Referendum 1984

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General Zia wanted to establish a pseudo-democracy in Pakistan, with a continuation of him as President under a civilian setup. Zia took a number of steps in this direction; the first was the establishment of the Majlis-i-Shoora. The Majlis-i-Shoora was to take the place of the National Assembly, but was to be without any legislative powers. General Zia’s second step was to ask the public to endorse his rule. This appeal was in the form of a referendum, which was so worded that a “Yes” meant that Zia himself would be further endorsed, even though the referendum did not refer to this directly. The Referendum Order 1984 put forward a complex question to the citizens, but in essence, seeking endorsement of the process of Islamization initiated by General Zia.

The question read as follows:

“Whether the people of Pakistan endorse the process initiated by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the President of Pakistan, for bringing the laws of Pakistan in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and for the preservation of the Islamic ideology of Pakistan, for the continuation and consolidation of that process, and for the smooth and orderly transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people.”

The question was, by all standards, a very complicated and complex one, particularly for the uneducated rural class. It was a loaded question that simply asked, “Do you wish Pakistan to be an Islamic state?” An affirmative vote in the referendum was to result in a five-year term for Zia as President of Pakistan.

The referendum was held on December 19, 1984. The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy boycotted the elections. The results of this referendum showed the people voted in favor of Zia, though the M. R. D. claimed that a very small percentage of people actually showed up to vote.

Zia rejected this claim and declared that he had been given public support to continue as President of Pakistan for the next five years.

As a result of the referendum, the Chief Martial Law Administrator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq became the President of Pakistan. After the referendum, General Zia announced that the elections for the National and Provincial Assemblies would be held in February 1985, on a non-party basis.

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