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Evolution of Military Rule in Pakistan: A Historical Perspective

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By Moeez Saleem


Pakistan’s history has been marked by periods of military rule that have significantly influenced the country’s political landscape. From its inception in 1947, Pakistan has witnessed multiple military takeovers, each with its own unique circumstances and consequences. This article delves into the evolution of military rule in Pakistan’s history, tracing the major junctures that have shaped the nation’s governance.

Pakistan’s initial years after gaining independence in 1947 were characterized by political instability, leading to its first military intervention in 1958. General Ayub Khan assumed power through a coup, citing the need to restore order and stability. His rule, known as the “Decade of Development,” saw economic growth but was marred by limited political freedoms.

General Ayub Khan’s era was marked by economic progress and modernization. However, his authoritarian rule sparked public discontent, leading to the 1969 mass protests and his eventual resignation. This period established a precedent for military intervention in Pakistani politics.

General Yahya Khan took power after Ayub’s resignation and oversaw the tumultuous period leading to the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. The military’s role in the conflict and eventual separation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) highlighted the dangers of military rule.

After the 1971 crisis, Pakistan transitioned back to civilian rule under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. However, his administration faced allegations of election rigging, leading to his overthrow in a military coup by General Zia-ul-Haq in 1977.

General Zia-ul-Haq’s rule was characterized by strict Islamic policies, close ties with the United States during the Afghan-Soviet war, and a prolonged state of martial law. His death in a plane crash in 1988 marked the end of this era.

The 1990s saw alternating periods of civilian rule under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, with both leaders facing power struggles, corruption allegations, and confrontations with the military. Sharif’s government was dismissed in a coup by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

General Pervez Musharraf ruled Pakistan until 2008, following another military coup. His rule included an alliance with the U.S. in the War on Terror and significant political turmoil, culminating in his resignation in the face of public pressure and threats of impeachment.

Since 2008, Pakistan has experienced periods of civilian rule under various leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, and Imran Khan. However, the military has remained a powerful behind-the-scenes player, influencing policy decisions and government stability.

The history of military rule in Pakistan has left an indelible mark on the nation’s political landscape. While the country has made efforts to transition to civilian governance, the military continues to exert influence, posing challenges to the development of stable democratic institutions. Understanding this historical evolution is essential for grasping Pakistan’s complex political dynamics and its ongoing struggle for democratic governance

The writer can be reached at:[email protected]

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