|Pakistan Table of Contents
Ironically, Benazir's successor, the caretaker prime minister, was one of Pakistan's largest landowners, also from Benazir's Sindh Province. Jatoi had joined the PPP when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had founded it in the late 1960s, was in Bhutto's first cabinet, and was later chief minister of Sindh until Zia overthrew Bhutto in 1977. Jatoi had remained supportive of the PPP during the martial law period and had spearheaded the campaign organized by the MRD against Zia's government. Following Benazir's return to Pakistan in 1986, however, Jatoi was removed as chairman of the Sindh PPP and subsequently formed his own political organization, the National People's Party. Known as a moderate, Jatoi said that his party's objective was to make Pakistan a modern, democratic, and progressive Islamic welfare state.
Jatoi's caretaker government instituted accountability proceedings against persons charged with corruption and, under the authority of laws enacted by both the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the Zia regimes, set up special courts to handle accountability cases. The accountability process had traditionally been used to disqualify from public office those found guilty of corruption and wrongdoing. It had also been used as a weapon by politicians in power against their opponents. The period for accountability defined by the Jatoi government was limited to the twenty months of Benazir's regime. The PPP demand that Nawaz Sharif's Punjab government during that same time be subjected to similar scrutiny was rejected. Nevertheless, the Jatoi government defended the proceedings as fair and neutral. Although several charges were brought against Benazir, and her appearance before the accountability tribunals was required, she remained free and was able to lead her party in the October 1990 elections.
The Central Election Commission, consisting of three members of the senior judiciary, supervised preparation of the electoral rolls and the conduct of the 1990 elections as well as processing complaints and issuing reports. Although Pakistan has a large number of political parties, the two main contenders in the elections were both broad-based coalitions. One contender was the Pakistan Democratic Alliance, established during the campaign by Benazir's dominant PPP, together with the Tehrik-i-Istiqlal, headed by Asghar Khan, and two smaller parties. Asghar Khan had been Pakistan's first commander in chief of the air force and later became chairman of Pakistan International Airlines, before entering the political arena in 1969 and founding his own party. In the 1970s, Asghar Khan was one of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's harshest critics. Having helped to oust Bhutto, however, he did not benefit from the Zia military government, and in 1989 he resigned as Tehrik-i-Istiqlal's chairman. Political observers were surprised when the party joined the Pakistan Democratic Alliance.
The other major contender in opposition to the Pakistan Democratic Alliance was the IJI, the coalition that had also competed with the PPP in the 1988 elections. The Pakistan Muslim League was a major component of the IJI, as was the Jamaat-i- Islami. The three chief competitors for leadership in the IJI and specifically in the Pakistan Muslim League were Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, and Ejaz ul-Haq, son of the late President Zia ul-Haq. These three men represented key groups in Pakistan's political culture. Junejo belonged to a major Sindhi landowning family and represented the feudal classes. Ejaz appealed particularly to Zia's Islamic fundamentalist supporters. His candidacy was weakened, however, by his relative lack of political experience. Nawaz Sharif, the ultimate victor, represented the country's growing business classes. The caretaker prime minister also aspired to remain in power, but his party was not a member of the IJI, and so he lacked sufficient political strength.
Other important parties included Altaf Hussain's MQM, representing the refugee community in urban Sindh, and Khan Abdul Wali Khan's Awami National Party, based in the North-West Frontier Province and northern Balochistan. Although in 1990 the PDA and the IJI were the major election contenders in Pakistan's three largest provinces (Punjab, Sindh, and the North-West Frontier Province), they had only a limited presence in the fourth province, Balochistan, where regional and religious parties, such as the Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Islam and the Jamhoori Watan Party, were of equal or even greater importance.
The central campaign issue in 1990 for IJI was the Benazir government's alleged corruption and wrongdoing in office. The principal issue for the PDA was the alleged unconstitutionality of her dismissal from office and the subsequent treatment of her, and her family and associates, by the caretaker government. The campaign was heated, including incidents of violence, harassment, and political kidnappings. Media coverage played an active role. During this campaign, the government no longer held a monopoly on television news because a second network, People's Television Network (PTN), had been started, to compete with Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). The new network introduced Cable News Network (CNN) in Pakistan. The PPP filed a complaint against PTV, charging biased network election coverage by it, but the complaint was rejected by the Lahore High Court. Print media coverage offered more variety. Although government-controlled newspapers tended to be anti-Benazir, the larger private sector of print media provided more diversity of opinion. Both the PDA and the IJI predicted victory, but at least one detailed public opinion poll gave the edge to the PDA.
The election results were disastrous for the PDA, as the IJI won 105 of the 207 contested seats in the National Assembly. The PDA won only forty-five seats. The IJI attributed its victory to success in holding its coalition together as well as in establishing electoral alliances nationwide to ensure that PDA candidates would not run unopposed. The PDA blamed the defeat on alleged rigging of the elections. Although the elections were certainly not free of irregularities, observation teams both from inside the country and from outside, including a team from member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), concluded that the elections had been generally free and fair. Despite their problems, the 1990 elections were another step forward in the quest for political stability and democratic government. The constitutional transfer of power was achieved without direct military intervention.
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Source: U.S. Library of Congress