Muhammad Khan Junejo Becomes Prime Minister


After the Presidential referendum of December 1984, elections for the National and Provincial Assemblies were held in February 1985 on a non-party basis. President Zia-ul-Haq nominated Muhammad Khan Junejo as the Prime Minister of Pakistan on March 20, 1985.

On being nominated, Muhammad Khan Junejo promised the nation that he would lift the Martial Law and restore a civilian government as soon as possible. Junejo’s position was weak and vulnerable under the constitutional amendments made by Zia, which made the position of the President paramount and that of the Prime Minister subordinate. Despite his weak position, Junejo, after being sworn in as the Prime Minister, carried out his promise of lifting the Martial Law and the restoration of fundamental rights, but at the price of the Eight Amendment and validating the Revival of the Constitutional Order.

Muhammad Khan Junejo introduced a five-point program in December 1985. The program was multidimensional in nature. The main objectives were to induct a new and progressive civilian order, establish institutions of social justice, introduce an egalitarian economy, increase employment opportunities, strike hard at corruption and other social evils, liberate at least 50 percent of the people from illiteracy, and to start socio-economic development of the country.

After the lifting of Martial Law, Junejo tried to take a course independent of Zia. He annoyed military generals by withdrawing big staff cars from them and replacing them with small cars. He tried to conduct an independent foreign policy, particularly on Afghanistan, by taking into confidence and consulting leaders of political parties, including Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party. His government even tried to probe into the military fiasco at the Ojheri Camp near Islamabad on April 10, 1988, which resulted in the death and serious injuries to a large number of civilians. This probe perhaps became the immediate cause for the dismissal of his government.

Junejo’s regime met its sudden and unexpected end while he was returning from a visit to South Korea on May 29, 1988. General Zia dismissed Junejo’s Government using the controversial rule under Article 58(2) b of the Constitution. According to General Zia, Junejo’s Government had been dismissed because the law and order situation had broken down to an alarming extent and the government could not be run in accordance with the Constitution. Not only were the Junejo Government dismissed, but also were the Federal and Provincial Assemblies and the Provincial Cabinets and their Chief Ministers. General Zia installed a new caretaker government in the Center and Provinces. Fresh elections were promised after 90 days but were eventually held on November 16, 1988, three months after Zia’s death in a plane crash.

Although Junejo had no claim to power on his own, as Zia had appointed him Prime Minister, but his performance was commendable. With limited options, he did what was possible for him. He restored the fundamental rights of citizens under the Constitution that had been denied to them for a very long time. He tried to put the country on the course of development and some progress was made, particularly in the area of construction of roads in rural areas and the electrification of villages. He was honest, polite and had a low-key political personality, traits which are not easy to find in political leaders of today.

This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003