Pakistan, 1997

By Craig Baxter; Charles H. Kennedy | Go to book overview
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Thirteenth Amendment by a vote of 79-0 and 190-0 respectively. The Sharif government amended the controversial parts of the 1985 Eighth Amendment by: deleting Article 58(2)(b) which had empowered the president to dissolve the National Assembly; amending Article 101, thus binding the president to appoint governors in provinces on the advice of the prime minister; deleting Article 112(2)(b) which had empowered governors to dissolve provincial assemblies; and modifying Article 243(9)(b), thereby removing the discretionary powers of the president to appoint armed services chiefs. The leader of the opposition, Benazir Bhutto, supported the move as did all other parties and independent members represented on the floor of the two houses. The move was generally hailed as the beginning of real democracy in Pakistan. Under Nawaz Sharif, the parliament is not only the most powerful institution of the state, it is also the most united platform of public representatives on fundamental issues relating to the division of powers within the state apparatus.


The 1997 elections in Pakistan displayed continuity with past patterns of social mobilization and political alignment but displayed substantive changes in the institutional expression of political power. Continuity was displayed in three areas. Firstly, the public continued to vote in pursuit of patronage and therefore backed individuals and parties carrying a credible potential to deliver goods. Secondly, electoral politics remained de-ideologized. The decade-long Islamization drive of Zia's martial law government had exhausted this source of legitimacy and mass mobilization. While Islamization led to the emergence of militant Islamic groups operating from sectarian platforms outside the parliament, it caused a gradual decline in the appeal of Islamic parties in terms of patronage politics. Thirdly, the ethnic-based political groups showed a tremendous capacity to survive and operate within a heavily centralized system dominated by Punjab. Meanwhile, the state of Pakistan seems to have moved toward accommodating regional aspirations by providing political space to ethnic leaders and by allowing them greater control over local administration. In addition, local leaders have been afforded a larger share of the revenue generated by local resources such as gas in Balochistan, water and power in the NWFP, and industry and commerce in Sindh.

A departure from past patterns was most apparent in two major developments. Firstly, the long term decline in the PPP's social base in the country has been finally exposed in a somewhat dramatic way. The PPP staged a comeback in 1988 on the basis of its latent support base rooted in Bhutto's charisma and its public image as the ultimate democratic force in the country by virtue of its opposition to the military government of Zia. However, the party's reformist posture and its appeal to the working classes took a nose-dive. This was apparent in the reduced vote for the PPP. While the PPP leadership has moved decisively towards the right, the elite groups in various sectors of the society continue to support the arch


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