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History, Early Governments and the Constitution of 1956

nonalignment, Awami League, Bogra, Government of India Act, Liaquat

The first government of Pakistan was headed by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and it chose the seaport of Karachi as its capital. Jinnah, considered the founder of Pakistan and hailed as the Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader), became head of state as governor-general. The government faced many challenges in setting up new economic, judicial, and political structures. It endeavored to organize the bureaucracy and the armed forces, resettle the Mohajirs (Muslim refugees from India), and establish the distribution and balance of power in the provincial and central governments. Undermining these efforts were provincial politicians who often defied the authority of the central government, and frequent communal riots. Before the government could surmount these difficulties, Jinnah died in September 1948.

In foreign policy, Liaquat established friendly relations with the United States when he visited President Harry S. Truman in 1950. Pakistanís early foreign policy was one of nonalignment, with no formal commitment to either the United States or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the two major adversaries in the Cold War. In 1953, however, Pakistan aligned itself with the United States and accepted military and economic assistance.

Liaquat was assassinated in 1951. Khwaja Nazimuddin, an East Pakistani who had succeeded Jinnah as governor-general, became prime minister. Ghulam Muhammad became governor-general. Nazimuddin attempted to limit the powers of the governor-general through amendments to the Government of India Act of 1935, under which Pakistan was governed pending the adoption of a constitution. Ghulam Muhammad dismissed Nazimuddin and replaced him with Muhammad Ali Bogra, Pakistanís ambassador to the United States, who subsequently was elected president of the Muslim League.

In the 1954 provincial elections in East Pakistan, the Muslim League was routed by the United Front coalition, which supported provincial autonomy. The coalition was dominated by the Awami League. However, Ghulam Muhammad imposed governorís rule in the province, preventing the United Front from taking power in the provincial legislature. After the constituent assembly attempted to curb the governor-generalís power, Ghulam Muhammad declared a state of emergency and dissolved the assembly. A new constituent assembly was indirectly elected in mid-1955 by the various provincial legislatures. The Muslim League, although still the largest party, was no longer dominant as more parties, including those of the United Front coalition, gained representation. Bogra, who had little support in the new assembly, was replaced by Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, a former civil servant in West Pakistan and a member of the Muslim League. At the same time, General Iskander Mirza became governor-general.

The new constituent assembly enacted a bill, which became effective in October 1955, integrating the four West Pakistani provinces into one political and administrative unit, known as the One Unit. This change was designed to give West Pakistan parity with the more populous East Pakistan in the national legislature. The assembly also produced Pakistanís first constitution, which was adopted on March 2, 1956. It provided for a unicameral (single-chamber) National Assembly with 300 seats, evenly divided between East and West Pakistan. It also officially designated Pakistan an Islamic republic. According to its provisions, Mirzaís title changed from governor-general to president.



Article key phrases:

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