Pakistan has had considerable difficulty developing stable, cohesive political organizations because they have suffered long periods of repression. Further, political parties, with few exceptions, have been founded as vehicles for one person or a few individuals, or to achieve specifically defined goals. When these individuals die or abandon their parties, or after party goals have been met, many organizations have lost their raison d'Ítre and have lacked the ability to carry on. In addition, political parties have been handicapped by regional and ethnic factors that have limited their national appeal and have also been torn by personal and class rivalries.
The Muslim League was founded in 1906 as the All-India Muslim League to protect the interests of Muslims in British India and to counter the political growth of the Indian National Congress, founded in 1885. Under the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Muslim League adopted the Lahore Resolution (often referred to as the "Pakistan Resolution") in March 1940 and successfully spearheaded the movement for the creation of an independent homeland for Indian Muslims. At independence the Muslim League was the only major party in Pakistan and claimed the allegiance of almost every Muslim in the country. However, with the deaths of its two principal leaders, Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, shortly after independence and its central goal of creating Pakistan achieved, the party failed to develop a coherent, postindependence ideology. The Muslim League gradually came under the influence of West Pakistani, and particularly Punjabi, landlords and bureaucrats more concerned with increasing their personal influence than with building a strong national organization.
The Muslim League was further weakened by the constitutional impasse in the 1950s resulting from difficulties in resolving questions of regional representation as well as the problem of reaching a consensus on Islamic issues. Regional loyalties were intensified during the constitutional debates over the respective political representation of the country's west and east wings. In addition, East Pakistan had a larger Hindu population, and some strong provincial leaders believed their power depended on developing broad-based secular institutions. The Muslim League, however, pressed for provisions to establish Pakistan as an Islamic state.
Two powerful Bengali leaders and former Muslim League members, Hussain Shahid Suhrawardy and Fazlul Haq, used their own parties, the Awami League and the Krishak Sramik Party (Workers and Peasants), respectively, in a joint effort in 1954 to defeat the Muslim League in the first election held in East Pakistan after partition. Fazlul Haq had made the motion to adopt the historic "Pakistan Resolution" in 1940, and Suhrawardy, subsequently the last chief minister of undivided Bengal, had seconded it. But both men were alienated by West Pakistani domination of the Muslim League. Suhrawardy was elected leader of the opposition in the second Constituent Assembly and in 1956 was appointed prime minister, a further loss for the Muslim League because he was the first non-Muslim League politician to hold this position. By this time, the Muslim League had lost its influence in both East Pakistan and West Pakistan, having also lost its majority in the West Pakistan Legislative Assembly to the Punjab-centered Republican Party. The promulgation of martial law in 1958 and the dissolution of all political parties finally resulted in the demise of the Muslim League after its fifty-two- year existence.
General Ayub Khan formed a party called the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) in 1962, and Junejo established a party with the same name (PML-J) in 1986, but these two parties had little in common with the 1906-58 Muslim League in terms of their objectives and composition. After Junejo died in March 1993, Mian Nawaz Sharif took over the party and it became the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) for Nawaz Sharif. The death of Junejo signified the end to an uneasy coalition that had existed between the feudal lobby under Junejo and the representatives of the new industrialist classes who, under the guidance of Nawaz Sharif, were running the Islamic Democratic Alliance (Islami Jamhoori Ittehad--IJI) government of 1990-93.
Islami Jamhoori Ittehad
|Country Studies main page | Pakistan Country Studies main page|