Pakistan People’s Party

Published 18th April, 2013

The Pakistan People’s Party was founded at a convention in Lahore on 30 November 1967. Former members of the banned Socialist Party and left-wing intellectuals met at the residence of Dr. Mubashir Hassan and elected former minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as the party’s first chairman. The party manifesto, which was published later that year, was written by another founder, the Bengali Communist J.A. Rahim, with the title, ‘Islam is our Religion; Democracy is our Politics; Socialism is our Economy; Power Lies with the People’. The party’s formation was a response to the pro-American policies of President Ayub Khan and the signing of the Tashkent Agreement with India.

The PPP is centre-left in ideology and advocates Islamic democratic-socialism. It has been dominated by the Bhutto- Zardari family since its formation. The party first participated in elections in 1970 when it won 81 of the 300 National Assembly seats. Although the Awami League in East Pakistan won 160 seats, West Pakistan refused to cede power and the resulting violent struggle led to the formation of Bangladesh the following year. Civilian rule in Pakistan resumed in 1972 and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became Prime Minister, having previously been President from 1971 to 1973.

In the general election of 1977 a ballot took place to elect 200 parliamentarians in the two house of Parliament. The elections were marred by mass protests and civil disobedience, but the PPP won 155 of the 200 seats, amidst accusations of vote rigging.

On 5 July 1977, a military coup took place in Pakistan and General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq took power. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was imprisoned and, in 1979, the Supreme Court controversially tried and executed him for authorising the murder of an opponent. The party leadership passed first to Bhutto’s widow, Begum Nasrat and subsequently to his daughter, Benazir Bhutto.

In the elections which took place on 16 November 1988, the Pakistan People’s Party won the majority of the seats in the National Assembly and Senate and Benazir Bhutto was elected Pakistan’s first female prime minister. Bhutto’s government was dismissed in August 1990 and in the election which took place on 24 October the PPP, in coalition with three smaller parties as the People’s Democratic Alliance, lost power.

In the 1993 elections the PPP again took the majority of seats winning 89 out of the 206 contested National Assembly seats, although the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), which had been part of the Islamic Democratic Alliance and was now led by Nawaz Sharif, won the largest number of votes. Benazir Bhutto became prime minister once more and in the presidential election the PPP candidate, Farooq Leghari, was elected. The following month Begum Nasrat was ousted as co-chairman of the party and Benazir’s brother, Murtaza, formed a breakaway, left-wing faction, the Pakistan People’s Party (Shaheed Bhutto).

The election of 3 February 1997 took place following the dismissal of the Bhutto government by President Leghari, amidst allegations of involvement by Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari in the death of Murtaza and also due to the economic situation at the time. The PPP retained only 19 of its 98 seats in the National Assembly. Benazir left Pakistan at this stage and tried to maintain leadership of the party from abroad. Despite press speculation that the party might drop her as leader, she announced she would lead it into the October 2002 elections. The PPP won 78 seats and a breakaway faction, the Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao, won a further 2 seats, as did the Pakistan People’s Party-SB.

In November 2007 elections were called for the following year and it was while campaigning in Rawalpindi in December that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated as she left a rally. The election had already been postponed by General Musharraf and it was now postponed a further time, but finally took place on 18 February 2008. The Pakistan People’s Party won 97 of the 270 elected seats, with the Pakistan Muslim League-N coming second with 71 seats; together they formed a new coalition government with Yosaf Raza Gillani as prime minister.

On 5 September 2008 Asif Ali Zardari, as PPP candidate, won the presidential election. On April 2010, President Zardari voluntarily surrendered his political and presidential powers to Prime Minister Gillani, but Gillani was found guilty of contempt of court for refusing to reopen the corruption case again Zardari and disqualified from holding parliamentary office in June 2012. He was replaced as prime minister by Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. As the government’s term of office came to an end, Ashraf was expected to stay on as prime minister until elections the May elections. However he is facing charges of accepting kickbacks from rental power plants and Pakistan currently has a caretaker prime minister, Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, who was appointed by the Electoral Commission in March 2013.

On 2 March 2012, the PPP won 19 of the 54 seats up for election in the Senate.

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