Like other developing countries or earlier known as Third World countries, the experience of elections in Pakistan was not very pleasant. Whether elections were held under military dictators or democratic dispensations, election results were often not accepted.

Unfortunately, since the inception of Pakistan in 1947 no general elections were held up to 1970. However, elections to the provincial legislatures were held in Punjab in March 1951, in NWFP in December 1951, in Sindh in May 1953 and in East Pakistan in April 1954. Since 1970, eight general elections have been held on party basis, except in 1985 when elections were held on non-party basis.

For the first nine years, no constitution could be framed; and when one was framed in 1956, it did not reflect the aspirations of the people, as smaller provinces protested against the formation of One Unit.

In October 1958, General Ayub Khan promulgated martial law because of the internecine conflict among the political parties and contradictions among the provinces. In 1965, Ayub Khan introduced the system of Basic Democracies, and 80,000 basic democrats were elected. These basic democrats elected the president, which was an indirect election. He created Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) which secured 120 seats; Combined Opposition Parties (COP) got 10 seats and National Democratic Front got only six. President Ayub barred scores of politicians from contesting elections under Elective Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO). He also used pressure tactics to secure a heavy mandate. Therefore, the elections were not considered as fair and free. When the movement against President Ayub Khan gained momentum, Yahya Khan promulgated martial law. Provinces were restored in 1969 and elections held on the basis of adult franchise in 1970. In East Pakistan Awami League won 160 seats and Pakistan People’s Party bagged 81 seats in West Pakistan.

However, by all standards, 1970 elections were free and fair as the results were accepted by all the parties. But Yahya Khan did not transfer power to the majority party. Awami League not only launched a protest movement, it also started insurgency with the backing of India and the rest is history.

As the PPP had emerged as the largest party in West Pakistan, power was transferred to the PPP after disintegration of Pakistan. In 1977, elections were held by the PPP government. It secured 155 seats and Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) – the conglomeration of rightist parties – got 36 seats. The PNA launched the movement alleging elections on at least 35 seats had been rigged. On the pretext of the agitation, General Ziaul Haq promulgated martial law in 1977. In 1985, he held elections on non-party basis and all participants were considered as independents. However, another faction of Pakistan Muslim League emerged under Muhammad Khan Junejo who became prime minister. His government was sacked and assemblies were dissolved because he had started strengthening his position.

Ziaul Haq incorporated Article 58-2(b) in the Constitution, giving the president the powers to sack the government, if it was corrupt or a security risk, and dissolve the assemblies. This article was first used by Ziaul Haq himself. Later, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and President Farooq Leghari also used the said article to dismiss Nawaz government and Benazir government and dissolve the assemblies.

From 1988 to 1997 both the PPP and the PML-N formed government twice. Three prime minister were sent home from 1988 to 1996, but in 1997 elections PML-N got two-thirds majority and abolished Article 58-2 (b) of the Constitution.

Nawaz Sharif tried to remove General Pervez Musharraf when he was returning from a foreign visit, but he was overthrown in a counter coup. Pervez Musharraf held elections in 2002 and created a king’s party (PML-Q) which secured 137 seats.

On May 11, 2013, elections are going to be held under the caretaker government which has been installed after making amendment to the Constitution with a view to ensuring free, fair and transparent elections. The Election Commission of Pakistan is independent and has released a code of conduct for candidates and political parties. It has updated its code of conduct and among other provisions the act of seeking votes on the basis of religion or sect has been termed an offence by the ECP punishable for 3 years and fine of Rs 5000. Before the announcement of the elections, hype was created that defaulters, corrupt elements and tax evaders would have no chance to participate in the elections, as strict scrutiny would be carried out to screen them.

Unfortunately, the ECP could not implement articles 62 and 63 in letter and spirit and defaulters of all sorts escaped the net. Moreover, only 11 ex-MPs have been disqualified out of more than 100 fake degree holders.