1988 Pakistani general election

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1988 Pakistani general election

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217 of the 237 seats in National Assembly
109 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader Benazir Bhutto Nawaz Sharif
Seats won 94 56
Popular vote 7,546,561 5,908,742
Percentage 37.66% 29.48%

Map of Pakistan showing National Assembly Constituencies and winning parties

Prime minister before election

Mohammad Khan Junejo

Elected Prime minister

Benazir Bhutto

General elections were held in Pakistan on 16 November 1988 to elect the members of the National Assembly and Senate.

The elections saw the resurgence of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's daughter, Benazir. Supporters of President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who had died in August 1988, reorganised themselves into a nine-party alliance, the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) with support from the intelligence agencies.[1] This marked the beginning of a decade-long two-party system between the left-wing PPP and right-wing IJI and its successor the Pakistan Muslim League (N).

The PPP emerged as the biggest party, winning 94 of the 207 seats in the National Assembly. The IJI came second with 56 seats amidst a voter turnout of just 43%. The PPP was able to form a government with other left-wing parties, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), with Bhutto becoming the first female Prime Minister in a Muslim country.


Parliamentary elections had been held on 7 March 1977, with the PPP gaining a two-thirds majority. However, amid violence and civil disorder, Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq ousted the Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a military coup on 5 June, code-named Operation Fair Play. Martial law was lifted in 1985 when non-partisan and technocratic elections were held, resulting in Mohammad Junejo, a Sindhi lord, being appointed Prime Minister.

On 29 May 1988, the National Assembly which was elected in 1985 was dissolved prematurely by Zia, who also dismissed Junejo and the rest of his cabinet asserting that the 'administration was corrupt and inefficient'. The new polling date (exceeding the limit of 90 days following dissolution laid down by the Constitution of Pakistan) was set by the President on 20 July 1988. Moreover it was also announced that the elections would be held on a non-party basis.[2] However, on 2 October, following the accidental death of Zia on 17 August, the Supreme Court reversed the ban on parties and allowed the elections to be held on a party basis.


A total of 1,370 candidates contested the National Assembly elections.[3] The campaign lasted for a month and remained generally peaceful.[2]

After Zia's death, the democratic socialists and secular parties re-united and campaigned under the PPP's platform led by Benazir Bhutto; previously Zia had crushed the socialists' Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, which had attempted to overthrow his military regime, and took extremely tough actions to further disintegrate the movement. The PPP campaign pledged to control and tackle the extremism in Pakistan, and as well as curb the power of the trade unions. The conservatives under Sharif on other hand campaigned upon expanding the industrialisation and privatisation program;

The liberal Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) did not formally contest the elections, but several of its members ran as independents.[4][5][6]


Despite allegations of vote rigging against the PPP, and the use of the ID card rule to keep its less well-organized and relatively less well-off supporters from voting, Bhutto won the election by a margin of over 8%, thus managing to defeat the nine-party alliance of IJI.

MQM members running as independents received 5.4% of the vote, winning 13 seats in Karachi and Hyderabad.[7][8][9][10][11]

The results in three Muslim constituencies were declared invalid; in the subsequent by-elections, the IJI won two seats and the PPP one. There were no candidates for the Ahmadi constituency.[12]

Pakistan Peoples Party7,546,56137.6693
Islami Jamhoori Ittehad5,908,74229.4854
Pakistan Awami Ittehad857,6844.283
Awami National Party409,5552.042
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F)360,5261.807
Punjabi Pakhtun Ittehad105,0610.520
Pakistan National Party104,4420.520
National Peoples Party (Khar)97,9900.491
Pakistan Democratic Party80,4730.401
Balochistan National Alliance71,0580.352
Pakistan Muslim League (MQ)55,0520.270
Pakistan Milli Awai Ittehad46,5620.230
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Darkhasti)44,9640.221
Tehreek-e-Jafaria (Arif Hussaini)42,2160.210
United Christians Front15,9180.081
All Pakistan Christians Movement15,4490.080
National Democratic Party14,9600.070
Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party6,6520.030
Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Hadees Pakistan5,2250.030
Pakistan Masihi League4,3240.020
Pakistan Christians National Party3,3860.020
Tehreek-e-Inqalab-Islam Pakistan2,8070.010
Pakistan Muslim League (Qayyum)2,1960.010
Hazara Front (Mahaz-e-Hazara)1,8140.010
Pakistan Muslim League (Forward Block)1,7130.010
Awami National Party (Ainee Group)1,0180.010
Pakistan Qaumi Mahaz-e-Azadi9990.000
Pakistan National Democratic Alliance3880.000
Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan3510.000
National Muslim League (Muhasba Group)2820.000
Wattan Party1840.000
Seats reserved for women20
Valid votes20,041,23198.43
Invalid/blank votes319,8261.57
Total votes20,361,057100.00
Registered voters/turnout47,629,89242.75
Source: CLEA


In light of the election results, acting President Ghulam Ishaq Khan invited the PPP to form a government. The PPP formed the government, making alliances with small parties and independent groups. On 4 December 1988, Bhutto was elected as the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country. The new Cabinet, headed by Bhutto was subsequently announced.[2]

The MQM was pivotal in the formation of central government, as the PPP had failed to win a majority of seats. However, the MQM left the coalition in October 1989 when differences developed after dozens were killed at an MQM congregation by Sindhi nationalists, and the alliance fell apart in the wake of ensuing violence. The MQM lent its support to Nawaz Sharif’s Islami Jamhoori Ittehad instead.[13]


  1. ^ Hamid Gul accepts responsibility for creating IJI Dawn, 30 October 2012
  2. ^ a b c Pakistan: Elections held in 1988 Inter-Parliamentary Union
  3. ^ Pakistan Elections 2008 | Pakistan Elections 2013 Archived 1 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Elections.com.pk. Retrieved on 3 August 2013.
  4. ^ "The first 10 general elections of Pakistan" (PDF). pildat.org. PILDAT. May 2013. pp. 19, 20. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 March 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  5. ^ Pike, John. "Muttahida Quami Movement - MQM". www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  6. ^ "MQM's toughest election". www.thenews.com.pk. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  7. ^ "PAKISTAN AT THE POLLS" (PDF). gallup.com.pk. Gallup. 1990. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Volume 3, PAKISTAN NATIONAL, ELECTION: 1988" (PDF). gallup.com.pk. Gallup. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  9. ^ "The First 10 General Elections of Pakistan" (PDF). pildat.org. Pildat. May 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 March 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  10. ^ "KARACHI: Parties gear up for general elections". DAWN.COM. 17 August 2002. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  11. ^ "Hyderabad: no one's land when it comes to election". DAWN.COM. 7 May 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  12. ^ Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume I, p679–686 ISBN 0-19-924958-X
  13. ^ "Timeline: A history of MQM". DAWN.COM. 25 May 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2017.