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Democratic Action Committee

Ayub Khan took over the politics of Pakistan in 1958. He formulated and enforced many policies to stabilize the country and legitimize himself. Land reforms, economic reforms, family law reforms, social reforms and constitutional reforms are among the most prominent. Ayub policies were criticize by a large number of urban population. Ayub almost ruled for a decade. It created grievances in the people. Ayub authority lessen owing to failure of reforms and the war of 1965. Ayub was forced to lift the ban from opposition parties, trade unions and student unions. Political parties started to react against and criticise him. With the undaunted efforts of Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, a combined opposition front was launced against Ayub Khan. It is popularly known as Democratic Action Committee. It contributed significantly in the downfall of Ayub Khan and restoration of democracy.   On 30th April 1967, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan succeeded in forming a five-party alliance for opposition which was named as ‘Pakistan Democratic Movement’ but later renamed as ‘Pakistan Democratic Action Committee’. It played an important role in the removal of Ayub Khan. He founded his own party with the collaboration of four other parties in 1969. He named it as ‘Pakistan Jamhuri Party’ and became its Vice President.   In October 1968, the government sponsored a celebration called the Decade of Development. The festival highlighted the frustrations of the urban poor afflicted by inflation and the costs of the 1965 war instead of reminding people about the achievements of the Ayub Khan regime. Ayub Khan had become the symbol of inequality for the masses. Bhutto capitalized on this and challenged Ayub Khan at the ballot box. In East Pakistan, dissatisfaction with the system went even deeper. In January 1969, several opposition parties formed the Democratic Action Committee with the declared aim of restoring democracy through a mass movement.   Ayub Khan reacted by alternating conciliation and repression. It resulted in the widespread disorder. The army moved into Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Dhaka, and Khulna to restore order. In rural areas of East Pakistan, curfew was ineffective; local officials sensed losing of the government control and began retreating from the peasant revolt. In February, Ayub Khan released political prisoners, invited the Democratic Action Committee and others to meet him in Rawalpindi. He promised a new constitution and said that he would not stand for reelection in 1970. Ayub Khan sought a political settlement as violence continued although he was in poor condition and lacking the confidence of his generals.   On March 25, 1969, martial law was again proclaimed; General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, the army commander in chief, was designated chief martial law administrator (CMLA). The 1962 constitution was abrogated. Ayub Khan announced his resignation and Yahya Khan assumed the presidency. Yahya Khan soon promised elections on the basis of adult franchise to the National Assembly, which would draw up a new constitution. He also entered into discussions with leaders of mainstream political parties.   The new coalition demanded the lifting of the state of emergency and the cancelling of the criminal law amendment which had been invoked to arrest Mujib for participation in the same conspiracy. These were both tools the government was using to deal with the worsening political situation. Jama‘at and the Awami League both wanted it eliminated so they could pursue their political objectives more freely. Faced with Mujib’s rising popularity following his arrest, the government responded by lifting the emergency and abrogating the amendment. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the opposition. To begin with, it did away with the demands that the Jama‘at and the Awami League had shared and which had fostered a working arrangement between them. Instead, tensions between them continued in East Pakistan following the government’s conciliatory overtures. It also removed the rationale for democratic demands from the political agenda and focused attention instead on provincial demands in East Pakistan and populist demands in West Pakistan. Consequently, Mawdudi’s efforts to revive interest in the Islamic constitution came to naught. The Jama‘at’s political agenda became completely divorced from the critical political issues in the country.   In August 1968, Mawdudi was taken ill and was compelled to leave Pakistan for medical treatment in England. During his months of departure, Jama‘at’s affairs were overseen by Mian Tufayl. Mawdudi’s absence reduced both the Jama‘at’s prominence in the Democratic Action Committee and reduced the party’s flexibility. Mian Tufayl did not provide new strategies for confronting either the more rambunctious Awami League or the new force in Pakistani politics, the People’s Party and was unable to control the IJT, which soon became a force in itself, drawing the Jama‘at into the quagmire of East Pakistani politics.   Mawdudi returned before the Round Table Conference between Ayub Khan and the Democratic Action Committee, which convened in March 1969 to reform the constitution with a view to accommodating the Awami League’s demands for autonomy. No mention was made of the socioeconomic grievances which Mujib and Bhutto were manipulating so successfully. Mawdudi’s address to the conference was totally removed from the realities of Pakistani politics. He placed the entire blame for the crisis on the government’s intransigence over the demand for Islamization. It was the only policy that could keep Pakistan united.

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