None of Pakistan's 21 Former PMs Completed a 5 Year Term, Imran Becomes 22nd

Only three former PMs even managed to last 4 years at the helm, as Imran looks out at 3 years 8 months.

5 min read
Hindi Female

Imran Khan lost the no-confidence vote against him in Pakistan’s National Assembly on Sunday, 10 April with 174 members favouring the resolution.

Khan needed the support of 172 members in Pakistan's National Assembly, which has a total strength of 342 elected representatives, to win the trust vote.

His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had won 155 seats in the 2018 elections, but was able to form the government after obtaining support from other parties, including the seven lawmakers of the Muttahida Quami Movement - Pakistan (MQM-P).

However, from having 176 lawmakers supporting him, Khan was down to 164, after the MQM-P withdrew their support for his government just before the no-confidence motion.

The motion was called by key opposition parties Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) over the inflation crisis and dire economic situation in the country.

The embattled former cricketer was able to get the Speaker of the Assembly to declare the no-confidence motion unconstitutional and had sought to call early elections to avoid being ousted, but the Supreme Court of Pakistan held that the actions of the Speaker were unconstitutional, and ordered the trust vote to be held on Saturday.

Khan continues the unwanted tradition of the 21 Pakistan PMs who came before him – none of whom were able to complete a five-year term.

1947-1958: From an Assassination to Martial Law

The curse of the incomplete PM terms began with the very first holder of the post, Liaquat Ali Khan, who took the reins on 14 August 1947 when the country obtained independence from the British.

Four years and 63 days later, he was assassinated on 16 October 1951 by an Afghan, though the motive for the murder was never discovered. The next seven years saw six PMs, with only one of them, Mohammad Ali Bogra, even making it to two years.

Bogra was one of two PMs to face votes of no-confidence, along with Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar, who had the shortest tenure in this initial phase of Pakistani politics at 60 days.

The constitution of Pakistan, which declared it an Islamic republic, came into force in 1956, but even the PM during whose time this was done, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali was unable to complete his term, with the President asking him to resign.

Following Chundrigar's fall on 16 December 1957, Sir Feroz Khan Noon became PM, but barely made it to ten months before Pakistan saw the first of its three military coups, with General Ayub Khan imposing martial law.

It would last 13 years.


1971-1977: The Age of Zulfikar

When elections were finally allowed in Pakistan once again in 1971 by Ayub Khan's military successor, General Yahya Khan, the East Pakistan-based Awami League won a majority in the National Assembly, triggering the chain of events which would eventually lead to the liberation of Bangladesh.

On 6 December 1971, as the Bangladesh Liberation War neared its conclusion, Yahya Khan appointed the first PM in Pakistan since 1958, Awami League leader Nurul Amin. However, his tenure lasted a mere 13 days as East Pakistan ceased to be part of Pakistan.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had held various significant political posts during the time of martial law and whose PPP had emerged as the biggest political party in West Pakistan, was appointed as President, and swiftly declared a state of Emergency.

The Emergency lasted till 1973, when elections were held in accordance with Pakistan's new constitution (which remains in force today as well). Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became PM after the elections, and looked set to finally complete a whole term thanks to his popularity.

However, controversies dogged Bhutto's time as PM, from the amendments to the Constitution that declared Ahmadiyyas were not Muslims and restricted the rights of detainees, to the allegation that he ordered the killing of dissident leader Ahmed Raza Kasuri (Kasuri's father was killed in the attack).

Bhutto called fresh elections in 1977 and formed the government, but was accused of rigging the ballots in several seats by the opposition Pakistan National Alliance, which was a coalition of all the major opposition parties. The PNA called Bhutto's new government illegal, and conservative groups and religious leaders agitated against him.

Amid protests and crackdowns by Bhutto's security forces, Bhutto is reported to have possibly reached an agreement with the PNA. However, on 5 July 1977, he was deposed in a second military coup, led by General Zia-ul-Haq.

Bhutto was eventually put on trial for the murder of Kasuri's father, convicted, and sentenced to death. He was executed in 1979.


1985-1999: Benazir vs Nawaz

While Zia-ul-Haq remained President of Pakistan till his death in a plane crash in 1988, he organised general elections in 1985. Muhammad Khan Junejo, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, was appointed as PM by Haq.

On 29 May 1988, Junejo's government was dissolved by the President on live TV, with Haq claiming that there had been a breakdown in law and order.

Following his death, the next elections saw the daughter of the man he had deposed and hanged sweep to power as Pakistan's first woman PM.

Benazir Bhutto came to power in 1988 for the first time, but her tenure only lasted one year and eight months, with her government dissolved on 6 August 1990 by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan after alleging corruption against her.

Nawaz Sharif won his first term as PM in 1990, but he failed to make it to three years, resigning on 18 July 1993. President Khan had tried to have his government dismissed in April that year, but Sharif had successfully managed to fight the dismissal in the Pakistan Supreme Court.

Benazir won the subsequent elections and managed to make it a three-year and 17 day term, even avoiding an attempted coup in 1995. However, her government was dismissed by the next President on 5 November 1996.

No prize for guessing, but the next PM was Nawaz Sharif again. However, he was not able to swerve the next attempted military coup, this time by General Pervez Musharraf after the Kargil War in 1999, once again failing to make it to three years.


2002-2022: The More Things Change, The More They Remain the Same

Pakistan has had eight PMs since 2002, when Musharraf allowed elections again.

This period did witness the first time the whole Assembly didn't get dismissed or dissolved, making it all the way till the end of an Assembly term in 2007.

However, that single term did see three different PMs – Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, and Shaukat Aziz, all from the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party.

Yousuf Raza Gilani from the PPP won the next elections and went on to have the longest tenure as a Pakistan PM at 4 years and 86 days. However, he lost his post after the Pakistan Supreme Court held him guilty of contempt in April 2012.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf took over for the remaining 275 days of the Assembly term, but then lost the next elections to comeback kid Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif made it to 4 years and 53 days this time, before his spectacular fall from grace on corruption charges in the Pakistan Supreme Court arising out of the revelations in the Panama Papers.

After another caretaker term for Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Imran Khan, who had founded the PTI after retiring from his celebrated cricket career. Khan had been a member of the National Assembly twice before his party won the largest number of seats in the 2018 elections.

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Topics:  Pakistan   Imran Khan Crisis 

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