Pakistan Political System

Political system

Short for PK by Abbreviationfinder, Pakistan has been a parliamentary democracy since 2010, but the road to it has been paved with long periods of military dictatorship and an ever stronger presidential power. For decades, influential large property owners and clan leaders have also eroded democracy. Not until 2013 could a democratically elected government end an entire term of office. In the election that year, Pakistan’s first democratic power shift took place.

Following a constitutional change in April 2010, the political power lies with the Prime Minister (the Head of Government) and Parliament. The Office of the President, which previously had the closest dictatorial powers, has been given a mainly ceremonial function.

  • Countryaah: Total population and chart of Pakistan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.

This constitutional amendment number 18 meant that a number of previous amendments to the 1973 constitution were repealed. They had been driven by several leaders, mainly military dictators, who wanted to consolidate their power. Their intervention in the democratic order had the constitution almost like a patchwork of amendments and additions.

Above all, Appendix Number 18 meant that the widespread power given by former military dictators Muhammad Zia ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf (see Modern History) to the presidency was curtailed. The right to dissolve Parliament, as well as to appoint military commanders, was transferred to the Prime Minister. Higher judges, previously appointed by the president, are now appointed by a parliamentary commission on the recommendation of a collection of lawyers. The head of the Election Commission is appointed by Parliament instead of the President.

Must be Muslim

The president is head of state and formally commander-in-chief and is normally elected for five years by an electoral assembly consisting of both federal and federal chambers of the federal parliament. The President may be re-elected at most once. The President formally appoints the Prime Minister, who then appoints other members of the government.

Both the president and the prime minister must be Muslims. The President may be brought before the Constitutional Court for a violation of the Constitution and dismissed by a majority of at least two-thirds of the Members of Parliament.

The House of Parliament (Senate) mainly has an advisory function but can force the lower house (National Assembly) to recast legislative proposals. The Senate’s 104 members are appointed by the provincial parliaments in six years. Half of the senators are replaced every three years. At least 16 members shall be women. The National Assembly has 342 members, of whom 272 are elected for five years. 60 seats are reserved for women (who are appointed in proportional order by the parties that have received at least five percent of the vote). Ten places are reserved for religious minorities. The voting age is 21 years.

Constitutional amendments can be enforced by a two-thirds majority in Parliament’s two chambers.

Provinces and clan areas

Constitutional supplement number 18 gave the provinces increased self-government and took away from the president the right to declare a state of emergency in a province. It also gave the Prime Minister and the provincial heads of government the right to govern for more than two terms.

The four provinces (Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) each have their governor, appointed by the federal government, as well as a chief minister (head of government), appointed by the governor, and a council of ministers (government).

Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are governed by their own parliaments and governments, but under the auspices of the federal government on issues related to foreign policy, defense and foreign exchange policy.

Among the mountains along the Afghan border, seven clan-controlled areas, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), had a special status for a long time. They were ruled by government-appointed “political agents” with the help of trusted clan leaders and stood outside the Pakistani judiciary. However, through a constitutional supplement from 2018, the clan areas were linked to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and lost some of their independence. The reason for the merger was that since 2001, Fata, dominated by conservative religious Pashtun clans, has become a haven for Taliban militants and foreign al-Qaeda warriors and was seen as the center of Islamic terrorism in the region (see Pashtun clan areas).

There are also about 20 clan areas, Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata), administered directly by the provincial governors of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and Punjab respectively.

Political parties

The political parties are usually built around strong personalities rather than political ideas. Left and right, Islamists and secular politicians have been able to unite in unmanageable alliances, which easily split when it became politically advantageous to seek new partners.

The traditionally dominant party in Pakistan has been the Muslim League (Pakistan Muslim League, PML), which led the independence movement and has used to stand close to the conservative, military-dominated establishment. However, the party has several times split into rival factions and now has little more than the name in common with the party of origin.

The largest of the factions is PML-N, founded by Nawaz Sharif in 1993. He has been prime minister on several occasions, most recently from 2013–2017. Following corruption allegations, Sharif was forced to step down as head of government and in 2018 also as party leader. New PML-N chairman became brother Shahbaz Sharif. That same year, Nawaz Sharif was banned by the Supreme Court from holding political positions for the rest of his life. In July 2018, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for corruption and PML-N lost government power in the election that month.

The initially easily leftist Pakistani People’s Party (Pakistan People’s Party, PPP) is the closest national, popular party that Pakistan has come to. It can now be described as feudal and populist. PPP has its power base in Sindh province. The party was founded in 1967 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was executed in 1979 by the military junta and from 1982 his PPP was led by his daughter Benazir Bhutto until she was murdered in 2007. Today the party is led by her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (born 1988). In the 2008 parliamentary elections, PPP became the largest single party and led up to 2013 a coalition government together with several small parties. In the 2013 election, the PPP stepped back sharply and lost government power. In the 2018 election, PPP went marginally ahead and remained in opposition.

Pakistan’s Justice Movement (Pakistan tehrik-e-insaf, PTI) was founded in 1996 by former cricket star Imran Khan. Around 2010, the party gained an increasing number of supporters and became the third largest in the 2013 elections. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, PTI quadrupled its mandate in parliament and became the largest party and was then able to form a government with five small parties. PTI has a populist appearance and has its most important voter base among young urban residents, but also attracts conservative Muslim voters.

A special position among the Pakistani parties is the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The party represents the Mohajirs, descendants of the Muslims who moved to Pakistan from areas in India where Muslims ended up in a minority after the split in 1947. MQM is strongest in the southern province of Sindh with the port city of Karachi.

MQM is part of the PTI-dominated government that took office in 2018. So do the small parties of the Muslim Awami League (Awami Muslim League, AML), the Baluchistan People’s Party (Baluchistan Awami Party, BAP) and the Muslim League-Quaid (Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, PML-Q) as well as the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA).

There are several conservative Islamic parties, but they have rarely received more than a few percent of the vote. One party that has managed to gain influence without representation in Parliament is the TLP (Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan). It was formed in defense of the bodyguard who murdered Punjab Governor Salman Tasir in 2011 since he proposed milder slander laws. 2017, TLP lashed Islamabad through violent protests against the release of a blasphemed Christian woman (see Calendar). The ultra-conservative TLP’s working method is violent street protests and roadblocks, and it can almost be regarded as a single-issue party: to protect the blasphemy laws from those who question them and demand the death penalty for those who blaspheme Islam or Prophet Muhammad. TLP is led by the minister Khadim Hussain Rizvi and has two seats in the provincial parliament in Sindh.

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