At the time of Pakistani independence in 1947 the Muslim League was the only major party in Pakistan and claimed the allegiance of almost every Muslim in the country. However, Mohammad Ali Jinnah had other plans after his appointment as the first Governor-General of the new state. His maiden speech to the constituent assembly on August 11,1947 spelled out, as Magna Carta of the future agenda, each and every important feature of Pakistan’s polity that was based on equality of all citizens, federal parliamentary democracy and rule of law to name a few of them. He also his own perceptions about the party he was heading. He thought that the All-India Muslim League must a have a constitutional and legal successor as an organization that was to rule the new born country. To achieve the target, he convened in November 1947 a session of the AIML Council and it was held in Karachi on December 14 and 15 upon invitation sent by the party’s convener Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, who had taken over as the first prime minister. The council decided to establish two organizations of the AIML. Its nomenclature in India was to remain the same while it was Pakistan Muslin League for the new state. Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy, who had been the AIML-nominated prime minister of Bengal in 1937 and held the same office after 1946 elections, did not agree to PML as the name of AIML in Pakistan. He pleaded the word “Muslim” had lost its efficacy after partition and the organization might be named as Pakistan League. His suggestion was not accepted and Suhrawardy parted ways with the party to found the Awami League to serve the first shock to the country’s political structure.
The first party convention, held in Karachi February 1948, elected Chaudhry Khaleeqz Zaman as the chief organizer and elected a new PML Council. Zaman appointed provincial organizing committees. The first meeting of the new party council, held n Karachi in April 1949, elected Khaleequz Zaman as the party president and also incorporated a new clause in the constitution according to which no party office-bearer could become a minister or accept any office of benefit.
But events that followed in the wake of differences in Muslim League ministries in Sindh and Punjab, led to the exit of Sindh chief minister Khuhro and the elevation of Pir Ealhi Bukhsh as the new chief minister. In Punjab, Sikandar Hayat allied with Mumtaz Daultana to controvert chief Minister Nawab Zulfiqar Khan Mamdot. These skirmishes weakened the ruling party. It was in this background that Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who already had a meeting with the Quaid-i-Azam in Peshawar I May 1848, announced the formation of the Pakistan People’s Party the same month with the objective of serving as opposition. Ghaffar Khan was the PPP’s president and G M Syed, who has been a staunch Leaguer and became highly instrumental in the passage of a Sindh Assembly resolution in favour of Pakistan as back as 1936, the secretary-general. A month later Ghaffar Khan was arrested under the Frontier Crimes Regulations.
More or less at the same time, Mian Iftikharud Din, a leftist feudal who was the Punjab president of the Muslim League at the time of partition and later disillusioned with the PML affairs like G M Syed, founded with like-minded people like Mian MahmoodAli Kasuri, Faiz Ahmad Faiz etc, the Azad Pakistan Party in Punjab and it remained in opposition to the Muslim League government in the provincial assembly. The party had a number of Communist Party members in it fold. The party held regular meetings showing concern over the provincial and central governments till 1953 when most of its leaders were arrested in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case leading to its demise.
After the death of the Quaid-i-Azam, provincial organizations were elected. Mumtaz Daultana was elected as Punjab president on Nov 25,1948 and Khuhro, who was facing corruption charges under the Public Representative Office Disqualification Act (PARODA) before a special tribunal, was returned Sindh president unopposed on Dec 5. Khuhro was convicted for three years in prison. But Sindh Chief Court acquitted him on an appeal and he re-took the party office that he had relinquished in view of trial against him.
LIAQAT ALI KHAN BECOMES PML PRESIDENT: Simultaneously, the PML organizations started a campaign against Chaudhry Khaleequz Zaman, the party president and chief organizer, and he quit both the office leaving two major party offices vacant. The party’s central council met in Karachi on Oct 8, 1950 and elected Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan the new party president. Thus, Liaqat Ali Khan became the first key office bearer to violate the party constitution. Following his footsteps, Punjab chief minister Mumtaz Daultana took over as the president of the provincial party and NWFP chief minister Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan also became the provincial party chief.
The process continued as Khawja Nazimuddin, who was the country’s second Governor-General after the Quaid-i-Azam, was elected as prime minister after the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan. Pakistan’s finance minister Ghulam Mohammad then became the third GG. Later, Nazimuddin also became the PML president on Nov 16, 1951. Also all the prime ministers were “elected” the PML presidents and all chief ministers the provincial presidents of the party. The only exception was Chaudhry Mohammad Ali who took over as the prime minister after Mohammad Ali Bogra. Bogra was also the PML president but with Chaudhry Mohammad Ali as the prime minister, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar was elected the PML president.
The first humiliation that the PML faced was the election in East Pakistan where Awami League headed by H S Suhrawardy with Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhshani as the AL president of the East Pakistan orgnisation and Krishik Saramic (Peasant and labour) of Maulvi A K Fazlul Haq formed the Jugtu (United) Front. The Front inflicted so heavy a defeat on the PML as to reduce it to bag only 10 of 238 Muslim seats in the 300-member East Pakistan Assembly. The defeat was so complete as to see Nurul Amin, the provincial chief minister and PML president of the province, losing against young man who contested on the AL ticket. Fazul Haq was elected the new chief minister but the central government imposed governor’s rule after bloody riots in three factories, Khulna Jute Mills, Khulna Match Facorty and Karnafulli Paper Mills. Maj Gen Iskandar Mirza, a member of the federal cabinet, was appointed the governor. He held the Communist Party responsible for riots. The party was banned and hundreds of its activists arrested,
Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad dissolved the Constituent Assembly on Oct 24, 1954 at a time when the west and eat Pakistan leadership had reached a consensus formula for the new constitution and all in Pakistan expected the constitution would be adopted in another one month or so. Speaker Maulvi Tameezud Din Khan moved the Sindh High Court despite all difficulties that included closing down in the assembly building with a lock on the main gate. The SHC declared the governor-general’s dissolution order as illegal and restored the constituent assembly. The federation moved the Supreme Court in an appeal which was accepted by a bench headed by Chief Justice Mohammad Munir who used, for the first time, the phrase of “Doctrine of necessity”. Simultaneously, GG appointed a new team of minister who also included Iskandar Mirza, Dr Khan Sahib and C-in-C Gen Mohammad Ayub Khan in uniform. Bogra was retained as prime minister and he announced the formation of One-Unit of West Pakistan on Nov 22, 1954. H S Suhrawady also joined the cabinet later. Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani was appointed the first governor of West Pakistan and Dr Khan Sahib became chief minister.
REPUBLICAN PARTY: The new junta forced Ghulam Mohammad to resign and Iskandar Mirza became the new Governor-General on Aug 6, 1955 with Chaudhry Mohammad Ali as prime minister. He was heading a coalition government at the center comprising PML, Awami League and Krishak Saramik Party. After the passage of the maiden constitution in 1956, Iskandar Mirza became the first president of Pakistan. Party president Sradar Abdur Rab Nishtar asked the party to form a parliamentary group in the new assembly. The process began with conspiracies and Iskandar Mirza had his own plans. He wanted his close friend Dr Khan Sahib to head the party. Leaguers did not trust him as parliamentary leader. They wanted Sardar Bahadur Khan to be their leader and elected him as such with the support of 127 members.. But Dr Khan Sahib, also the interim chief minister, used his close association with the powerful president as a lever and solicited the support of about 70 members of the house called “The One-Unit Group”. Most of them were “Muslim League stalwarts” and custodians of the ideological front belonging to their old Unionist Party”. As the chances of Dr Khan Sahib becoming dim as parliamentary leader, Iskandar Mirza decided to float the idea of forming the Republican Party with Dr Khan Sahib as president. The new party caused a huge defection in the PML camp and most of its members joined the Republican Party overnight. This Punjab-centered party later formed the new West Pakistan government.
Two powerful Bengali leaders and former Muslim League members, Hussein Shahid Suhrawardy and Maulvi A K Fazlul Haq, used their own parties, the Awami League and the Krishak Sramik Party (Workers and Peasants), in a joint effort in 1954 to defeat the Muslim League in the first election held in East Pakistan after partition. Fazlul Haq had made the motion to adopt the historic “Pakistan Resolution” in 1940, and Suhrawardy, subsequently the last chief minister of undivided Bengal, had seconded it. Both men were alienated by West Pakistani domination of the Muslim League. Suhrawardy was elected leader of the opposition in the second Constituent Assembly and in 1956 was appointed prime minister, a further loss for the Muslim League because he was the first non-Muslim League politician to hold this position. By this time, the Muslim League had lost its influence in both East Pakistan and West Pakistan, having also lost its majority in the West Pakistan Legislative Assembly to the Punjab-centered Republican Party. The promulgation of martial law in 1958 and the dissolution of all political parties finally resulted in the demise of the Muslim League after its fifty-two- year existence.
AYUB KHAN: Gen Mohammad Ayub Khan, the first Commander-in-Chief after Pakistan came into being, assumed power imposing the first Martial law in the country on Oct 8, 1958, on the insinuation of Iskandar Mirza. He took over first the chief martial law administrator but within days booted out Mirza to become the president and banned all political parties including the ruling Republican Party and the PML. But Ayub Khan was a politically ambitious person. In 1962, he lifted martial law and, for the first time used as the dictator of the time, the Pakistan Muslim League tat he formed at a “Convention” as was named the Convention Muslim League. All the Republican Party members joined the Convention League. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a young member of the martial law cabinet, was appointed by Ayub Khan as the first secretary-general of the CML and he was succeeded by Malik Mohammad Qasim who later used to say that “That (becoming CML’s secretary-general) is the only black spot on my fair political face)”. The other PML of the time was he Council Muslim League headed by Mumtaz Daultana and included people like Qayyum Khan. Ayub held Basic Democracies elections in 1964 using his party for the first time. He used 80,000 BD members to form an electoral college for the presidential election in 1964 in which he faced Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s sister Fatima Jinnah as a strong opponent with Council Muslim League throwing its weight behind her. Though Ayub won, he fell from grace and was ultimately made to quit in the wake of a popular movement that the newly formed Pakistan People’s Party (formed on Nov 30, 1969 in Lahore). But when Ayub left, he handed over Pakistan to C-in-C Gen Mohmmad Yahya Khan to impose the second martial law.
PML AS PLOY OF ALL DICTATORS: It was only the Pakistan Muslim League that all military dictators (mis)used in the same nomenclature. It was first Gen Ayub who formed the Convention Muslim League in 1962. Genl Ziaul Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf also followed the suit. Every time the pro-establishment political leaders were put together, who splintered apart when the general’s blessings faded away. All of them were the same elements who had joined the AIML in 1946 and crossed over to the Republican Party in 1956. They come from the feudal political “influential” families who still rule the country with one Muslim League or the other. It is important to note that the post-1956 era saw the presence of different factions of the PML, all claiming to be the “genuine” heirs of the Quaid-i-Azam’s Muslim League.
The fist credible elections were held in 1970 because dictator Yahya Khan had the classified political assessment by the regime’s intelligence agencies that neither of the parties contesting would get absolute majority; they will emerge as small groups and the military dictator would have sufficient political room to maneuver the political scene to his requirements. Two PML factions, the Convention League and the Council Muslim League contested this general poll and saw a route at the hands of the Awami League in East Pakistan and the newest of the organizations, the Pakistan People’s Party. All the religio-political parties put together bagged six seats across the country. It was during these elections that Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan developed differences with the Council Muslim League and parted ways with it to form his own faction of the PML called the PML Qayyum.
The Convention League went into a political abyss during the first PPP government of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the Council League chose to support Bhutto. Its president, Mumtaz Daultana, saw his political demise when he accepted to become the high commissioner in the United Kingdom in 1973. When Bhutto called elections in March 1977, a nine-party Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) came into being with the manifesto was to bring back the 1970 prices. Implementation of Islam was its election slogan. They promised to enforce Islamic laws “Nizam-e-Mustafa”, the Shariah. They were a conglomerate of diverse views and of contradictory causes, such as Asghar Khan’s secularism, Khan Abdul Wali Khan’s Socialism and Maulana Abul A’ala Maudoodi’s hard line Islamism united by common dislike of Zulfiqar Bhutto. It was at that time that the Council League was revived as the PML to join the anti-Bhutto PNA with Pir Pagaro as its president.
Gen Mohammad Ziaul Haq, whom Bhutto appointed the Chief of Army Staff above six senior generals, clamped the third martial law on July 5, 1977, at he head of a bloody PNA agitation launched on the allegation that Bhutto had “massively rigged” the 1977 elections. After the break-up of Pakistan, the Muslim League led by Qayyum Khan allied with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that assumed power in (West) Pakistan. By 1973, the other two Muslim Leagues had merged into one party and elected Pir of Pagaro as the president. PML (Pagaro Group) also joined hands with other opposition parties to form an alliance, the United Democratic Front (UDF), to oppose Bhutto’s policies. Subsequently, it formed an electoral alliance in cooperation with the other opposition parties to establish PNA. Malik Mohammad Qasim was the PML secretary-general and also the PNA’s secretary-general. Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi was among other main PML leaders.
Zia lifted martial law in 1985 to hold no-party elections. The main opposition at that time was the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) of which the PPP was the major party. As Pir Pagaro decided to support Gen Zia, a new PML emerged on the scene to join the MRD. Khawaja Khairuddin was its president and Malik Qasim the general secretary. Malik Qasim also became the MRD’s secretary-general. The MRD boycotted non-party elections in 1985 and Gen Zia sponsored the formation of yet another PML inside the National Assembly and prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo was appointed the PML president. Mian Mohamma Nawaz Sharif, who started his political career as Punjab finance minister in the Punjab Council (nominated assembly), in 1983, was appointed the provincial PML president. He later became the chief minister of the largest province.
When Zia dismissed the Junejo government and his hand-picked National Assembly along with all provincial assemblies in 1987, the PML split in two factions. Junejo himself led his faction and after his death it was taken over by Hamid Nasser Chatha. Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo was the Punjab president and Iqbal Ahmad Khan the secretary-general of this group.
The other group elected Fida Mohammad Khan as president and Mian mohammad Nawaz Sharif as secretary-general. This was the time when the PML had several factions. Pir Pagaro named his PML as “Functional”; Malik Mohammad Qasim had his own group called the Qasim faction. One of them was the PML Liaquat group in Sindh. Yet another was formed by Mian Mazoor Wattoo in the name of PML(Jinnah). This group later allied with the PPP in 1988 to form the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA). Wattoo’s PML (Jinnah) took part in the 1988 elections and won 18 seats in Punjab to hold the PPP parliamentary in the province in a way as to head the provincial government with Wattoo as chief minister. A little later, Hamid Nasser Chatha, who had been the secretary-general of the PML (Junejo) formed his Chatha faction after the death of Mohammad Khan Junejo. PML (Chatha) later became part of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) headed by the PPP against the Nawaz Sharif government. In fact all the political parties were in the GDA which became instrumental in getting the government of Nawaz Sharif government dismissed in 1993 despite his “heavy mandate”.
Till now Nawaz Sharif’s PML was part of the Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI). After his government as dismissed in 1993, he established the PML (Nawaz).PML (Junejo) was also disbanded by Hamid Nasser Chatha to form PML (Chatha) with Hamid Nasser Chatha as president and Iqbal Ahmed Khan as secretary-general. There was further split within PML (Junejo) when Manzoor Wattoo in 1995 parted ways with his cousin Hamid Nasser Chatha to create his own PML (Jinnah). The party broke because Chattha wanted to be the president of PML (Junejo), much to the annoyance of Wattoo. The differences cropped up in the same year when Wattoo was removed as the Punjab Chief Minister in the power struggle between the province (headed by PML (Junejo) and the center (headed by rival PPP), leading Arif Nakai another PML (Junejo) candidate to be the new chief minister.
Interestingly, Gen Zia’s son Ijazul Haq, the senior vice-president of Sharf’s party, created his own faction – PML (Zia) – in 2002 after he developed differences with Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Shujaat Husain, also a senior leader of PML-N at that time.
When Gen Pervez Musharraf held elections in 2002, the PML-N had already seen a major defection caused by Lahore’s Mian Mohammad Azhar in 2001. Mian Azhar, as an agent of the establishment, founded the PML (Quaid-i-Azam) with the help of “like-minded” elements like Syeda Abida Husain, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. Much before the 2002 elections, Chaudhry Shujaat had outmaneuvered Mian Azhar to become the president. Officially called Pakistan Muslim League, after the 2004 unification of many smaller PML factions including PML (Zia) of Ijazul Haq.
After the PML (Q) government was sent packing in the February 2008 elections, Mian Manzoor Wattoo had disbanded his PML faction and joined the PPP. He was elected to the National Assembly from Okara and became a member of the federal cabinet. After the elections, the hitherto ruling party, headed by Chaudhry Shujaat Husain, saw another mass defection and Hamid Nasser Chatha, Saleem Saifullah, Syeda Abida Husain, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, Humayun Akhtat Khan and many others parted ways with the Chaudhries from Gujrat to form a faction called “Like-Minded”. They have yet to form a formal party. With a lot of cleansing, the PML (Q) and PML (N) remain the survivors so far. But one of the “like-minded” Abida Husain has since joined the PPP that she left in 1977 but kept on re-entering and leaving its folds as frequently as her pro-establishment politics warranted. Another addition to the PML factions is the Awami Muslim League that Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, always on the right side of the PML governments, established in 2010. The first electoral contest the faction entered into was a by-poll from NA-55 , Rawalpindi, and its chief, Sheikh Rasid Ahmad, suffered a defeat.
The latest on the PML front is that former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf announced in June 2010 the establishment of the All-Pakistan Muslim League at a time when the military ruler is facing criminal and corruption charges, including murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti and is living in exile and is not unlikely to return home. However, efforts to unite the Pakistan Muslim League into one single party are still in progress as the PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Husain has now turned to Pir Pagara to head the unified party which is projected to emerge after the Q-League dispenses with its separate political identity by merging in the united League. The architects of this unity also appealed to the PML-N to follow the Q-League suit but the PML-N leadership has repudiated the offer.