King’s Parties

It was during the 1970 elections in Pakistan that the most established party of the time, King’s Party, bit the dust. The Pakistan Muslim League was nowhere to be found. In the Eastern Wing, Awami League led by Sheikh Mujib-Ur Rehman emerged as the big winner while in the Western part, Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) prevailed. There were many first-time winners who entered the parliament. After the break-up, what was left of Pakistan came under the genuinely elected legislature. 
Bhutto was the leader of the house while the legendary Wali Khan led the opposition. It was the ablest house ever that succeeded in formulating two constitutions in 1972 and 1973. After the Bangladesh debacle, the establishment was badly bruised. By the next elections in 1977, the trap had been laid. A new ‘ Kings Coalition ‘ under the banner of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) was created for a one-on-one contest with the ruling party. PNA and the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) are similar in many ways. While PNA consisted of 9 diverse political parties, PDM has 13 in its fold. To be safer, the 14th member has also been introduced. It has been named ‘ Isthekam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP). So, the contest in 2023 will be 14 versus 1 which shows desperation in the establishment ranks.
As a Muslim League child, I am grateful that my father’s original party, All India Muslim League (AIML) has been spared the exploitation this time. Instead of Pakistan Muslim League (PML), a new brand has been introduced called IPP. While PML-N and PML-Q remain in the field, IPP will be the fresh entrant tasked with bringing much needed ‘ stability. Stability comes through the participation of masses led by able and popular leaders. Merit based institutions play an important as they provide continuity of approach and policies. Genuine political leadership emerges from free and fair elections. Genuinely elected legislators then set the tone of the executive authority. In its checkered political history, the republic was able to hold only one free and fair election which seriously dented the hegemony of the establishment. The civil war in the Eastern part resulted in the defeat and surrender of the armed forces while West Pakistan managed to become a constitutional democracy with the enactment of the 1973 constitution. Since then, this agreement between the rulers and the ruled has been repeatedly disfigured and abused. 
Zia-ul-Haq, the third usurper, wanted to rewrite the document like his predecessor did in 1958 by abrogating the 1956 unanimously agreed version. Instead he introduced major amendments to consolidate his grip over power. Musharraf the fourth dictator thought that the state under his control was above the constitution. He got away for the first time but was convicted under Article 6 when he tried the same second time around.
Hopefully the electoral contest in 2023 will be free and fair to restore democracy in the country. A massive turn-out of voters can make all the difference. It will certainly bring about the demise of the Kings Parties—i.e. the PML-N, PML-Q, IPP, BAP and MQM. New faces will enter the parliament as it happened in the 1970 ballot exercise. The debates followed by people-friendly legislation will then restore the credibility of the house which has been missing since the 1985 elections which brought the ‘Kingsmen into power. 
Analysts believe that Kingdom will survive only in UK as the royals have surrendered all their powers to the people. During the socialist regime of Harold Wilson, the Queen was advised to sack the government but she refused as the authority to elect the Prime Minister. It is because of this historic respect and restraint of the royals that democracy has flourished in the Kingdom. It is the will of the people that prevails. India is not too far behind with a track record of credible elections held under a neutral election commission. Pakistan has been unlucky on this account.
Bhutto the architect of the 1973 constitution had more faith in higher judiciary than bureaucracy. For this reason, the position of the Chief Election Commission (CEC) was mandated for members of the higher judiciary. Management of logistics plays an important in the conduct of the exercise. In Indian members of the bureaucracy play this role. It was with this background that I supported the appointment of a bureaucrat as CEC. But it has been a disaster, the experiment has badly failed. Judges lacked the administrative experience but they were more neutral and fair compared to the current CEC. 

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation, email:

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt