Pakistani general election, 1970

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Pakistani general election, 1970
1945 (British India) ←
7 December 1970 → 1977

All 300 seats in the Pakistan National Assembly
151 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout 63.1%
  First party Second party
  Bangabandhu02 big.jpg Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.jpg
Leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Party Awami League PPP
Leader since 1963 1967
Leader's seat Gopalganj Larkana
Last election New New
Seats won 160 81
Popular vote 12,937,162 6,148,923
Percentage 39.2% 18.6%
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General elections were held for the first time in the history of Pakistan on 7 December 1970, although the polls in East Pakistan, originally scheduled for October, were delayed by disastrous floods and rescheduled for later in December and January 1971.[1] Since its independence in 1947, the elections were held for the first time in the political history of the country under the scrutiny of the military government of General Yahya Khan when he decided to establish the Election Commission by appointing Justice Abdus Sattar as the first Election Commissioner of Pakistan.[1]

The Election Commission was tasked with enrolling as voters all citizens of Pakistan who were at least 21 years old on October 1, 1969; the total number of registered voters in the country was 56,941,500, of whom 31,211,220 were from the East Pakistan while 25,730,280 were from the West Pakistan.[1] The Election Commission also marked the constituencies, in accordance with the seats allocated for the Parliament, and provincial legislative assemblies under Legal Framework Order (LFO), 1970.[1] One hundred and ninety nine Returning Officers were appointed for the National Assembly and 285 Returning Officers were appointed for the Provincial Assemblies.[1]

The results of the election saw the Awami League win a majority of seats.[2] However, the President of Pakistan, Yahya Khan, never handed power to the Awami League, which triggered a mass uprising in East Pakistan followed by the Bangladesh Liberation War and the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, and the ultimate secession of East Pakistan as Bangladesh. The voter turnout was 63.1%, the highest in Pakistan's history.

Parties and candidates[edit]

The general elections of 1970 are considered one of the fairest and cleanest elections in the history of Pakistan, with about twenty-four political parties taking part.[1] Since the previous elections held in 1945, the doors of democracy had been opened and the parties began their election campaigns from January 1, 1970.[1] The general elections presented a picture of a Two-party system, with the Awami League, a Bengali nationalist party, competing against the extremely influential and widely popular Pakistan Peoples Party, a leftist and democratic socialist party which had been a major power-broker in West Pakistan.[1]

Election campaign in East Pakistan[edit]

The continuous public meetings of the Awami League in East Pakistan and the Pakistan Peoples Party in Western Pakistan attracted huge crowds. The Awami League, a Bengali nationalist party, mobilized support in East Pakistan on the basis of its Six-Points Program (SPP), which was the main attraction in the party's manifesto.[1] In East Pakistan, a huge majority of the Bengali nation favored the Awami League, under Shaikh Mujibur Rahman. The party received a huge percentage of the popular vote in East Pakistan and emerged as the largest party in the nation as a whole, gaining the exclusive mandate of Pakistan in terms both of seats and of votes.[1]

The Pakistan Peoples Party failed to win any seats in East Pakistan. On the other hand, the Awami League had failed to gather any seats in West Pakistan. The Awami League's failure to win any seats in the west was used by the leftists and democratic socialists led by Zulfikar Bhutto who argued that Mujib had received "no mandate or support from West Pakistan" (ignoring the fact that he himself did not win any seat in East Pakistan).[3]

The then leaders of Pakistan, all from West Pakistan and PPP leaders, strongly opposed the idea of an East Pakistani-led government.[3] Many in Pakistan predicted that the Awami League-controlled government would oversee the passage of a new constitution with a simple majority.[3] Bhutto uttered his infamous phrase "Udhar tum, idhar hum" (there you, here me) – thus dividing the Pakistan first time orally.

The same attitudes and emotions were also felt in East Pakistan whereas East-Pakistanis absorbed the feeling and reached to the conclusion that Pakistan had been benefited with economic opportunities, investments, and social growth would swiftly depose any East Pakistanis from obtaining those opportunities.[3]

Some Bengalis sided with the Pakistan Peoples' Party and had voiced no support for the Awami League, supporting tacitly or openly Bhutto and the democratic socialists, such as Jalaludin Abdur Rahim, an influential Bengali in Pakistan and mentor of Bhutto[3] who was later thrown into jail by Bhutto, Ghulam Azam and Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, the two who were later convicted of war crimes.

Several notable people from West Pakistan supported handing over power to the Awami league, such as the poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz and rights activist Malik Ghulam Jilani, father of Asma Jahangir and G.M Syed the founder of Sindhi nationalist party Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM).

Elections in West Pakistan[edit]

However, the political position in West Pakistan was completely different from East Pakistan.[1] In West Pakistan, the population was divided between different ideological forces. The right-wing parties, led under Abul Maududi, raised the religious slogans and initially campaigned on an Islamic platform, further promising to enforce Sharia laws in the country.[1] Meanwhile the founding party of Pakistan and the national conservative Pakistan Muslim League, lead by Pakistan Movement Bengali activist Nurul Amin, campaigned on a nationalist platform, promising to initiate the Jinnah reforms as originally envisioned by Jinnah and others in the 1940s.[1]

The dynamic leadership and charismatic personality of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was highly active and influential in West Pakistan during these days. Bhutto's socialistic ideas and the famous slogan "Roti Kapra Aur Makaan" ("Food, Clothing and Shelter") attracted the poor communities, students, and working class.[1] The democratic socialist, leftist, and marxist-communist masses gathered and united into one platform under Bhutto's leadership. Bhutto and the socialist-leftists appealed to the people of the West to participate and vote for the Peoples Party for a better future for their children and family.[1] For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the leftists and democratic socialists, united under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, participated in the elections as one strong power.[1] As compared to the right-wing and conservatives in West Pakistan, Bhutto and his allied leftists and democratic socialists won most of the popular vote, becoming the pre-eminent players in the politics of the West.[1]


A total of 1,957 candidates filed nomination papers for 300 National Assembly seats. After scrutiny and withdrawals, 1,579 eventually contested the elections. The Awami League ran 170 candidates, of which 162 were for constituencies in East Pakistan. Jamaat-e-Islami had the second-highest number of candidates with 151. The Pakistan Peoples Party ran only 120 candidates, of which 103 were from constituencies in the Punjab and Sindh, and none in East Pakistan. The PML (Convention) ran 124 candidates, the PML (Council) 119 and the PML (Qayyum) 133.

Voter turnout[edit]

The government claimed a high level of public participation and a voter turnout of almost 63%. The total number of registered voters in the country was 56,941,500 out of which 31,211,220 were from the Eastern Wing, while 25,730,280 from the Western Wing.


Party Votes % Seats
Awami League 12,937,162 39.2 160
Pakistan Peoples Party 6,148,923 18.6 81
Jamaat-e-Islami 1,989,461 6.0 4
PML (Council) 1,965,689 6.0 2
PML (Qayyum) 1,473,749 4.5 9
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam 1,315,071 4.0 7
Markazi Jamiat-Ulema-Pakistan 1,299,858 3.9 7
PML (Convention) 1,102,815 3.3 7
National Awami Party (Wali) 801,355 2.4 6
Pakistan Democratic Party 737,958 2.2 1
Other parties 387,919 1.2 0
Independents 2,322,341 7.0 16
Total 33,004,065 100 300
Nohlen et al.

By province[edit]

Party Punjab Sind NWFP Balochistan West Pakistan (Total) East Pakistan
Awami League 0 (0.07%) 0 (0.07%) 0 (0.2%) 0 (1.0%) 0 160 (74.9%)
Pakistan Peoples Party 62 (41.6%) 18 (44.9%) 1 (14.2%) 0 (2.3%) 81 0
PML (Qayyum) 1 (5.4%) 1 (10.7%) 7 (22.6%) 0 (10.9%) 9 0 (1.0%)
PML (Convention) 7 (5.1%) 0 (1.7%) 0 0 7 0 (2.8%)
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam 0 0 6(25.4%) 1(20.o%) 7 0
Markazi Jamiat-Ulema-Pakistan 4 (9.8%) 3 (7.4%) 0 0 7 0
National Awami Party (Wali) 0 0 (0.3%) 3 (18.4%) 3 (45.1%) 6 0 (1.8%)
Jamaat-e-Islami 1 (4.7%) 2 (10.3%) 1 (7.2%) 0 (1.1%) 4 0 (6.0%)
PML (Council) 2 (12.6%) 0 (6.8%) 0 (4.0%) 0 (10.9%) 2 0 (1.6%)
PDP 0 (2.2%) 0 (0.04%) 0 (0.3%) 0 (0.3%) 0 1 (2.2%)
Independents 5 (11.8%) 3 (10.7%) 7 (6.0%) 0 (6.8%) 15 1 (3.4%)
Total seats 82 27 25 4 138 162

(numbers in parentheses indicate percentage share of votes)

The Awami League emerged as the single largest party in the National Assembly by winning a majority with 160 seats, and also won 288 of the 300 East Pakistan Assembly seats in the provincial elections that were held simultaneously there. The Pakistan Peoples Party won by a landslide in West Pakistan, taking 81 of 138 the seats, whilst the second-largest party won just eight.

The more conservative parties performed poorly, possibly due to the splitting of conservative vote by many conservative parties contesting in most constituencies. This theory is supported by the fact that although Bhutto won just 41% of the vote in Punjab, he ended up getting over 75% of the seats. In total the PML (Qayyum), PML (Council), PML (Convention), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Jamiyat Ulema-e-Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami won only 37 National Assembly seats.

Provincial election results[edit]

In the provincial elections, the Awami League won 288 of the 300 seats in the East Pakistan Assembly, but none in any of the four West Pakistan assemblies. The Pakistan Peoples Party did well the Punjab and Sindh Assembles but failed to win any seats in East Pakistan. The Assembles of the North West Frontier Province and Balochistan were dominated by the more conservative PML (Qayyum) and the left-wing National Awami Party (Wali).

Party Punjab Sind NWFP Balochistan West Pakistan East Pakistan Total
Awami League 0 0 0 0 0 288 288
Pakistan Peoples Party 113 28 3 0 144 0 144
PML (Qayyum) 6 5 10 3 24 0 24
PML (Convention) 15 4 1 0 21 1 22
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam 2 0 4 2 8 0 8
Markazi Jamiat-Ulema-Pakistan 4 7 0 0 11 0 11
National Awami Party (Wali) 0 0 13 8 21 1 22
Jamaat-e-Islami 1 1 1 0 3 1 4
PML (Council) 6 0 2 0 8 0 8
PDP 4 0 0 0 4 2 6
Other parties 1 1 0 2 4 1 5
Independents 28 14 6 5 53 7 60
Total seats 180 60 40 20 300 300 600



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Pakistan Press. "General Elections 1970". Pakistan Press. Story of Pakistan Foundation. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  2. ^ Nohlen, D, Grotz, F & Hartmann, C (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume I, p686 ISBN 0-19-924958-X
  3. ^ a b c d e Owen Bennett-Jones (2003). Pakistan: Eye of the Storm. Yale University Press. pp. 146–180. ISBN 978-0-300-10147-8. 
  4. ^ (Source G.W.Choudhury (1974) The last days of United Pakistan p128-129)