48 years ago today: Pakistan holds its first general election
On December 7, 1970 Pakistan held its first election based on adult franchise. Election for the National Assembly were held on the 7th of December whereas polls for the Provincial Assembly were held on 17 December.
Campaigning Begins: The Main Contenders
Number of National Assembly Seats: 300 (162 in East Pakistan and 138 in West Pakistan)
Total Turnout: 59.8%
East Pakistan: 56.9%
East Pakistan (94.1% per 100 male voters). Punjab (85.5). Balochistan (69.8). Sindh (68.1). NWFP (61%); and FATA areas (0%).
Awami League (AL): 160 NA seats (39.2% of total votes).
AL swept East Pakistan, winning 160 of the region’s 162 NA seats. The remaining two seats were won by former Muslim Leaguer Noor-ul-Amin, and independent candidate, Raja Tridiv Roy.
Out of East Pakistan’s 300 Provincial Assembly seats, AL won 288. Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) won 2, NAP-Wali won 1, JI won 1 and independents won 7.
AL did not not win a single NA or PA seat in West Pakistan.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP): 81 NA seats (18.6% of the total votes)
PPP swept the election in West Pakistan’s two largest provinces, Punjab (41.7% of the total votes) and Sindh (44.9). However, it won just 1 seat in NWFP and none in Balochistan. It also did not win any in East Pakistan where the party did not put up any candidates.
PPP also won Provincial Assembly elections in Punjab (113 seats out of 180) and in Sindh (28 out of 60). It won 3 PA seats in Balochistan and 2 in NWFP.
Muslim League-Qayyum (ML-Qayyum): 9 NA seats (4.5% of the total votes)
ML-Qayyum emerged as the strongest ML faction. It won 7 NA seats in NWFP, 1 in Punjab and 1 in Sindh. In Provincial Assembly elections, the party won 10 (out of a total of 40) PA seats in NWFP; 6 in Punjab, 5 in Sindh and 3 in Balochistan. It didn’t put up any candidates in East Pakistan.
Muslim League-Council (ML-Council): 7 NA seats (6% of total votes)
ML-Council managed to trump its arch-rival ML-Convention but was routed by the PPP. ML-Council won all of its NA seats in the Punjab. It couldn’t win a single seat in the rest of West Pakistan and also none in East Pakistan.
In the Provincal Assembly election, the party won 6 PA seats in Punjab and 2 in NWFP.
Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI): 7 NA seats (4% of the total votes)
JUI emerged as one the most successful religious parties. It won all of its 7 NA seats in NWFP and Balochistan. In the Provincial Assembly election JUI won 4 in NWFP and 2 in Balochistan.
Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP): 7 NA seats (3.9% of the total votes)
JUP won its 7 NA seats in Punjab and Sindh (especially in Karachi). In the Provincial Election the party won 7 PA seats in Sindh and 4 in Punjab.
National Awami Party-Wali (NAP-Wali): 6 NA seats (2.4 % of the total votes)
NAP-Wali won all of its 6 NA seats in Balochistan and NWFP. It had also put up candidates in East Pakistan. In the Provincial Assembly election, NAP-Wali won 13 in NWFP and 8 in Balochistan. It won 1 in East Pakistan.
Jamat Islami (JI): 4 NA seats (6% of the total votes)
With a following in both East and West Pakistan, JI was expected to emerge as a force in the election. But the results for the party were highly dissapointing. It could win just 4 NA seats (2 in Sindh, and 1 each in Punjab and NWFP). It could win none in East Pakistan but it did poll the second largest number of votes there (6.1% to AL’s 75.1%).
In the Provincial Assembly elections, JI won 1 PA seat in East Pakistan, and 1 each in Punjab, Sindh and NWFP.
National Democratic Party (NDP) won 1 NA seat and independent candidates won 16.
What Happened Next
The election results in local and international press were described as the victory of democratic forces and of left-liberal/progressive forces. AL was declared as the majority party followed by the PPP. Yahya asked the elected members to convene a session of the National Assembly and begin the formation of a government and a new constitution.
However, AL chief Mujeeb-ur-Rehman was quoted by sections of the press as saying ‘now nothing can stop the formation of Bangladesh.’ Bhutto asked Mujeeb to retract his statement, even though Mujeeb had already stated that he was misquoted.
Bhutto then asked him to withdraw the demand of complete provincial autonomy of East Pakistan which Mujeeb refused to do, saying this is the promise for which the people in East Pakistan had voted for AL.
Bhutto then refused to send PPP members to sit in the new assembly’s first session which was eventually scraped by the Yahya regime. Yahya, Mujeeb and Bhutto began hectic talks in Dhaka to find a solution.
The talks collapsed and Mujeeb was arrested for treason. He was jailed in West Pakistan. East Pakistan descended into a vicious civil war. Due to atrocities committed by the Bengali militants and the Pakistan army, thousands of Bengalis, non-Bengalis and soldiers were killed.
India entered the conflict in December 1971 on the side of Bengali militants. The US and China backed West Pakistan’s stance whereas Soviet Union and most European countries sided with AL. By mid-December, Pakistani forces lost control of the region and began to withdraw.
Mujeeb was released and a group of officers forced Yahya to resign. ZA Bhutto and his PPP were handed over the reins of power because of their performance in the 1970 election in West Pakistan.
East Pakistan became Bangladesh. PPP became the ruling party and also managed to form provincial governments in Punjab and Sindh. NAP-Wali formed coalition governments in NWFP and Balochistan with JUI.
Nadeem Farooq Paracha is a Pakistani journalist, author and cultural critic. He can be reached at [email protected]
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