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Benazir’s First Regime (1988-90)
Benazir Bhutto was the first woman Prime Minister of a modern Muslim state. Although she inherited her father’s party, the PPP, she was the beneficiary of dynastic politics and the emotional ties of a large section of the electorate to her charismatic family has proven to be a mixed political blessing and has led it to victory, the party won a very narrow plurality in the 1988 elections and was therefore forced to enter into a coalition with the MQM and several other parties to form a government.
Benazir wanted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to strengthen her position as Prime Minister but soon abandoned the effort. Benazir also faced not only the old problems of the political role of the military forces, the division of power between the central and provincial governments, and the role of Islam but also pressing new ones, including a large budget deficit and growing ethnic violence.
Initially on 2nd December Benazir Bhutto formed a coalition government with MQM. To maintain her power and implement her programs, Benazir would have needed to maneuver successfully between a powerful president and the military elite and to reach a political accommodation with MQM and Nawaz Sharif. Instead, she pursued a course of confrontation, including unsuccessful efforts to overthrow Nawaz in the provincial assembly. Besides, the failure of the PPP to share power and spoils with its coalition partners caused further alienation, including the withdrawal of the MQM from the government in October 1989.
Benazir took the office during the crucial decade of the Cold War. During her first government, Benazir Bhutto’s foreign policy revolved around Afghanistan, India, and the United States. On the Western front, Benazir Bhutto also authorized further aggressive military operations in Afghanistan to topple the fragile communist regime and the Soviet influence in the region. She also wanted friendly relation with India.
During her first time, Benazir Bhutto established a separate but integrated nuclear testing program in the atomic bomb program, thus establishing a nuclear testing program where the authorizations were required by the Prime minister and the military leadership.
Benazir Bhutto launched and supervised the clandestine project Integrated Research Program (IRP) a missile program that remained under Benazir Bhutto’s watch and successfully ended in 1996. Pakistan’s first military satellite, Badr-I was also launched under her government through China. With the launching of Badr-I, Pakistan under Benazir Bhutto became the first Muslim country to have launch and placed the satellite in Earth’s orbit. She declared the “1990”, a year of space in Pakistan, and conferred national awards to scientists and engineers who took participation in the development of this satellite.
Midnight Jackal was a political intelligence operation launched under President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the Chief of Army Staff General Mirza Aslam Beg, with the objectives to bring the Vote of no-confidence motion in the Parliament by bribing the members of Benazir’s party. Due to the semi-presidential system, Benazir needed permission from Khan for imposing new policies, which Khan vetoed as he was seen to moderate or contradict his point of view. Benazir, through her legislators, also attempted to shift parliamentary democracy to replace the semi-presidential system, but Khan’s constitutional powers always vetoed Benazir’s attempts. This brought a power struggle between the prime minister and the president. The unemployment and labor strikes began to take place which halted and jammed the economic wheel of the country and Benazir Bhutto was unable to solve these issues due to a cold war with the President. In November 1990, after a long political battle, Khan finally used the Eighth Amendment to dismiss Benazir Bhutto’s government following charges of corruption, nepotism, and despotism. Khan soon called for new elections in 1990 where Bhutto conceded her defeat.