Legal Framework Order, 1970
The Legal Framework Order, 1970 (LFO) was a decree issued by then-President of Pakistan Gen. Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan that laid down the political principles and laws governing the 1970 general election, which were the first direct elections in the history of Pakistan. The LFO also dissolved the "One Unit" scheme of West Pakistan, re-establishing the four provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and the Northwest Frontier Province.
Gen. Yahya Khan had taken over from his predecessor President Ayub Khan with the purpose of restoring law and order in Pakistan that had deteriorated in the final days of Ayub's regime. Yahya promised to transition the country to democracy and promised to hold direct elections for that purpose. However, Gen. Yahya also had to decide on how the two wings of the country, East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) and West Pakistan would be represented. Although geographically smaller and separated from West Pakistan by the whole width of India, East Pakistan (also known as East Bengal) comprised more than half the national population and was predominantly inhabited by Bengali people. Allegations of ethnic discrimination and lack of representation had caused turmoil and conflict between the two wings of Pakistan. The Awami League, the largest political party in East Pakistan, espoused Bengali nationalism and sought greater autonomy for the province, which most West Pakistanis saw as secessionist.
On March 31, 1970 Gen. Yahya announced the Legal Framework Order (LFO), which called for direct elections for a unicameral legislature, the National Assembly of Pakistan. The LFO decreed that the assembly would be composed of 300 seats. Departing from the precedent of the 1956 Constitution of Pakistan, which stipulated for parity between the two wings, the LFO called for proportional representation, giving the more populous East Pakistan 162 seats in turn for West Pakistan's 138. The LFO stipulated that the National Assembly would have to create a new constitution for the state of Pakistan within 120 days of being convened, but left the rules of the process in the hands of the new assembly to come. New elections would be called if the Assembly failed to come to an agreement in 120 days - all formulations and agreements proposed by political parties would require "authentication" by the president. The LFO also dissolved the "One Unit scheme", which had combined the four provinces of the western wing to constitute the political unit of West Pakistan.
The LFO met a long-standing demand of Bengalis by accepting proportional representation, to the chagrin of many West Pakistanis who resisted the notion of an East Pakistani-led government. In the 1970 elections, the Awami League won all but two seats from East Pakistan, gaining a majority in the National Assembly and thus not needing the support of any West Pakistani political party. As the LFO had not laid down any rules for the process of writing a constitution, an Awami League-controlled government would oversee the passage of a new constitution with a simple majority. The Pakistan Peoples Party of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, which had emerged as the largest political party in West Pakistan, declared it would boycott the new legislature, which severely aggravated tensions. After the failure of talks, Gen. Yahya postponed the convening of the legislature, a decision that provoked outright rebellion in East Pakistan and consequently led to the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
- "Emerging Discontent (1966 - 1970)". Library of Congress Country Studies. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
- Owen Bennett-Jones (2003). Pakistan: Eye of the Storm. Yale University Press. pp. 146–180. ISBN 978-0-300-10147-8.
- Richard Sisson, Leo E. Rose (1991). War and Secession: Pakistan, India and the Creation of Bangladesh. University of California Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-520-07665-5.