1990 Pakistani general election

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1990 Pakistani general election

← 1988 24 October 1990 1993 →

207 of 237 seats in National Assembly
104 seats seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader Nawaz Sharif Benazir Bhutto
Alliance IJI PDA
Last election 56 seats 94
Seats after 106 44
Seat change Increase50 Decrease50
Popular vote 7,908,513 7,795,218
Percentage 36.54% 36.01%

Winning party by constituency

Prime minister before election

Benazir Bhutto

Elected Prime minister

Nawaz Sharif

General elections were held in Pakistan on 24 October 1990 to elect the members of the National Assembly. The elections were primarily a contest between the People's Democratic Alliance (PDA, a four party alliance led by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Benazir Bhutto) and the conservative nine-party alliance, Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) headed by Nawaz Sharif.

President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dissolved the National Assembly and dismissed Bhutto's government in August 1990 on charges of corruption and maladministration.[1] However, the PPP was still extremely popular and there was a fear amongst anti-PPP forces that it might be re-elected. Numerous steps were taken by Ishaq with help of the military establishment to sway the results in favour of the IJI, including the appointment of IJI chairman Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi as caretaker Prime Minister.[2] Despite their efforts, the PPP remained ahead in opinion polls.[3]

However, the result was a surprise victory for the IJI, which won 111 of the 207 seats. The PDA won just 44 seats amidst a voter turnout of only 45%. The IJI's parliamentary leader Sharif became Prime Minister while Bhutto became the Opposition Leader. In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that the elections had been rigged.[3]


The PPP led by Benazir Bhutto had won a plurality of seats in the 1988 election and Bhutto became Prime Minister. However by 1990 there was discontent over rising lawlessness, allegations of corruption and the failure of the government to fulfill the promises it had made during the 1988 campaign.[4]


The PPP formed an alliance with three other parties, Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafariya, Tehreek-e-Istiqlal and the Pakistan Muslim League (Chatta), running under the name People's Democratic Alliance.[5][6]


By the start of the campaign reports suggested that Bhutto and the PDA were in a stronger position as the caretaker government failed to produce sufficient evidence to prove any charges against her.[7]

At the end of the campaign Bhutto led hundreds of thousands of supporters in a procession in Lahore, while Sharif held a rally for about ten thousand nearby.[8]

Electoral fraud[edit]

On 19 October 2012, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled on a petition by Asghar Khan, requesting that the court probe allegations that the 1990 elections had been rigged. The court officially ruled that two Army Generals – Mirza Aslam Baig and Asad Durrani (Head of the ISI) – along with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan – had provided financial assistance to favoured parties.[9] The motive was to deliberately weaken the mandate of the Pakistan Peoples Party. It was believed that the PPP, led by Benazir Bhutto, was a liability to the nation.[10]


IJI won the popular vote by a very narrow margin of only around 100,000 votes, but the narrow victory in the popular vote translated into 106 seats for IJI against the PDA's 44 seats. The popular argument regarding PDA's huge loss of seats is that the PDA's vote, despite being almost equal to that of IJI, was much more spread out whereas IJI's vote bank was more concentrated. This resulted in PDA candidates losing in IJI won seats by narrow margins.

Islami Jamhoori Ittehad7,908,49236.54106+50
People's Democratic Alliance7,796,23836.0244–50
Haq Parast1,171,5255.4115New
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F)622,2142.876−1
Awami National Party356,1601.656+4
Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Noorani)310,9531.443New
Pakistan Awami Tehrik237,4921.100New
Jamhoori Wattan Party129,4310.602New
Pakistan National Party127,2870.592+2
Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party73,6350.341New
Sindh National Front51,9900.240New
Pakistan Democratic Party51,6450.2400
Balochistan National Movement51,2970.240New
Pakistan Hindu Party33,8470.161New
Sindh National Alliance31,1250.140New
Pakistan Masihi Party23,0500.111New
Pakistan Masihi Ittehad19,5340.091New
Punjabi Pakhtun Ittehad (Sarwar Awan Group)17,9670.080New
United Christians Front14,5940.070–1
Awami Tehreek (Paleejo Group)14,3070.070New
Pakistan Christian Association14,2710.070New
Qaumi Inqilab Party12,9310.060New
Pakistan Muslim League (Qayyum)8,5210.0400
Punjabi Pakhtun Ittehad (Mir Hazar Khan)2,4890.010New
Pakistan Seriaki Party2,1600.010New
Saraiki Qaumi Ittehad2,0230.010New
Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan1,9920.0100
Pakistan Aqiliati Ittehad1,9690.010New
Pakistan Christian Congress8350.000New
Hazara Front (Mahaz-e-Hazara)6780.0000
Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party (Fatehyab Group)6470.000New
Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Niazi)4120.000New
National Democratic Party2040.0000
Sindh National Alliance (Hamida Khuro Group)1390.000New
Valid votes21,646,25598.92
Invalid/blank votes235,8491.08
Total votes21,882,104100.00
Registered voters/turnout48,952,99144.70
Source: CLEA


  1. ^ A Leaf From History: Ghulam Ishaq invokes Article 58-2(b), sends Benazir packing Dawn, 15 January 2017
  2. ^ An overview of 1990 general elections: The game gets dirtier Dawn, 12 April 2013
  3. ^ a b 1990 election was rigged, rules SC Dawn, 19 October 2012
  4. ^ Crossette, Barbara (6 May 1990). "Crime Weakens Support for Bhutto, Even in Her Traditional Power Base". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
  5. ^ Crossette, Barbara (26 September 1990). "Karachi Journal; With the Chips Down, Bhutto's Ace Is Her Father". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
  6. ^ Pakistan: Information on an alliance between the People's Democratic Alliance (PDA) and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Refworld
  7. ^ Crossette, Barbara (21 September 1990). "Bhutto Gaining as Charges Remain Unproved". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
  8. ^ "World". The Seattle Times. 23 October 1990. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
  9. ^ Mufti, Mariam (19 June 2018). "Who rigs polls in Pakistan and how?".
  10. ^ Desk, Web (19 October 2012). "Asghar Khan case short order: Full text". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 8 November 2012.