In less than a week from now, people will be going to the polling stations across the country on July 25, 2018 to exercise their right of franchise, cast their votes in favour of their chosen candidates and parties and pave the way for the formation of new governments at the national and provincial levels. Hopefully, people, including womenfolk of all ages, will be casting their votes in pretty large numbers brushing aside all apprehensions and security concerns. The caretaker federal and provincial governments as well as Election Commission of Pakistan with the help of the army, rangers and police have obviously made all possible arrangements to ensure people cast their votes in a peaceful and conducive atmosphere in a free, fair and transparent manner.

 National, regional as well as religious parties and revived alliances and groups have fielded quite a large number of their candidates, and have already announced their election manifestoes in most cases. Mainstream parties PML (N), PPP and PTI heads  have already announced as to who will be the next prime minister in case they are voted in the power.

In fact, PML(N) President and younger brother of disqualified Prime Minister and formerly founder chief of own faction of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif has not minced words and categorically announced that he  will be the Prime Minister  if the former ruling party is returned to the power.

Likewise, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has made it quite clear that he will be the prime minister in case his party is victorious and Bilawal Zardari will be the prime minister if PPP is voted in the power.

Both PML(N) and PPP are the former ruling parties at the national level and  PTI will be elevated as the ruling party at the national level for the first time.

Quite interestingly, Mian Shehbaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Bilawal Zardari have announced their respective candidature for the top slot of the prime minister without leaving this to be decided by the respective parties high command in case PML(N), PPP or PTI is voted into power. Possibility of a dark horse cannot be ruled out altogether though.

Besides these mainstream national parties, there are more than 400 candidates which have been fielded by revived religious parties alliance Mutahhida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), religious parties and groups for the National Assembly. But none of them have in any way announced as to who will be their candidates for PM ship in case they make it to the national legislature in substantial number to form the new federal government.

In case no single party gets majority to form the new government then, according to the experts, there will be a hung parliament which obviously will not augur well for sustainability of the democratic process for long.

 National Assembly has total 332 seats including 272 general seats and 69 seats reserved for women. For forming the federal government, minimum of more than 166 seats are required to do so with simple majority. There is however no bar on more than these required seats if a party manages to secure 200 or more seats thus enjoying brute majority.

While the people as well as the political parties leadership are keeping their fingers crossed as to who is going to be the next prime minister on the basis of July 25, 2018 general election, it is pertinent to mention here briefly the names of those who have been the Prime Ministers of Pakistan since 1947.

Historically and statistically speaking, Pakistan will turn 71 on August 14, 2018 with the continued blessings of Almighty Allah.  This is obviously quite small period in the life of a nation.

But most unfortunately and due to persisting political instability more or less, the new Prime Minister to assume the high office will be 22nd Prime Minister of the country despite the bitter fact that there were four military rulers in General turned Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, General Muhammad Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf  who ruled Pakistan for varying periods as well seven caretaker Prime Ministers including the current one. Post of the prime minister remained suspended five times during the period under report.

Prime Minister’s post was created at the time of creation of Pakistan. Since the post of Governor General had not been abolished in the beginning, Prime Minister initially did not have all the executive powers. After the assassination of newly-created country’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in October 1951, there were as many as seven different prime ministers within a very short period of six years and all of them were from Muslim League except Malik Feroze Khan Noon who was the first one from newly formed Republican Party. It is also a bitter fact that none of the 21 Prime Ministers had completed their tenure though Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani held the post for four years two months 25 days prior to his being unseated and convicted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Previously, Liaquat Ali Khan had served the longest time as the Prime Minister , for four years 2 months and 2 days prior to his assassination in Gol Bagh Rawalpindi in October 1951.

Nawaz Sharif had become the Prime Minister three times but still aggregating his three tenures totalled up to 4 years 13 months and 57 days. After aggregating Benazir Bhutto’s two terms, total period comes to 4 years,8 months and 21 days. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif despite two and three terms respectively could not complete even a single term of five years. The governments of Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were dismissed twice each by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari while Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the apex court in July 2017 in Panama Papers case.

Then after the first coup d’etat staged by General Ayub Khan in October 1958, the post of the prime minister remained abolished for a pretty long period of 13 years and 2 months, including short tenure of General Yahya Khan till 1971.

There was a very short period of recreation of the post when Nurul Amin was appointed Prime Minister for merely 13 days and alongside him, General Yahya Khan had also illegal made both Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Sh Mujibur Rahman as the Vice Prime Ministers  though they never acquired these positions.

Following the 18th Constitutional Amendment passed in 2010, the Prime Minister is the executive head of the state of Pakistan enjoying more powers than any other government official including the President.

Regular Prime Ministers in short included Liaquat Ali Khan, Khwaja Nazimuddin, Muhammad Ali Bogra, Ch Muhammad Ali, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar, Malik  Feroze Khan Noon, Nurul Amin, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Muhammad Khan Junejo, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Ch Shujat Hussain, Shaukat Aziz, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervaiz Ahraf and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Caretaker Prime Ministers so far included Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Mir Balakh Sher Mazari, Moinuddin Ahmad Qureshi, Malik Meraj Khalid, Muhammadmian Soomro, Mir Hazar Khan Khoso and Justice  Nasirul Mulk.

Please keep fingers crossed and continue praying that general elections on July 25 are held in a peaceful, orderly, transparent manner despite threats of terrorism etc and the party securing majority seats in the National Assembly puts up its  Prime Minister to assume office well in time prior to the nation celebrates another Independence Day on August 14, 2018.

 

The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad and can be reached at zahidriffat@gmail.com

zahidriffat@gmail.com