Pakistani general election, 1988

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Pakistani general election, 1988

← 1985 16 November 1988 1990 →

207 of 237 seats in National Assembly
104 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 43.5% (Decrease 9.4%)

  First party Second party
  Benazir bhutto 1988 cropped.jpg Nawaz Sharif detail, 981203-D-9880W-117.jpg
Leader Benazir Bhutto Nawaz Sharif
Leader since 10 January 1984 16 September 1988
Leader's seat Larkana Lahore
Seats won 94 56
Popular vote 7,546,561 5,908,741
Percentage 38.5% 30.2%

Prime minister before election

Mohammad Khan Junejo

Elected Prime minister

Benazir Bhutto

State emblem of Pakistan.svg
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politics and government of

General elections were held in Pakistan on 16 November 1988, electing the 336 members of the National Assembly and 100 members of the Senate. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by Benazir Bhutto, beat the technocratic military government of dead General Zia-ul-Haq, winning 94 of the 207 seats in the National Assembly. This was the second of four non-consecutive victories for the PPP and saw Benazir became Pakistan's – and the Muslim world's — first female head of government. Nawaz Sharif took the office of Leader of Opposition

Voter turnout was 43.5%.[1]


Parliamentary elections had been held on 7 March 1977, with the PPP gaining a two-thirds majority. However, amid violence and civil disorder, Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq ousted the Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a military coup on 5 June, code-named Operation Fair Play. Martial law was lifted in 1985 when non-partisan and technocratic elections were held, resulting in Mohammad Junejo, a Sindhi lord, being appointed Prime Minister.

On 29 May 1988, the National Assembly which was elected in 1985 was dissolved prematurely by Zia, who also dismissed Junejo and the rest of his cabinet asserting that the 'administration was corrupt and inefficient'. The new polling date (exceeding the limit of 90 days following dissolution laid down by the Constitution of Pakistan) was set by the President on 20 July 1988. Moreover it was also announced that the elections would be held on a non-party basis.[2] However, on 2 October, following the accidental death of Zia on 17 August, the Supreme Court reversed the ban on parties and allowed the elections to be held on a party basis.


A total of 1,370 candidates contested the National Assembly elections.[3] The campaign lasted for a month and remained generally peaceful.[2]

After Zia's death, the democratic socialists and secular parties re-united and campaigned under the PPP's platform led by Benazir Bhutto; previously Zia had crushed the socialists' Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, which had attempted to overthrow his military regime, and took extremely tough actions to further disintegrate the movement. The PPP campaign pledged to control and tackle the extremism in Pakistan, and as well as curb the power of the trade unions. The conservatives under Sharif on other hand campaigned upon expanding the industrialisation and privatisation program;

The liberal Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) did not formally contest the elections, but several of its members ran as independents.[4][5][6]


Despite allegations of vote rigging against the PPP, and the use of the ID card rule to keep its less well-organized and relatively less well-off supporters from voting, Bhutto won the election by a margin of over 8%, thus managing to defeat the nine-party alliance of IJI.

MQM members running as independents received 5.4% of the vote, winning 13 seats in Karachi and Hyderabad.[7][8][9][10][11]

Party Votes % Seats
Pakistan People's Party 7,546,561 38.5 94
Islami Jamhoori Ittehad 5,908,741 30.2 56
Pakistan Awami Ittehad 848,119 4.2 3
Awami National Party 409,555 2.1 2
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl-ur-Rehman) 360,526 1.8 7
Punjabi Pakhtun Ittehad 105,061 0.5 0
Pakistan National Party 104,442 0.5 0
National Peoples Party (Khar) 97,363 0.5 1
Pakistan Democratic Party 80,743 0.4 1
Balochistan National Alliance 59,248 0.3 2
Pakistan Muslim League 55,052 0.3 0
Pakistan Milli Awai Ittehad 46,562 0.2 0
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Darkhasti) 44,964 0.2 1
Tehrik-e-Jafaria (Arif Hussaini) 42,261 0.2 0
15 other parties 51,656 0.3 0
Independents 3,829,705 19.5 40
Invalid/blank votes 313,926
Total 19,904,440 100 207
Source: Nohlen et al.


In light of the election results, acting President Ghulam Ishaq Khan invited the PPP to form a government. The PPP formed the government, making alliances with small parties and independent groups. On 4 December 1988, Bhutto was elected as the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country. The new Cabinet, headed by Bhutto was subsequently announced.[2]

The MQM was pivotal in the formation of central government, as the PPP had failed to win a majority of seats. However, the MQM left the coalition in October 1989 when differences developed after dozens were killed at an MQM congregration by Sindhi nationalists, and the alliance fell apart in the wake of ensuing violence. The MQM lent its support to Nawaz Sharif’s Islami Jamhoori Ittehad instead.[12]


  1. ^ Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume I, p678 ISBN 0-19-924958-X
  2. ^ a b c Pakistan: Elections held in 1988 Inter-Parliamentary Union
  3. ^ Pakistan Elections 2008 | Pakistan Elections 2013 Archived 1 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 3 August 2013.
  4. ^ "The first 10 general elections of Pakistan" (PDF). PILDAT. May 2013. p. 19, 20. Retrieved 11 Jan 2017. 
  5. ^ Pike, John. "Muttahida Quami Movement - MQM". Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  6. ^ "MQM's toughest election". Retrieved 2017-01-11. 
  7. ^ "PAKISTAN AT THE POLLS" (PDF). Gallup. 1990. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017. 
  8. ^ "Volume 3, PAKISTAN NATIONAL, ELECTION: 1988" (PDF). Gallup. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017. 
  9. ^ "The First 10 General Elections of Pakistan" (PDF). Pildat. May 2013. Retrieved 13 Jan 2017. 
  10. ^ "KARACHI: Parties gear up for general elections". DAWN.COM. 2002-08-17. Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  11. ^ "Hyderabad: no one's land when it comes to election". DAWN.COM. 2013-05-07. Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  12. ^ "Timeline: A history of MQM". DAWN.COM. 2013-05-25. Retrieved 2017-01-13.