Pakistan in the 1960’s

By | December 18, 2021

The new constitution, on which a specially elected commission had worked since February 1960, was promulgated on March 1, 1962. In accordance with the theory of basic democracy, it was strongly centralizing; every executive power belonged to the president; the single chamber of Parliament comprised 150 members from each of the two halves of the country, elected not directly, but by the 80,000 basic democrats. After the elections of April 28 of that year, Ayyub Khan, confirmed president, abolished martial law and allowed the formation of political parties again. In foreign policy, the Pakistan, definitely linked to America since 1954, slowly broke away from it when he saw that he could not expect any help with regard to India; on the other hand, America was disappointed by political instability and by the poor results of economic aid, which in reality only went to enrich a small class of profiteers. Therefore, after the Sino-Indian war of 1962 Ayyub turned to China, with which he concluded an agreement for the delimitation of the borders (March 2, 1963); On the other hand, relations with the USSR are less close. Those with America cooled completely following American arms supplies to India,Indian, union). The resistance of the Pakistan to the superior Indian forces, however, was tenacious and all in all crowned with a defensive success. In the same year Ayyub was re-elected president and the elections gave a large victory to the Muslim League. Economic development in the 1960s was also satisfactory, accelerated by major works in the field of water control. For Pakistan 2008, please check

Nonetheless, discontent was growing among politicians, intellectuals and the masses; the basic democrats they had degenerated into a caste of greedy and corrupt local notables, students agitated for reform. Spokesman for the opposition became ZA Bhutto, foreign minister until 1966, founder of the People’s Party. The general demand for a return to universal suffrage escalated into a growing chaos with continuing unrest. Negotiations with the opposition in the West and with the Bengal autonomists in the East failed. Then Ayyub gradually gave in, first by renouncing re-election, then by accepting direct elections; but eventually he had to retreat in the face of an irresistible wave of strikes and riots. On March 25, 1969 he transmitted the powers to the gen. Yahya Khaan, commander of the army, who proclaimed martial law, repealed the 1962 constitution, dissolved the central and provincial assemblies and began preparations for the election by universal suffrage of a constituent assembly. The single province of the western Pakistan was dissolved, reconstituting the four original provinces; at the same time he strengthened relations with China by visiting Beijing. The elections of 7 December 1970 were decisive, with the overwhelming victory of the autonomists (Awami League) in Bengal and the decisive but not absolute victory of the Bhutto People’s Party in western Pakistan The positions of the two parties were irreconcilable and an extremely tense situation ensued. Each negotiation was in vain and in March 1971 the civil war broke out in Bengal, where the rioters proclaimed the republic of Bangla Desh (v.). Yahya Khan ordered the army to end the riot, which was only partially successful and at the cost of a lot of blood. The situation precipitated towards catastrophe; on December 3, 1971, India, which had increasingly openly supported the Bengal guerrillas, entered the war. Despite full diplomatic support from China and much less decisive support from America, the war ended in two weeks with the capitulation of Pakistani troops in Bengal and an armistice on the Western front.

The defeat led to the complete discredit of the armed forces, in power since 1959. Yahya Khan resigned (December 20) and ZA Bhutto became provisional president. There followed an extensive purge in the high ranks of the army and navy; resolute action was also taken to avoid financial collapse and to recover capital that emigrated abroad. Bhutto also took advantage of the martial law in force to impose authoritative reforms in the field of social security and trade union rights, to improve land reform by lowering the maximum area allowed for each family and confiscating without indemnity and distributing the surplus land. Free education was introduced and private schools were nationalized as well as, later, all banks. The Constituent Assembly, naturally composed of only deputies elected in the West, it was finally able to meet in April 1972 and the new constitution (the third since 1947), with a bicameral legislature and a president elected by the Chambers, was promulgated on April 10, 1973. Chaudhri Fazl-Ilahi was elected president and Bhutto became prime minister. An agreement with India and the Bangla Desh (28 August 1973) allowed the return of prisoners of war and the repatriation of non-Bengalis from Bengal, a prelude to the formal recognition of the Bangla Desh, which took place in February 1974. All this was not enough, however. to restore peace to the country torn by discord. In the Balūcistān a separatist guerrilla of a tribal character developed, which lasted several months; tension with Afghānistān resumed over the Pakhtunistan question; restlessness, economic difficulties, attacks that culminated in the assassination of the interior minister in early 1975 led to a very tense situation. Bhutto tried to consolidate his position by first taking measures against opposition parties, and then calling for general elections. These were held on March 7, 1977 and resulted in a landslide victory for the government. But the electoral fraud had been so many and such that the opposition asked for the cancellation of the elections. Bhutto’s refusal resulted in a series of bloody incidents that lasted for four months in an atmosphere of civil war, until the military once more intervened in a coup (July 5, 1977). Under the leadership of the head of SM gen. Aunt ul-Haq, they enacted martial law, they dissolved governments and central and provincial assemblies, suspended the constitution. Bhutto, accused as a principal in murder, was arrested and sentenced to death on March 18, 1978 (the sentence was carried out on April 4, 1979). The new elections, promised in the short term (for October 18, 1977), were then postponed indefinitely, and martial law, strictly enforced, remains in force.

Pakistan Chaudhri Fazl-Ilahi