Pakistani general election, 2008

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Pakistani general election, 2008
2002 ←
18 February 2008
→ 2013

All 337 seats to the National Assembly
169 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout 44 %
  First party Second party Third party
  Syed Gillani - World Economic Forum on the Middle East 2008.jpg CHAUDHRY NISAR ALI KHAN.jpeg Armitage and Shujaat Hussein.jpg
Leader Yousaf Raza Gillani Nisar Ali Khan Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain
Party PPP PML (N) PML (Q)
Leader's seat Multan-IV Rawalpindi-III Senator
Seats won 118 89 50
Seat change Increase 37 Increase 70 Decrease 76
Popular vote 10,666,548 6,805,324 8,007,218
Percentage 30.8% 19.7% 23.1%

Prime Minister before election

Muhammad Mian Soomro

Prime Minister-designate

Yousaf Raza Gillani

State emblem of Pakistan.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

A general election was held in Pakistan on 18 February 2008, after being postponed from 8 January 2008. The original date was intended to elect members of the National Assembly of Pakistan, the lower house of the Majlis-e-Shoora (the nation's parliament).[1][2] Pakistan's two main opposition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML (N)) won the majority of seats in the election. The PPP and PML(N) formed the new coalition government with Yosaf Raza Gillani as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

On 3 November 2007, President and Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf enacted a state of emergency. Elections were initially postponed indefinitely;[3] however, it was later stated they would be held as planned.[4] On 8 November 2007, Musharraf announced that the election would be held by 15 February 2008,.[5] Later[when?] the election date was changed to occur on or before 9 January 2008.[6] Even later[when?], he suggested 8 January 2008 as the election date.[7] Following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the Election Commission announced, after a meeting in Islamabad, that a 8 January vote was no longer possible and the election would take place on 18 February.[8]

Following the election, Musharraf acknowledged that the process had been free and fair. He conceded the defeat of the PML (Q) and pledged to work with the new Parliament.[9] The voter turnout for the election was 35,170,435 people (44%).[10] By-elections for 28 seats (23 provincial and 5 national) have been delayed numerous times, with most of them now held on 26 June 2008.

Bhutto assassination[edit]

The 2008 Pakistani election was dealt a great shock on 27 December 2007 when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated while leaving a rally in Rawalpindi. Bhutto's assassination raised many questions as to whether the general election would be postponed. Following the fatal attack, Pervez Musharraf held an emergency meeting with other government officials, but stated that "no decision had been made on whether to delay the national elections."[11]

Bhutto had "become an appealing solution" to United States officials frustrated with President Musharraf's failure to restore democracy to Pakistan, The New York Times said.

Sharif stated after the assassination that his party would boycott the election.[12] He later stated that his party would take part if Bhutto's PPP contests the election.[13] The PPP then decided to name Bhutto's son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the new party leader with his father Asif Ali Zardari as co-leader, as asked for in Benazir Bhutto's testament. The party also decided that it would contest the elections and stated that the elections should be held as planned.

The Pakistani Election Commission announced after a meeting in Islamabad that a 8 January vote was no longer possible and the election would take place on 18 February.[8]


Code of conduct[edit]

Code of conduct for the election has been proposed by the Citizens' Group on Electoral Process (CGEP) to the Election Commission of Pakistan and the political parties. This suggests that all stakeholders should agree on a set of rules as early as possible, in order to provide a level playing field for a fair general election.[14]


There have been concerns from the United States that Pakistan has not been doing enough to assist in their war on terrorism. Musharraf has rejected such claims, stating "The fight against terrorism and extremism, whether it is al-Qaeda or Taliban, can never succeed without Pakistan's cooperation and Pakistan is the only country that has delivered the maximum on both. We are tackling them with 30,000 troops. If there is anybody who is not doing enough, it is others who are not doing enough."[2] Opposition parties, especially the religious Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition, are opposed to Pakistan's role as ally of the United States in the War on Terrorism.[15] A car bomb killed 40 people and wounded 90 16 February 2008 in northern Pakistan when it exploded in front of an election office of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party.[16]

Fairness of elections[edit]

A number of opposition parties called for the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf to ensure free and fair elections under a caretaker government.[17] On 8 July 2007, opposition parties issued a declaration of their demands for the elections.[17] The parties included were the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League (N), and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. Regarding the election, the declaration had the following clauses:[17]

  • The formation of a caretaker government of national consensus, in consultation with the opposition parties to hold free, fair and honest elections. Its members will not contest the elections.
  • The appointment of a neutral Chief Election Commissioner and members of the Election Commission in consultation with the opposition parties.
  • The dissolution of local governments three months prior to the holding of the general elections.
  • The caretaker government of national consensus shall appoint officers with no political affiliation in Election Commission, federal, provincial and district governments.
  • Repeal of all discriminatory election laws, to ensure even playing fields and the implementation of fair election proposals.
  • Implementation of the jointly agreed criteria for holding of fair and free elections.
  • To keep under review the steps being taken to ensure free, fair and honest elections and to collectively through consensus take any decision which may include a boycott of elections in the extreme case at the appropriate time.
  • To firmly resist collectively the machinations of the regime to postpone the general elections by imposing emergency or under any other pretext.
  • To struggle collectively for the removal of dictatorship from Pakistan and confine the role of the armed forces to that prescribed in the Constitution of 1973. It demands immediate withdrawal of military personal from all civilian departments and posts. It demands closure of the political cells of all the military, security and intelligence agencies.


Thirty-two parties opposed to Musharraf have joined together in a loose political alliance called All Parties Democratic Movement; the PPP, one of the main parties, was not a part of this alliance.

As Musharraf had stated that the elections would be held under the 2007 Pakistani state of emergency, at least three parties stated they will boycott such elections, fearing that they would not be free and fair: the PML (N), Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehreek-i-Insaaf.[18]

The opposition parties jointly stated that the elections could not be fair, as most opposition candidates were in jail under the state of emergency and thus unable to file nomination papers for the election.[19]

On 23 November 2007, PPP members were given the go-ahead to register for the elections, while still reserving the decision to boycott the election.[20]

Imran Khan, the Tehreek-i-Insaaf leader, restated his call for a boycott on 23 November 2007, the day the APDM was to decide on whether to boycott the elections jointly.[21]

Upon his return to Pakistan on 26 November 2007, Nawaz Sharif stated he would run in the elections only if the state of emergency was lifted before the polls,[22] and that he would not serve as Prime Minister under Musharraf.[23] However, Sharif's candidacy was rejected on 3 December due to his prior criminal conviction.[24]

On 10 December 2007, Sharif and Bhutto finally announced they would not boycott the election, despite their fears that the election would be neither free nor fair.[25]

In a poll from the International Republican Institute conducted from 19 January to 29 January, the PPP led with 50% (in 30 November%), followed by Sharif's PML-N with 22% (25%) and Musharraf's PML-Q with 14% (23%). Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) had 1% (4%) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) 1% (2%).[26] Due to its unprecedented lead in the opinion polls, most commentators believed PPP could win a landslide victory. However, the actual results were much smaller for PPP. In the first three counts to finish, the opposition did well: The provincial assembly seat in Baluchistan went to the PPP—the party of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto—while two independent candidates won seats from the northern tribal areas.[27] Unofficial returns 19 February 2008 showed huge wins for the opposition parties of former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and the slain Benazir Bhutto, one day after a pivotal vote that could threaten Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's political viability.[28] Pakistan's two main opposition parties, the PPP and the PML (N) announced 21 February 2008 they would form a new government together after their victory over President Pervez Musharraf's allies in elections the week of 18 February 2008.[29] Shortly after making their coalition official, Pakistan's main opposition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (N), on 9 March 2008 called on President Pervez Musharraf to immediately convene parliament (Majlis-e-Shoora).[30]

Pre-election violence[edit]

In the weeks preceding the election, there were several attacks targeting politicians and political rallies. On 9 February, a suicide car bomb killed 27 and injured 37 attending a political rally for the Awami National Party in Charsadda.[31] On 16 February, another suicide car bomb killed 37 and injured 93 outside the residence of PPP candidate Riaz Shah in Parachinar.[32] The same day, a suicide attack on an army outpost in Swat Valley killed two civilians and injured eight people.[32] A polling location in Bajaur was destroyed by militants earlier.[32]


Anti-Musharraf parties PPP and PML(N) emerged victorious. Pakistan Muslim League (Q), the party supporting Pervez Musharraf was defeated, including 22 former federal ministers which constituted a bulk of the previous federal cabinet. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (Party President/Former Prime Minister), Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi (Former Chief Minister Punjab) (lost 2 out of 3 seats), Sheikh Rashid Ahmad (Former Railways Minister), Dr. Sher Afgan Niazi (Former Minister for Parliamentary Affairs), Wasi Zafar (Former Law Minister), Humayun Akhtar Khan (Former Commerce Minister), Chaudhry Amir Hussain (Former Speaker National Assembly), Rao Sikandar Iqbal (Former Defense Minister), Hamid Nasir Chattha (former Federal Minister), Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri (Former Foreign Minister), Daniyal Aziz (Chairman NRB), Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar (Former State Minister for Foreign Affairs), Awais Leghari (Former IT Minister), Nasarullah Dareshak, Chaudhry Moonis Elahi (lost 1 out of 2 seats), Chaudhry Shahbaz Hussain (Former Minister for Population Welfare), Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq (Former Minister for Religious Affairs), Liaquat Ali Jatoi (Former Minister for Water and Power), Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind (Former Minister for States and Frontier Regions), Naurez Shakoor (Former Minister for Science and Technology), Ishaq Khakwani (Former State Minister for IT), Sikandar Hayat Bosan (Former Minister for Food and Agriculture), Ghulam Sarwar Khan (Former Minister for Labour and Manpower) to include the few, have lost their seats.[33]

On 21 February, it was announced that the PPP and the PML (N) would form a coalition government.[34] The coalition would also include the Awami National Party.

The electoral commission released final results on 6 March for all but 11 seats. These results showed the PPP with 120 seats and the PML(N) with 90 seats.[35]

National Assembly[edit]

Party Votes % Seats
Elected Reserved Total
Women Minorities
Pakistan Peoples Party 10,666,548 30.79 91 23 4 118
Pakistan Muslim League (Q) 8,007,218 23.12 38 10 2 50
Pakistan Muslim League (N) 6,805,324 19.65 69 17 3 89
Muttahida Qaumi Movement 2,573,795 7.43 19 5 1 25
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal 766,240 2.21 7 1 0 8
Awami National Party 704,811 2.03 10 3 0 13
Pakistan Muslim League (F) 685,684 1.98 4 1 0 5
Pakistan Peoples Party (Sherpao) 141,975 0.41 1 0 0 1
National Peoples Party 148,892 0.43 1 0 0 1
Balochistan National Party (Awami) 1 0 0 1
Independents 3,865,954 11.16 30 0 0 30
Invalid/blank votes 1,040,513
Total 35,678,035 100 271 60 10 341
Registered voters/turnout 80,910,318 44.10
Source: ECP, IFES

Following the election, seven independents joined the PPP, whilst three joined PML-N.[36]

Provincial assemblies[edit]

Parties Punjab Sindh NWFP Balochistan
Pakistan Peoples Party 107 93 30 12
Pakistan Muslim League (N) 171 9 1
Pakistan Muslim League (Q) 84 9 6 18
Muttahida Qaumi Movement 0 51 0 0
Awami National Party 0 2 48 4
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan 2 0 14 10
Pakistan Muslim League (F) 3 8 0 0
Pakistan Peoples Party (Sherpao) 0 0 6 0
Balochistan National Party (Awami) 0 0 0 7
National Peoples Party 0 3 0 0
National Party 0 0 0 1
Independents 4 0 11 12
Total general seats 297 130 99 51
Reserved Seats (Women) 66 29 22 11
Reserved Seats (Minorities) 8 9 3 3
Declared results 370 166 124 65
Total seats 371 168 124 65
Source: Election Commission of Pakistan


By-elections for 28 seats (23 provincial and 5 national) have been delayed numerous times, and are currently unscheduled. They are being contested, among others, by Nawaz Sharif (who initially stated he had withdrawn, but then appeared to be contesting the election nonetheless;[37] his brother Shehbaz Sharif will also run in the by-elections)[38] and Asif Ali Zardari.[39][40]

The by-elections had originally planned for 3 June 2008, then postponed to 18 June 2008; a further planned postponement to 18 August 2008 due to security reasons met with large-scale opposition, leading to a rescheduling at the time to 26 June 2008.[41][42] PPP announced it would not run in the by-elections which prominent leaders of the PML-N would contest.[43][44] On 23 June 2008, Sharif was again banned from the election due to his earlier court conviction,[45] leading the Supreme Court on 25 June 2008 to postpone the by-election for Sharif's seat until after appeal deliberations which begin on 30 June 2008 are concluded.[46] By-elections for the other seats were held as planned on 26 June 2008.[47]

59 candidates contested the five national seats, while the 282 candidates contesting the provincial seats were divided as follow:[48]

  • 171 candidates for the 12 vacancies in Punjab
  • 68 candidates for the seven vacancies in the NWFP currently known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Urdu: خیبر پختون خواہ)
  • 25 candidates for the three vacancies in Balochistan
  • eight candidates for the single vacancy in Sindh

Unofficial results showed that PML-N had won three national seats and PPP the other two; of the provincial seats, PML-N won eight, PPP seven, the Awami National Party two and independents six.[49] Turnout was reportedly low.[50]

Government formation[edit]

In December 2010 the MQM withdrew from the ruling coalition, including its 2 cabinet ministers Babar Ghauri, the ports and shipping minister, and Farooq Sattar, minister for overseas Pakistanis. Amongst their reasons for withdrawing were corruption, law and order and rising prices.[51]


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External links[edit]

Background information[edit]