Pakistan is a conservative country - the information portal on South Asia

Pakistan, independent from Great Britain since 1947, has a very volatile democratic system despite the first constitution of 1956 and others in 1962, 1973 and 1985. This is certainly also due to the numerous military rulers that have made up a large part of the time since the existence of the state.

The military ruled under General M. Ayub Khan from 1958 and his successor Yahya Khan until 1970. After another military coup against Zulfikar Bhutto in 1977, General Zia Ul-Haq ruled until 1988. Only in 1985 did he revoke martial law (Martial Law) and made himself president. The constitutional amendments passed by Zia in favor of the role of the president, who had the power to appoint and dismiss ministers and to veto legislative proposals, were repealed in 1993 under the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Since October 1999 a general has been steering the fate of the country again. Chief of Staff Pervez Musharraf issued a state of emergency (not martial law like his predecessor) after the successful military coup and initially ruled as "Chief Executive" under President Rafiq Tarar. In June 2001, Musharraf had himself sworn in as president.

Immediately after taking power, he "suspended" the constitution and parliament. The constitution is thus currently suspended, but formally continues to exist and thus continues to have an indirect effect on the political framework. In addition, the general publicly bowed to a ruling by the Supreme Court calling for the constitutional democratic elections to be held by autumn 2002. Even if the current ruler should strive for a "managed democracy" in any way in the future, this will still have to be measured against the current constitution. In our opinion, this justifies the reference to the constitution in the following sections.

The suspended constitution was enacted in 1985 under Zia Ul-Haq and amended several times after his death. This is a combination of the traditions of the colonial constitution of 1935 with numerous new "Islamic elements". It defines Pakistan, which has called itself the Islamic Republic since the split from East Pakistan into independent Bangladesh in 1971, as a sovereign, republican federal state with four provinces, the federal territory of the capital Islamabad and the tribal areas.

President and Government

The constitution stipulates that the president, as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, must be a Muslim. He is elected by the members of the two houses of the (currently suspended) federal parliament for a five-year term.

The president's power to dismiss the government and dissolve parliament prematurely has been the real power center of the executive since Zia Ul-Haq's government. These powers were only abolished in the second half of the 1990s by Parliament in a constitutional amendment. Since then, the President can only appoint the commanders of the armed forces and the governors of the provinces with the consent of the Prime Minister. It was also customary for the prime minister to be appointed by the president as the leader of the strongest faction in the lower house and to be charged with forming a government. Although the prime minister was only first among equals, following the example of the British cabinet system, he was given a prominent position by leading cabinet meetings, the right to reshuffle the government and control the secret services and the federal police.


The Pakistani military plays a decisive role in politics and the economy. This not only refers to the current rule of the military, but also in a historical context, the armed forces have shown through repeated coups that no government can rule permanently against the will of the military leadership. The military coup in 1999 is the fourth time they have come to power in the South Asian country since independence in 1947. At present, defense spending is at a disproportionately high level, at over 50% of gross domestic product.

In the Pakistani army, which comprises around 600,000 soldiers, the land forces have a clear focus with around 520,000. It's a volunteer army. According to the constitution, the military commander in chief is the president, and the cabinet is responsible for planning the defense. The Minister of Defense is responsible for implementing the resolutions. Since independence, the Pakistani army has fought in three wars against India, in 1948, 1965 and 1971. In addition, it was and is involved in various smaller clashes along the common border with India. The air force employs around 45,000 people and the navy comprises around 22,000 men. The paramilitary forces, consisting of the National Guard, Border Corps, Rangers and the Coast Guard, comprise around 300,000 men.

The Pakistani army has had nuclear warheads since 1998. The weapon of mass destruction, referred to by some as the "Islamic bomb", was tested in underground tests in May 1998 in Baluchistan, near the border with Iran. The latest medium-range missiles can be armed with nuclear warheads and penetrate up to 3,000 km into enemy territory.

Within the army there is the position of the chief of staff, who heads the air and land forces as well as the navy - a position that in Germany is only reserved for politics.

The Pakistani Army has close ties with China, the main supplier of military goods. Further military relations exist with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iran and Turkey. The army was and is active in various UN peacekeeping missions, but is also involved in internal trouble spots (e.g. in Sindh / Karachi in the 1990s) and to combat drug trafficking.

Legislature and elections

Before the takeover of power, the legislature was a two-chamber parliament with a total of 324 members. The lower house, the National Assembly, was composed of 237 members who were to be elected every five years by general, direct and free elections. 20 seats were reserved for women and ten seats for representatives of non-Muslim minorities. The constitution also provides that the prime minister is appointed by the president and that his cabinet is accountable only to the national assembly.

The House of Lords, the Senate, ultimately consisted of 87 members, most of whom were delegated from the provincial parliaments, each with an equal share. The tribal areas made eight and the area of ​​the federal capital sent three members. The Senate had a predominantly advisory influence, its members are elected for a term of six years. In Pakistan there is universal suffrage from the age of 21. The threshold clause is 2% in the provinces and 5% of the vote in national elections.


The legal system is based on the earlier Anglo-Indian law, the Common law built up. Under the 1985 Constitution, the judiciary is exercised through a system of national courts. At its head is the Supreme Court of Pakistan, based in Islamabad, chaired by the Chief Justice of the Chief Justice. The chief judges are appointed by the president.

The Supreme Court is the decision-making body in disputes between the state and its provinces or between the provinces. In addition, it is the highest court of appeal for all legal issues and can attract cases of particular interest. The higher courts are subordinate to him, High courts, as the highest appellate authorities in the provinces. The provinces have separate administrative courts. In family and inheritance law, religious law applies, for Muslims according to the Sunni-Hanafi rite.

The Shariat benches are separate chambers at the courts that have been judging according to Islamic law since 1976. The Federal Sharia Court, established in 1980 (Federal Shariat Court) decides whether existing laws are compatible with canonical Sunni law. Financial law was initially excluded from the review, and it was only Benazir Bhutto that expanded the judges' powers to include this area. The adjustment of the financial legislation and the institutions concerned to the Islamic interest ban, which was then demanded by the court, was never implemented. A constitutional amendment in 1988 gave the Sharia the status of the highest law in the country. In 1992, the death penalty, abolished in 1986, was reintroduced. Since 1995 it has also applied to drug trafficking.

Federal structure and administration

The country is divided into the four provinces of Baluchistan, Sindh, Punjab and Northwest Frontier Province (North-West Frontier Province), which have their own provincial government. The Federal Territory of Islamabad, the Northern Areas and the "Tribal" Areas (Federally Administered Tribal Areas, FATA) are managed centrally. Pakistan also controls the western part of Kashmir, called Azad Kashmir.

The provincial governors appointed by the state president are supported by elected provincial parliaments with their own governments. The provinces are divided into a total of 50 districts and so-called agencies in the FATA. These regions - Khyber, Kurram, Malakand, Mohmand, North and South Waziristan - are governed autonomously, the central government only sends so-called political representatives. In these areas the Pakistani laws are not valid, rather they are governed according to the traditional customs of the local people.

Azad Kashmir has its own government, president, prime minister and courts. The northern part - Gilgit, Diamir and Baltistan - is directly under the central government.


The freedom of the press is relatively high, even in times of military dictatorship it could never be completely abolished. It can, however, be achieved through the allocation of the printing paper and rented gangs of thugs (Goondas), which demolish rooms of unpopular editorial offices, are restricted. In addition, there are repeated reports of the arrests of critical journalists.

There are over 400 daily newspapers and around 800 weekly newspapers in Pakistan, many of them in small editions. The main daily newspapers are published in Lahore and Karachi. The total circulation of all newspapers in the early 1990s was more than 1.82 million. Newspapers appear mainly in Urdu and English. The English-language press in particular is considered critical of the government. The military, religious disputes and the president's family are subject to censorship. Next to the state news agency Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) there are two private agencies (PPI and NNI).

The state Pakistan Television Corporation has been broadcasting a television program since 1964. Five transmission centers provide reception for 87% of the total population. Although only three million televisions are reported, the number of viewers is estimated at over 115 million. There are 23 state radio stations and three private radio stations broadcasting in 20 different languages.

The use of computer technology and the Internet is increasing rapidly, especially in cities. Most people surf in Internet cafes; private connections are still the exception due to the high costs and poor network.


The Pakistani party system is diverse: In addition to the two large parties, there are countless smaller, regional and religious parties. According to the Political Parties Act of February 17, 1985, in addition to the proper filling of party offices through elections, an Islamic understanding of the state is necessary for the recognition of parties. Members who violate Islamic values ​​must be excluded. Since the military came to power in October 1999, the work of the parties has been severely restricted. In various local elections since spring 2001, only non-party candidates have been admitted.

The Pakistan Muslim League (PML) is an influential Conservative party that has been instrumental in the country's political fortunes in the recent past. It should not be confused with the party that was founded in Dhaka in 1906 as the All-India Muslim League as a representative of the interests of Indian Muslims on the subcontinent and dissolved in 1958.

The PML was founded in 1962 by General Ayub Khan. But the current party is mainly composed of the 1986 re-establishment around Muhammad Khan Junejos. After his death in March 1993, Nawaz Sharif took over the management. Since then she has campaigned as PML-N (Nawaz Sharif) for the interests of the urban middle classes and large landowners. The PML-N provided the Prime Minister twice in the 1990s with Nawaz Sarif. Until the military came to power in October 1999, it had a two-thirds majority in parliament. Since the beginning of the military rule, all top politicians have been imprisoned or, like Nawaz Sharif, in exile. The PML is represented at the universities with its student organization Muslim Student Federation (MSF).

In March 2001, a wing close to the ruling military split off around Sharif's former confidante Mian Muhammad Azhar. In June 2001 it constituted itself as PML-LM ("Like Minded Group").

The social democratic Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was founded in 1967. Together with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it was the head of government from 1971 to 1977 until the military coup under Zia ul-Haq. In the first free elections after Zia's death in 1988, the daughter of the former head of state, Benazir Bhutto, became the first female prime minister of a Muslim country, but she was removed from office by the president in 1990 for abuse of office and allegations of corruption. After the 1993 elections, the party re-established the government. In 1996, Benazir Bhutto was released again for similar reasons. As the party leader of the PPP, she has since been in exile. The party's student organization is the People's Student Federation (PSF).
The PPP-SB (Shaheed Bhutto) was founded in March 1995 under the leadership of Benazir's brother Murtaza Bhutto. In September 1996, the police shot Murtaza and seven other party leaders to death before the new establishment could pose a serious threat to the ruling PPP Benazir Bhuttos.

Founded in 1984 Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz (MQM) initially saw itself as a political party of the Mohajirs, the Urdu-speaking Indian immigrants. The party has its roots in the All-Pakistan Muhajir Students Organization at the University of Karachi. At first it referred to itself as the Mohajir Qaumi Movement. The new name, however, stands for United National Movement. Although the party grew to become the third largest party in the federal parliament in elections in the 1990s, it is still primarily a regional party in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh. Since 1997 the MQM in coalition with the PML has provided the government in Sindh. After they came to power, the civil war-like conflict between the MQM and government forces, which had been fueled in the early 1990s by the radical splinter group, the MQM-HAQIQ (Haqiq = truth), created with the support of the Pakistani army, was able to be contained. The political leader and founder of the MQM, Altaf Hussain, has lived in exile in London for a long time.

The Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) was founded in 1969 as a merger of the four parties Justice Party, National Democratic Front, Nizam-e-Islam and the West Pakistani Awami League. The party under Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan gained prominence during the PML's first reign in 1990 when it led the opposition All-Parties Conference. Party leader Khan has headed the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) since December 2000, which unites all of Pakistan's major parties and fights for a return to democracy.

Ghulam Musafa Jatoi founded the National People Party (NPP) after his falling out with Benazir Bhutto's PPP. After Jatoi served as a temporary premier in 1990, the party only plays a role in Sindh today.

The Tehrik-e-Istiqlal, "Solidarity Movement", was founded under former Air Force Marshall Asghar Khan in 1969. The party is deeply rooted among intellectuals and urban middle classes. In 1990 she formed a coalition with the PPP and boycotted the 1997 elections.

The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Intesaaf (PTI) was founded in 1996 under Imran Khan. Despite a lot of media attention, the famous former cricketer's party has no political weight.

The Awami National Party(ANP) was founded in 1986 as a re-establishment of the one that was banned by Zulfikar Bhutto in 1971 National Awami Party. However, the ANP did not succeed in maintaining the supraregional importance of its predecessor as a reservoir for the Pakistani left. Today it is a socialist regional party that campaigns for the interests of the Pashtuns and the Baluchi, especially in the Northwestern Frontier Province (NWFP) and in Baluchistan. Awami means people in Pushtu.

There are also numerous others in Pakistan regional parties like that Baluchistan National Party and the Pakhtoon Khawa Mill Awami Partywhich are represented in the western provinces.

The most influential religious party in Pakistan is the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), which Abul A'la Maududi founded in 1941 and built up in Lahore since 1947 to form a loud opposition to the secular state. The party represents an image that glorifies early Islamic times and is fixed on state-authoritarian enforcement of an Islam that encompasses all areas of life and has been purified from elements of everyday South Asian culture. Although its parliamentary influence has always remained limited, the cadre party enforced many of the "Islamic" constitutional amendments and the persecution of the Ahmadiyya as un-Islamic through its mass campaigns. The JI supports - mainly through its student organization Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT) - massively militant groups in Kashmir.

Another representative of the religious right is the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI). It was created in 1945 as a spin-off from Jamiat-ul Ulama-e-Hind (JUH), the conservative association of Muslim scholars. Like the JUH at the time, the JUI is also rooted in the Deoband movement in British India, which arose to defend an orthodox Sunni understanding of Islam against modernist and syncretistic tendencies. Since 1947, the JUI has changed its program and organizational structure more often. She receives support mostly in the north of Baluchistan and in the north-western border province, where she is particularly elected by Pashtuns. The religious schools run by the party there (Madrasas) trained many of those fighting in Afghanistan, which is why the party is said to have a certain influence on the Afghan Taliban. Their main opponents, besides Shiite groups, are the representatives of more popular currents of Islam, especially the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e Pakistan (JUP).

Among the smaller parties with a religious agenda there are also openly violent groups, such as the radical Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan (SSP), which was founded in 1984 as a militant split from the JUI and banned in August 2001. Supporters of this party fought with the in the past Tehrik-e-Jafaria-e-Pakistan (TJP), whose electorate is mostly recruited from the Shiite minority in Sindh. After the TJP refrained from carrying out attacks in the late 1980s, individual militant groups like them split up Sipah-e-Mohamad from. The Nizam-e-Mustapha can also be assigned to the militant spectrum.


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