August 14th 1947: Pakistani independence
On this day in 1947 the nation of Pakistan was founded upon its independence from Britain. In colonial India, a divide arose between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority, the latter who felt their interests were not being represented by the Indian National Congress. Thus in 1906 the Muslim League was founded to protect Muslim rights and, eventually, call for independence and an independent Muslim nation state. The 1933 pamphlet ‘Now or Never’ urging Muslim nationalism coined a name for the new nation based on the Muslim Northern provinces that would form the country - P (Punjab) A (Afghania) K (Kashmir) S (Sindh) TAN (Balochistan). ‘Pakstan’, which in Urdu and Persian means ‘Pure Land’, soon became ‘Pakistan’. The Pakistan Movement continued to gain ground throughout World War Two, and despite resistance from Hindu leaders in the Congress, the two-state solution proved popular among the Indian Muslim electorate. Finally, after years of campaigning, the 1947 Independence of India Act passed the Congress, which provided for the two states of Pakistan and India to become independent from Britain on the 14th and 15th August respectively. The birth of Pakistan, largely due to League President Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s efforts to unite disparate Indian Muslisms, has been hailed as one of the major political achievements of modern Muslim history. However the division prompted widespread religious violence which killed thousands, and led to a massive population exchange, with the violence between the two new nations even descending into open warfare. In 1971 Pakistan further divided when Bangladesh seceded. August 14th is celebrated as Independence Day in Pakistan, but this year it coincides with a major protest against the current government. Opposition leader Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir ul Qadri called for the march to protest the corruption of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government; around 100,000 people are expected to attend.
On this day in 1988, Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman to head the government of an Islam-dominated state. Bhutto was a democratic socialist and the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan. In 1982, aged 29, Bhutto became the chairwoman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) - a democratic socialist, centre-left party, making her the first woman in Pakistan to head a major political party. In 1988, she became the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state.
She was noted for her charismatic authority and political astuteness. As Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto drove initiatives for Pakistan’s economy and national security, and she implemented social capitalist policies for industrial development and growth. Her hard line against the trade unions and tough rhetoric opposition to her domestic political rivals and to neighboring India earned her the nickname “Iron Lady”. Her government was dismissed twice on claims of corruption, first in 1990 and then again in 1996.
After nine years of self-exile, she returned to Pakistan on 18th October 2007, after having reached an understanding with Military President General Pervez Musharraf, by which she was granted amnesty and all corruption charges were withdrawn. Bhutto became the leading opposition candidate in the 2008 general election, but, on 27th December 2007, she was assassinated.
December 2nd 1988: Bhutto sworn in
On this day in 1988, Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman to head the government of a Muslim state. Bhutto was a democratic socialist and the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan. As Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto’s tough stance with trade unions earned her the nickname ‘Iron Lady’. Her government was dismissed in 1996 by President Leghari on charges of corruption. In 2007, Bhutto returned to Pakistan having received amnesty from President Musharraf. On December 27th of that year, while campaigning for the general election, she was assassinated.