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November 1, 2019

Historic, political significance of October in Pakistan’s history


November 1, 2019

LAHORE: October holds a special historic and political significance in Pakistan’s 72-year history as sitting Prime Minister Imran Khan, his predecessors Nawaz Sharif and Mir Zafarullah Jamali, former president Pervez Musharraf and Maulana Fazlur Rehman etc would never surely forget the events that had prominently featured during this month.

As far as Imran Khan is concerned, it was his very widely-attended October 30, 2011 rally at Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore, which had helped his political entity “Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf” rejuvenate and made him emerge as a frontline political leader. Imran has never looked back since, finally getting hold of the ‘throne’ after a long political struggle in 2018.

Exactly eight years later, or very recently on October 30, 2019, Maulana Fazlur Rehman had arrived in Lahore, leading a massive rally of supporters attending his long march against Imran Khan’s government. The cleric also addressed a large public gathering at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan before proceeding to Islamabad. The 66-year old Maulana too, may never have led a crowd as massive as this one throughout his political career. What a coincidence!

The month of October also saw the first Pakistani premier Liaquat Ali Khan getting assassinated, the swearing in and deposition of numerous rulers, the imposition of the first-ever martial law, the dissolution of country’s first constitutional assembly and the holding of various ballot exercises.

Had Pakistan’s former rulers, Gen Ziaul Haq, Benazir Bhutto, Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Kh Nazimuddin, Ayub Khan, Sir Feroz Khan Noon and Iskander Mirza been alive, they too would had fondly and unwillingly recalled their pleasant and unpleasant memories associated with this eventful month of October!

Currently stealing all the limelight and attention by leading an anti-government march towards Islamabad, Maulana Fazlur Rehman had led Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a political alliance consisting of conservative, Islamist, religious and far-right parties during the October 10, 2002 elections, which had seen Zafarullah Jamali emerging as country’s premier.

The Maulana-led MMA had bagged 63 seats in this ballot exercise to stun may within and outside the country, and had gained global recognition at a juncture when all eyes were focused on Pakistan that was acting as an ally of the United States-led international powers in their fight against Osama bin Laden and his militant outfit Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 bombing of the twin towers in New York.

The October 2002 elections, which were held under the watchful scrutiny of the military government of Gen Musharraf, had introduced multi-party democracy in the country by ending the two-party rule of the PPP and the PML-N.

Ably supported by the then president Pervez Musharraf, the PML-Q had surfaced in the mainstream political spectrum of Pakistan by bagging 126 seats, followed by the PPP that could win 81 seats in the National Assembly. The PML-N had vanished into oblivion during these polls as its leader Nawaz Sharif was languishing in jail on the orders of Gen Musharraf.

Just about three years earlier, on October 12, 1999, Musharraf had ousted Nawaz Sharif from power. It was also in October 2010 that Musharraf had launched his new political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League at a club in London. On October 16, 1951, Pakistan’s first premier Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in Rawalpindi. And on October 17 of the same year, Malik Ghulam Muhammad had assumed the charge as country’s governor-general, with Kh Nazimuddin taking over as prime minister.

All this had happened some four years after Indian troops had landed in Kashmir on October 27, 1947 as the Maharaja of this state had declared accession with India. On October 7, 1954, Foreign Minister Ch Zafarullah Khan became member of the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

And on October 24, Governor General Ghulam Muhammad had dissolved country’s first constitutional assembly. On October 6, 1955, Ghulam Muhammad’s resignation was accepted and he was succeeded by Iskander Mirza. On October 1, 1956, an Electorate Bill was introduced in the National Assembly providing for joint electorate in East and West Pakistan.

On October 7, 1958, President Iskander Mirza had declared martial law in Pakistan. He abrogated the constitution of 1956, describing it as “unworkable” and full of “dangerous compromises”. Gen Ayub Khan was appointed chief martial law administrator. Mirza had dismissed the government of Sir Feroz Khan Noon, and dissolved the National assembly and the provincial legislatures. Mirza also proceeded to outlaw all political parties and nominated Ayub Khan to become the new prime minister, charged with the task of administering the country. On October 24 of the same year, Gen Ayub was sworn in as prime minister by Iskander Mirza. Just three days later, on October 27, Ayub had forced Iskander Mirza to step down, becoming country’s president himself. On October 26, 1959, Ayub Khan introduced the concept of basic democracies and the very next day he became a field marshal. On October 22, 1964, Kh Nazimuddin had died in Dhaka. On October 28, 1972, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had inaugurated the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant. On October 5, 1975, Pakistan and Bangladesh had agreed to establish diplomatic ties.

On October 16, 1979, military ruler Gen Zia had put off polls indefinitely, political parties were dissolved and press censorship imposed. On October 6, 1988, eight political parties had formed the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), though they could not prevent Benazir Bhutto from winning the November 1988 polls and becoming premier.

On October 24, 1990, general elections were held. While IJI bagged 106 seats, the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDA), of which the PPP was the main component, could win only 45 National Assembly seats. Nawaz Sharif became the 12th prime minister of Pakistan on November 1, 1990, succeeding Benazir Bhutto. He also became head of the IJI. On October 6, 1993, yet another electoral exercise was held in the country. While the Benazir-led PPP had won 86 seats, the runners-up PML-N could secure 72 seats. On October 19 of the same year, Benazir Bhutto was elected prime minister for the second time.

On October 8, 2005, a devastating earthquake (worst-ever in Pakistan’s history) had jolted Kashmir and NWFP, killing over 80,000 people. On October 18, 2007, Benazir had returned to Pakistan, after exile of about eight years. She was ‘greeted’ by a bomb attack in Karachi. The motorcade carrying BB was the target. The bombing had occurred two months before she was assassinated. This event, known as “Karsaz incident” had resulted in at least 180 deaths, while 500 people were injured. Most of the dead were the PPP workers.