|Pakistan Table of Contents
The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) represents another part of Pakistan's political spectrum. The PPP was a vehicle for the political ambitions of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. His immediate aim was to bring down the government of his former political mentor, Ayub Khan. The party's inaugural convention was held in Lahore in 1967. The PPP adopted the slogan "Islam our Faith, Democracy our Polity, Socialism our Economy." The party, like its founder, was enigmatic and full of contradictions. A left-leaning populist movement, the PPP attempted to blend Islam with socialism. The PPP espoused such policies as land reform to help the peasants; nationalization of industries to weaken the industrialists; and administrative reforms to reduce the power of the bureaucrats. The party, however, was built on the foundations of the wealthy, landed elite, Pakistan's traditional ruling class.
The PPP came to power in December 1971 after the loss of East Pakistan, when Bhutto was sworn in as president and chief martial law administrator. Bhutto lifted martial law in April 1972 and in 1973 stepped down as president and became prime minister. The PPP did little to advance the first two tenets of its platform, Islam and democracy, but promoted socialism with a vengeance. Bhutto nationalized large-scale industries, insurance companies, and commercial banks, and he set up a number of public corporations to expand the role of the government in commerce, construction, and transportation. The heavy hand with which Bhutto and the PPP exerted their power aroused widespread resentment. Matters came to a head in 1977 when the PPP won 155 of the 200 seats in the National Assembly with 58 percent of the total votes cast. The Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), a coalition of nine opposition parties and with 35 percent of the votes, won only thirty-six seats. The PNA charged widespread electoral fraud, and the resulting PPP-PNA confrontation and the accompanying civil unrest precipitated the imposition of martial law.
The survival of Bhutto's party after his execution in 1979 was facilitated by dynastic politics. His widow Nusrat and his daughter Benazir, led the party as cochairpersons. During martial law, the PPP joined with ten other parties in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) to pressure the Zia government to hold free elections under the 1973 constitution. Four of the MRD's component parties were members of the PNA, which had been formed to oppose the PPP in the 1977 elections. The PPP joined the MRD coalition, hoping the military would be prepared to negotiate with the MRD if it were part of a larger political alliance.
The MRD campaign launched in February 1981 appeared to gain momentum. In March 1981, however, a Pakistan International Airlines aircraft was hijacked by terrorists demanding the release of political prisoners. The hijacking was the work of an organization--Al-Zulfiqar--allegedly run by Bhutto's son, Murtaza. Although the PPP dissociated itself from the episode, the hijacking was a major setback for both the PPP and the MRD. Another MRD agitation failed in 1983. After Zia's death in 1988, the MRD was dissolved, and the PPP, the largest party in the alliance, contested the 1988 elections on its own. Although the PPP emerged as the single largest party in the National Assembly as a result of the 1988 elections, it won a narrow plurality, and only with the support of the Refugee People's Movement (Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz--MQM) and other parties was it able to form a government. After a troubled period in power, the PPP government was dismissed by President Ishaq Khan in 1990. The PPP was the principal member of the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDA), which lost the 1990 elections to the IJI. The PDA blamed its defeat on alleged tampering with the vote. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, an international observer team, did note irregularities in the election but declared that the ultimate outcome was in general accordance with the popular will.
In the October 1993 general elections that returned Benazir to power, the PPP won eighty-six of the 217 seats in the National Assembly, while Nawaz Sharif's PML-N won seventy-two. The PPP was successful in forming a coalition with other parties to control a block of 121 seats.
More about the Government of Pakistan.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress