COMPETITIVE DEMOCRACY, 1988-1999: The fifth period in Pakistan’s history began with an unforeseen development: President Zia ul-Haq’s death in an air crash near the city of Bahawalpur on 17 August 1988 Had Zia not died, there were indications that he would have tried to perpetuate his rule by changing the constitution The “Islamabad establishment”-the name given by Benazir Bhutto to the coalition of groups that wielded an enormous amount of political power in Pakistan’s capital and included the senior army and civil officials and the representatives of large-scale industry and commerce-was not prepared to accept this move The group briefly toyed with the idea of putting the country back under martial law, but decided in favor of accepting the constitutional provision that in case of the death of the president, he would be succeeded by the chairman of the Senate, the upper house of the national legislature The fact that Ghulam Ishaq Khan, a veteran civil servant turned politician, occupied this position contributed to this decision Khan was a prominent member of the Islamabad establishmentThe caretaker regime headed by the acting president decided to hold elections in October 1988 and when Benazir Bhutto’s PPP won the most seats in the National Assembly, the establishment then decided to offer her the prime ministership provided that she accepted some conditions These included the formation of an informal governing council made up of the president, the prime minister, and the chief of the army staff This arrangement came to be known as the “troika” and was responsible for making all important decisions When Bhutto tried to free herself of this constraint, she was dismissed under Article 582(b) of the constitution, which had been inserted by President Zia ul-Haq

Another general election in October 1990 brought Mian Nawaz Sharif, a Zia protégé, to power He too felt constrained by the “troika” arrangement and his efforts to gain independence met with the same fate-dismissal by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan under Article 582(b)Sharif appealed his dismissal to the Supreme Court and won his case He was reinstalled as prime minister but the president refused to cooperate, creating a constitutional crisis It was resolved by the army, which worked behind the scenes, forcing both the president and the prime minister out of office Yet another election was held in October 1993 and resulted in Benazir Bhutto coming back to Islamabad as prime minister The main lesson Bhutto learned from her previous occupation of this office was to get one of her loyal lieutenants to be elected president Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari became president in December 1993 and served under Bhutto’s shadow for nearly three years Troubled by the amount of mismanagement and corruption that prevailed during her tenure, Leghari surprised her in November 1996 by using Article 582(b) to dismiss her

The people of Pakistan went back to the polls again in February 1997 and presented an overwhelming mandate to Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the opposition and the president of the Muslim LeagueThe elections of February 1997 brought new administrations to power not only in Islamabad, the federal capital, but also to Lahore, the capital of Punjab, the largest province The federal and Punjab provincial governments were formed by the Muslim League, the party in opposition during Benazir Bhutto’s term in office The League governments took office with very comfortable majorities in the National and Provincial Assemblies The party received a clear mandate from the people to set the country back on track; in particular, to provide good governance and restore health to the battered economy The fact that Pakistan held four elections that placed four administrations in office, each of which was either dismissed by the president or removed from office by the military, resulted in extreme political instability during this period The reason for this was simple The country had failed to bridge the great divide that separated the structure of the society from the structure of the political system The society had evolved rapidly since independence A number of new socioeconomic groups had emerged that wanted to carve out a place for themselves in the political structure This was not provided, because the political system remained dominated by one socioeconomic group: the landed aristocracy

This group, although powerful, was insecure about the future It realized that if the political system was allowed to evolve as envisaged in the constitution, it would lose a great deal of power to the new groups The constitution of 1973 had provided for the reapportionment of seats in the National Assembly on the basis of population distribution The distribution of population was to be determined by censuses held every 10 years This was not done; the landed interests were able to prevent a census from being held for 17 years With the political system thus atrophied, the groups not fully represented had no choice but to resort to extra constitutional means This pressure contributed to the periodic dismissals of prime ministers

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