he too was forced out from the office the same year. After the 1993 general election, the PPP nominated Farooq Leghari who soon secured majority votes in the parliament. Originally elected for five-year term, Leghari was forced resigned from the presidency after forcing out Benazir Bhutto from the government in 1996. In 1997 general election, Nawaz Sharif called for fresh presidential elections and nominated Rafiq Tarar for the presidency. In an indirect election, Tarar received heavy votes from the electors of Electoral College, becoming the first president from the PML(N). In 1999 martial law against Sharif, Musharraf self-pointed for the presidency in 2001. In 2004, he secured his appointment for presidency; though the opposition and religious alliance boycotted the elections. In 2007, Musharraf again restored his appointment after the opposition parties also boycotted the elections. As Musharraf forced out from the power, Asif Zardari of PPP became president after a close presidential elections in 2008. The Pakistani general election of 2013 were held on 11 May 2013. Problems with providing electricity was one of the major issues with the winning candidate, Nawaz Sharif, promising to reform electrical service and provide reliable service.
Political parties performances in Presidential elections since 1971
FI Chaudhy becomes president in 1973 with PPP's support in four provinces.GI Khan was candidate of PPP in return of supporting Benazir Bhutto in 1988. Pervez Musharraf gained political support from PML(Q) as their president in 2004 and 2007; both elections were controversial as leading parties PPP and PML(N) boycotted the elections.