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COMBINED OPPOSITION PARTIES (1965)
On January 2, 1965, the first presidential election was held. Some 80,000 ‘basic democrats’, as members of urban and regional councils, caucused to vote. The presidential election of January 1965 resulted in a victory for Ayub Khan but also demonstrated the appeal of the opposition. Four political parties joined to form the Combined Opposition Parties (COP). There were two main contestants: the Pakistan Muslim League (Conventional) lead by General Ayub Khan and the Combined Opposition Parties (COP) under the leadership of Fatima Jinnah. COP was made up of some 5 opposition parties, i.e., Pakistan Muslim League (Council), led by Khwaja Nazimuddin and Mian Mumtaz Khan Daultana; the Awami League, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman; the National Awami Party, led by Maulana Bashani; the North West Frontier group of the National Awami Party, led by Wali Khan, son of the famous Abdul Ghafar Khan; the Nizam-e-Islam Party, led by Chaudhry Mohammad Ali and Farid Ahmad; and the Jamaat-e-Islami, led by Maulana Maudoodi.
The COP nominated Fatima Jinnah (sister of the Quaid-i-Azam and known as Madar-i-Millet, the Mother of the Nation) as their presidential candidate. The nine-point program put forward by the COP emphasized the restoration of parliamentary democracy. Ayub Khan won 63.3 percent of the Electoral College vote. His majority was larger in West Pakistan (73.6 percent) than in East Pakistan (53.1 percent). The PML secured a thumping majority of 120 seats in those elections. The opposition could settle only 15 seats. Combined Opposition Party (COP) won 10 seats whereas NDF bagged 5 seats in East Pakistan and 1 in West Pakistan. The rest of the seats went to the independents.
Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan was the guiding spirit behind all anti-government alliances including the Combined Opposition Parties (COP) that was formed to defeat Ayub in the 1965 presidential election. On the contrary, it was Khawaja Nazimuddin, who came up with the idea of a grand opposition alliance that eventually culminated in the making of COP.
It was Nasrullah Khan, who first proposed the name and later on prevailed upon Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah to contest against the Field Marshal in the presidential election of 1965 as the unanimously approved candidate of the COP; however, the reality is quite different. Heads of some of the parties within the COP had personal ambitions to contest the election to become the president of Pakistan. For example, the Jamaat-e-Islami lobbied for the candidature of Maulana Maudoodi while Maulana Abdul Hameed Bhashani of the National Awami Party (NAP) was himself interested but both were unacceptable to the other parties in the COP. Outside the alliance, the candidate, who was likely to pose a serious challenge to the incumbent was General(R) Azam Khan but this proposition was cunningly subverted on the objections of Bhashani due to Azam’s association with the martial law regime through the courtesy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who, as the foreign minister of Ayub, paid rupees five lac to Bhashani through his friend Masih-ur-Rehman to eliminate the candidature of Azam Khan.
While the COP was clueless as to who could be their next most suitable choice, it was the ‘Frontier Gandhi’ Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the President of (NAP) in West Pakistan, who suggested that if anybody in the country could take on the dictator, it was Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s sister. After much procrastination, Fatima Jinnah agreed but only if Bhashani guaranteed to extend electoral support to her in the then East Pakistan, which the wily ‘Red Mullah of Bengal’ promised by touching his flowing beard but betrayed the ‘Madar-e-Millat’ in the presidential election by directing his party’s Punjab president, C R Aslam to instruct the Basic Democrat members of (NAP) to vote for Ayub Khan.
It was the opposition alliance Democratic Action Committee (DAC) formed under the Nawabzada in January 1969 that brought down Ayub’s government whereas the reality is that it was the agitation launched by the PPP under Bhutto in West Pakistan and the radical Student Action Committee (SAC) as well as Sheikh Mujib in East Pakistan that orchestrated the overthrow of the Ayub regime. Nasrullah’s opposition was pliant believing in non-violent and disciplined measures. That is why the dictator was able to rule for over a decade.
Bhutto was more clearheaded than Nasrullah and his cohorts on how to dislodge a dictator. Bhutto believed that a peaceful and constitutional struggle can never dislodge a dictator. If the objective of the movement is to remove the dictator then the edifice of law and order has to be shaken… A government can be changed through the vote only in a democracy but it means nothing in a dictatorship… A dictatorship can be eliminated through revolution, violent movement… because a dictator neither gives real democratic concessions nor voluntarily gives up power.”
Nawabzada was the greatest of all leaders. To hone the point, his admirers argue that had he been not the most towering of all the politicians, he would not have been accepted as the head of DAC by such political stalwarts as Maulana Maudoodi, Maulana Mufti Mahmood, Wali Khan, Mumtaz Daultana, and Nurul Amin but the fact of the matter is that all these bigwigs had competing egos, so, they agreed to Nawabzada’s chairmanship of the DAC because he was “a weak person, amenable to influence.” Even his nemesis Ayub Khan, after some parleys with Nasrullah concluded, “This man has no authority. He is a weak man and they have put him there because he has no opinion of his own.