Rise to Power

  • Shahid Javed Burki


The fact that the results of the 1970 elections surprised the military regime as well as the political participants should be explained not in terms of the failure of the vast intelligence machinery at the disposal of the government in correctly predicting the mood of the people. Judging from Yahya Khan’s massive intervention in the political life of the country in the period following the 1970 elections, it can be argued that the new military government would not have played a totally passive role in the pre-election period had it believed that the elections would lead to such a clear polarisation of Pakistani politics. Nor can the surprise caused by the results of the elections be explained in terms of the lack of political acumen on the part of the political parties that took part in them. It was not so much lack of acumen but the underdeveloped nature of the political institutions that made it so difficult for them to reflect the aspirations and frustrations of the people. It is also very likely that, had some of the old style politicians correctly gauged the mood of the people, they would have combined their efforts and challenged Bhutto and the PPP. The overwhelming victory of Mujibur Rahman shifted the focus of political activity from West Pakistan to Dacca. With Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League having captured all but two of the 168 seats alloted to East Pakistan and with Bhutto in command of a comfortable majority in the western province, Yahya Khan and his generals could not expect to play the role of political brokers that they had envisaged. Mujib’s stand on political autonomy hardened after the results of the elections were announced and Bhutto, after enthusiastically accepting the role of ‘sole representative of the people of West Pakistan’, began to develop a strategy to block East Pakistan’s rapid move towards independence.


Armed Force Security Council Military Regime Army Officer Political Participant 
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  1. 1.
    For an account of Bhutto’s role in the development of the political crisis that led to the secession of East Pakistan, see G. W. Choudhury, The Last Days of United Pakistan (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1974) passim.Google Scholar
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    The Legal Framework Order was produced in full by Dawn (Karachi) and the Pakistan Times (Lahore and Islamabad) in their issues of 31 March 1970. For an analysis of the Order see Feldman, op. cit., pp. 62–75, and Safdar Mahmood, A Political Study of Pakistan (Lahore: Mohammad Ashraf, 1972), pp. 360–72.Google Scholar
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© Shahid Javed Burki 1988

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  • Shahid Javed Burki

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