Election 2008: Benazir's assassination and revival of democracy

By
Shaharyar Khalid
|

The 2008 elections marked a crucial period in Pakistan's political landscape, unfolding against the backdrop of General Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency in November 2007 and the assassination of Pakistan People's Party's (PPP) Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in December of the same year. 

General Pervez Musharraf declares emergency during a televised address to the nation on November 3, 2007.—PTV
General Pervez Musharraf declares emergency during a televised address to the nation on November 3, 2007.—PTV 

The nation was already witnessing protests against Musharraf's military rule, leading to his resignation from the position of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on November 28, 2007.

Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry waves to a gathering of lawyers in this undated photo.—Al Jazeera
Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry waves to a gathering of lawyers in this undated photo.—Al Jazeera 

Mohtarma Bhutto's return to Pakistan on October 18, 2007, following years of exile, and Nawaz Sharif's subsequent homecoming intensified the political scene in the country. 

Benazir Bhutto (Centre) waves to her supporters, flanked by (Left  Yousuf Raza Gilani (Left), Murad Ali Shah (Right) and Makhdoom Ameen Faheem (2nd Right) on her return to Pakistan on October 18, 2007.—X@MuradAliShah
Benazir Bhutto (Centre) waves to her supporters, flanked by (Left  Yousuf Raza Gilani (Left), Murad Ali Shah (Right) and Makhdoom Ameen Faheem (2nd Right) on her return to Pakistan on October 18, 2007.—X@MuradAliShah

All political parties were actively engaged in campaigning for the 2007 polls when a devastating event unfolded. On December 27, 2007, Mohtarma Bhutto was fatally wounded in a terrorist attack as she was leaving after addressing a public gathering in Rawalpindi's Liaquat Bagh.

The tide of violence that ensued led to the postponement of the January 2008 polls, which were later rescheduled for February 18, 2008. 

Photo shows Benazir Bhuttos bomb-wrecked car with its left side riddled with shrapnel marks shortly after the terrorist attack that killed her on December 27, 2008.—AFP
Photo shows Benazir Bhutto's bomb-wrecked car with its left side riddled with shrapnel marks shortly after the terrorist attack that killed her on December 27, 2008.—AFP

In these elections, the PPP secured a majority, winning 89 seats, while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) came in second with 68 seats, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) obtained 42, and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) bagged 19 seats. The PML-N succeeded in Punjab, the PPP in Sindh, the ANP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and PML-Q in Balochistan.

The overall turnout was 44.55%, with 80,724,153 registered voters. Punjab recorded a 48% turnout, Sindh 45%, KP 33%, and Balochistan 30%.

President Pervez Musharraf (2nd left) administers oath to newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad on March 25, 2008. —AFP
President Pervez Musharraf (2nd left) administers oath to newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad on March 25, 2008. —AFP 

Following the elections, the PPP formed a coalition government with the PML-N, and Yousuf Raza Gillani became the Prime Minister. However, this coalition faced challenges, leading to PML-N's departure from the government after a few days, initiating the lawyer's movement.

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari (L) and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif pose for a photo at a press conference in Islamabad on February 21, 2008.—Xinhua
PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari (L) and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif pose for a photo at a press conference in Islamabad on February 21, 2008.—Xinhua

Subsequently, Asif Ali Zardari was elected the President of Pakistan. Notably, this PPP government achieved a historic milestone, becoming Pakistan's first elected government to complete its five-year tenure.


The writer is a staffer at Geo.tv, he tweets X@ranashaharyar01