The Downfall of Elected Leaders in Pakistan: What does it mean for Pakistan’s Democracy (Rava Special Report)


The world of politics in Pakistan was shaken to its core yet again when Nawaz Shariff was disqualified by Supreme Court Pakistan over charges of corruption followed by Panama Leak.

PML-N took over PPP government in 2013 via democratic elections which caused a stir in the international world as it became the one of the few transfers of power from one democratic government, which has completed its term, to another elected government. Pakistan’s halting experiments with democracy in the past were always interrupted by the real power of the land: the men in khaki, stationed down the road from Islamabad in Rawalpindi.

This report presents the list elected leaders in Pakistan, to leave their chairs before completing their tenure successfully.


Pakistan came into existence on August 14, 1947 when Liaquat Ali Khan became the Prime Minister of the newly carved country. Four years and two months later, Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated on October 16, 1951.

Khawaja Nazimuddin succeeded Liaquat Ali Khan but 18 months later on April 17, 1953, he was deposed by Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad. He was replaced by a relatively unknown politician Muhammad Ali Bogra as the Prime Minister.

Bogra was again dismissed by Malik Ghulam Muhammad in 1954 following which elections were held. The Muslim League suffered a defeat in the polls. But, Bogra was reappointed as the Prime Minister of Pakistan and headed a minority government.

Bogra was ultimately deposed by Iskander Mirza in August, 1955. Iskander Mirza was the last Governor General and first President of Pakistan when its Constitution was promulgated in 1956.

Bogra was succeeded by Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, who was one of the key members in making of 1956 Constitution of Pakistan.  Muhammad Ali resigned from his post in 1956 – less than a year after assuming the office of the Prime Minister – due to serious differences with President Iskander Mirza.


Muhammad Ali was succeeded by the first non-Muslim League Prime Minister of Pakistan – Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who had led his Awami Leaque to victory in the 1954 elections to the Constituent Assembly. He met the fate of his two predecessors at the hands of Iskander Mirza, who deposed Suhrawardy in October, 1957.

Iskander Mirza appointed Muslim League leader Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. The Awami League experiment did not last long. Chundrigar remained in the PMO for only two months before he quit over differences with Iskander Mirza.

Having dismissed four prime ministers in little over two years, Iskander Mirza now appointed his own Republican Party chairman Feroz Khan Noon in December, 1957. Noon enjoyed the confidence of Iskander Mirza before Ayub Khan carried out coup d’etat and imposed martial law in 1958.


Ayub Khan became interim Prime Minister for five days between October 24 and 28 when he forced Iskander Mirza to step down. Ayub Khan became the President of Pakistan. The 1956 Constitution was replaced with a new one in 1962. The post of Prime Minister was abolished.

There was no prime minister in Pakistan between 1958 and 1973 except for a brief period when Yahya Khan appointed Nurul Amin as his PM. Yahya Khan resigned as the President after defeat in Bangladesh Liberation war. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the President.

Bhutto became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1973 when the country adopted a new Constitution, which established parliamentary democracy there. Bhutto was deposed in a coup d’etat four years later in 1977 by military general Muhammad Zia ul Haq, who became the President a year later.


Pakistan got its next Prime Minister in 1985 in Muhammad Khan Junejo, who was dismissed by Zia ul Haq in May, 1988. Zia ul Haq died in August 1988. The same year in December, Pakistan got its only female Prime Minister in Benazir Bhutto, who remained in office for about 20 months.

Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi served as a care taker PM for three months in 1990 before Nawaz Sharif was elected as the Prime Minister for the first time in November, 1990. About two-and-a-half years later, Sharif government was dismissed only to be restored after a month by the Supreme Court. Balakh Sher Mazari served as the PM in between.

Between April 1993 and July 1999, Pakistan saw six PMs including two stints of Nawaz Sharif and one of Benazir Bhutto, who occupied the chair from October, 1993 to November 1996. Nawaz Sharif’s held the PMO between February, 1997 and October, 1999 when General Pervez Musharraf deposed him and imposed martial law.

14 YEARS, 8 PMs

From November 2002 to July, 2017, Pakistan had seven occupants of the PMO with Yousaf Raza Gillani having had the longest tenure of about four years and three months. Shaukat Aziz was the PM for three years and three months between August, 2004 and November, 2007.

Aziz left PMO after the completion of parliamentary term of the National Assembly – for the first time in Pakistan’s history. Gillani was disqualified by the Supreme Court in 2012 for contempt of court.

Nawaz Sharif took oath as the Prime Minister of Pakistan on June 5 in 2013 for third time. Sharif looked set to complete his tenure in 2018 before the Supreme Court began trial in the Panama Papers case. Sharif remained in the PMO for over four years.

The Supreme Court disqualified him as member of the National Assembly and Prime Minister of Pakistan as he resigned from his post on 28th July 2017.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was elected by Parliament as the Prime Minister of the country after Nawaz’s disqualification.

What Does it Say about Pakistan’s Democracy?

For Pakistan, it marks a rare moment of accountability but also raises questions about the future of the country’s flailing democracy: Next year’s general elections will likely see one elected civilian government successfully transfer power to another for only the second time in the country’s history. But no prime ministers voted into power have lasted long enough to defend their records in front of the electorate.

In Pakistan, politicians have long courted allegations of venality. They never occupy their official residences in Islamabad for long, and yet many of them emerge with suspiciously deep pockets. The arbitrary nature of their rule, long resistant to transparency, gives them control of government contracts, the power to disburse other forms of patronage, and, in the most crude of cases, demand an “administrative fee” for even the most perfunctory pieces of government business. In more recent years, members of parliament, ministers, and other politicians, have become more innovative—using a series of shell companies, frontmen who work through shadowy middlemen, and secret auctions, where bids are privately entertained, before lucrative contracts are announced.

The Supreme Court decision has, so far, proven wildly popular in Pakistan. At a mall in Peshawar, a group of men broke into a traditional dance against the backdrop of Pashto music. Sweets are thrust into the mouths of exultant opposition politicians as the cameras look on. Social media is aglow with young Pakistanis thrilled by the sight of a powerful politician brought low. But it is far from clear whether Sharif’s exit inaugurates an era of accountability and transparency in Pakistan, or reflects the persistence of an age where corruption charges are selectively applied and only unelected and unaccountable institutions decide the fate of the country’s rulers.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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