Although Pakistan had become independent in 1947, it continued to follow the Government of India Act 1935 according to which the Governor General being the head of the state was the resident representative of the monarch of Great Britain. The Governor General was recommended by the Prime Minister and appointed by the Monarch.
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the first governor general of Pakistan and after him came Khawaja Nazimuddin (14th September 1948-17th October 1951), Ghulam Mohammed (17th October 1951 to 6th October 1955) and Iskander Mirza (6th October 1955 to 23rd March 1956).
In 1956, Pakistan became a republic and formed its own constitution in which the post of the governor general was replaced by that of the President and Iskander Mirza was appointed as the first President of Pakistan. Since then the list of people who have served as the president of Pakistan is as follows:
Iskander Mirza (23rd March 1956 to 27th October 1958)
General Ayub Khan (27th October 1958 to 25th March 1969)
Yahya Khan (25th March 1969 to 20th Dec 1971)
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (20th Dec 1971 to 13th Aug 1973)
Fazal Illahi Chaudhry (13th Aug 1973 to 16th Sept 1978)
Gen Zia ul Haq (16th Sept 1978 to 17th Aug 1988)
Ghulam Ishaq Khan (17th Aug 1988 to 18th Julsy 1993)
Wasim Sajjad (18th July 1993 to 14th November 1993) First Term
Farooq Leghari (14th November 1993 to 2nd December 1997)
Wasim Sajjad (2nd December 1997 to 1st January 1998) Second Term
Mohammad Rafiq Tarrar (1st January 1998 to 20th June 2001)
Pervaiz Musharraf (20th June 2001 to 18th August 2008)
Asif Ali Zardari (6th September 2008-present)
The President in Pakistan enjoyed more power than the prime minister and on a couple of occasions exercised this power by dismissing the elected prime ministers on various charges such as corruption, incompetence etc. Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Benazir Bhutto’s and Nawaz Sharif’s government and Farooq Leghari dismissed Benazir’s government. Zia ul Haq and President Musharraf also used their powers excessively. In 2010 however the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan gave more power to the prime minister making him the most powerful man in Pakistan.
Whenever they hear the word elections in Pakistan, Pakistanis imagine it as “ill-actions”. The nation is not to be blamed for this grotesque image of the word because the previous experiences have not been pleasant. Pakistan was founded on 14th August 1947 and for the first fifteen years, no elections were held. The main reason behind this was that the constitution had not been finalized.
The first elections in Pakistan were held in 1962 by the military ruler Field Marshal Ayub Khan and the next in 1965. Ayub Khan contested the elections against Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and defeated her; however he was accused of heavily rigging the elections. The only fair elections held in the country were perhaps under the tenure of General Yahya Khan in 1970. The outcome of these polls was that West Pakistan came under the rule of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party whereas Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League Party made a clean sweep inEast Pakistan. Later in 1971, after a bloody crisis, East Pakistan sought independence to become Bangladesh.
The next time the nation went to polls was in 1977. These elections were held by the Bhutto government and the government was accused of gross rigging and malpractices by its opponents. Curfew was imposed in most part of the country as the people had refused to accept the results and taken to rioting. Finally army moved in and Zia ul Haq ousted Bhutto and promised to hold fair elections within three months. However this was never to happen Zia instead held a referendum and got himself elected. In 1985 elections on non-party basis were held by the Zia regime and Zia prolonged his rule to eleven more years before being killed in a plane crash.
Elections were again held in 1988 and thus began a musical chair play of power between PPP and PML. In he first round (1988) PPP won and Benazir Bhutto became the prime minister of Pakistan. However after 20 months in 1990 the nation once again went to the polling booths as Benazir’s inefficient government was dismissed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan. This time it was PML’s turn to win and Nawaz Sharif became the prime minister of Pakistan. Differences between the president and the prime minister sent Nawaz Sharif packing and once again elections were held with PPP emerging as the winner this time. Benazir’s second term as a prime minister met the same fate and this time her government was sacked on the charges of corruption in 1996.
The 1997 elections ushered Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister and this time differences with the army chief General Pervez Musharraf caused Nawaz Sharif to lose his government in 1999. Musharraf became the chief executive and in 2002 held a referendum and elections which saw him being elected as the president and a section of PML which became independent and now went as PML Q was elected to form the government. In 2007 Musharraf got himself elected as the president again and to avoid any legal challenges sacked the judiciary.
According to Musharraf new elections were to be held on 8th January 2008 but were postponed for a month due to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. These elections brought PPP into power.
10th General elections of Pakistan were held in May 2013 and PMLN came into power with a sweeping majority.