Cover Story

One-party Rule

In order to become a self-reliant state, Pakistan must abandon multiparty democracy for some time and pursue a single-minded agenda to put the nation on track.

By Col. Muhammad Hanif (Retired) | November 2021

Pakistan has been administered by elected governments under the multiparty parliamentary democracies of 1956 and 1973 constitutions . Now there is a strong perception in Pakistan that this system of governance has failed to deliver, and probably one-party rule seems to be the solution. Will one-party rule prove better for Pakistan?

Successive Governor Generals and Presidents, have quite often dismissed prime ministers of Pakistan. Six prime ministers were appointed and removed from October 16, 1951 to October 7, 1958, when finally Gen. Ayub Khan declared Martial Law. These governments remained inefficient and barely managed the country’s affairs.

Gen. Ayub Khan’s martial law was a golden period for Pakistan, with many positive achievements. The economy attained 6 per cent average growth, touching the highest in 1965. Manufacturing growth rose to a record 8.51 per cent. People’s incomes increased, prices remained stable and a lot of employment opportunities were created. The law and order situation was also quite good.

In Ayub Khan’s era, Pakistan established its first automobile and cement industries, and the government constructed several dams, (notably Tarbela Dam and Mangla Dam), canals, and power stations, in addition to launching Pakistan’s space programme. Thus, in the 1960s, Pakistan was seen as a model of economic development around the world. Many countries sought to emulate Pakistan’s economic strategy, including South Korea which replicated the city of Karachi’s second “Five-Year Plan”. Ayub’s foreign and defence policies were also very robust and successful.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s time from January 1972 to 1977, based on adopting socialist policies, reversed the advantages achieved by Ayub Khan. It was marked by nationalization of industries and other key institutions, such as banking, insurance and education. This adversely impacted industrial production and overall national production, thus lowering annual economic growth to 4 per cent and reversing the gains made in Ayub Khan’s time. But, Bhutto forged strong foreign relations and started Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.

The PPP governments under Benazir Bhutto (1988 onwards) as the PM (twice), and Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf as PMs and Asif Ali Zardari as President, (from 2008 to 2012), were marked by low economic growth, corruption and governance failures, as was clear from Benazir’s dismissals twice by the President and dismissal of PM Gilani by the Supreme Court on grounds of governance failure. Some PPP stalwarts are still facing corruption and money laundering charges. The PPP governments relied heavily on foreign and domestic loans. The government ignored development projects but it countered rising prices by increasing salaries and pensions.

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