Pakistan elections: Army's long history of political meddling

Though Pakistan military says it has 'no direct role' in July 25 election, history shows otherwise.

Chaos and the first coup

Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims in 1947 after the subcontinent gained independence from Britain. But its founder, the venerated Mohammad Ali Jinnah, died one year later. Over the next decade, some seven prime ministers came and went before the military finally had enough of the chaos, with General Ayub Khan launching the country's first military coup in 1958. He was succeeded by General Yahya Khan in 1969 in the face of mass unrest, but Pakistan did not come back under civilian leadership until a disastrous civil war saw East Pakistan splinter away to form Bangladesh in 1971. Khan handed over the presidency to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that same year.(Photo Credit: AFP)

Bhutto's hanging

Not only did Zia depose Bhutto in the country's second coup in 1977, he jailed the prime minister and, two years later, had him hanged.(Photo Credit: AFP)

The second coup

Bhutto, the founder of the populist Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), appointed a new army chief in 1976 -- General Zia-ul-Haq -- a surprise promotion that some said reflected the prime minister's view that Zia was no threat. Zia's totalitarian rule saw him impose Islamic laws and organise sham elections. He remained in power until he was killed in 1988 when his Hercules C-130 aircraft mysteriously crashed in Pakistan.(Photo Credit: AFP)

Benazir and the third coup

Zia's death ushered civilian rule back in under the leadership of his old nemesis Bhutto's daughter, Benazir, who became the first female leader of any Muslim country. She led from 1988 until 1990 when she was ousted on corruption charges that she insinuated was fuelled by the military. (Photo Credit: AFP)

Nawaz, Musharraf and PML-N

Benazir Bhutto was replaced by Nawaz Sharif, in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader's first stint as prime minister, setting in place a paradigm of revolving leadership between the two politicians that continued until the army, once again, lost patience. By 1999, the relationship between Sharif in his second stint as premier and then-army chief General Pervez Musharraf was rapidly deteriorating. Musharraf ousted Sharif in the country's third coup. (Photo Credit: AFP)

From Musharraf into democracy?

Musharraf named himself president in 2001 while remaining head of the army. He allowed parliamentary and provincial elections in 2002, with his Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q) winning a majority amid allegations of massive vote fraud. General elections were finally held in 2008, weeks after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Musharraf conceded defeat and the PPP eventually formed a coalition government with Yousaf Raza Gilani as prime minister. (Photo Credit: AFP)

Yousaf Raza Gilani to Nawaz for the third time

Gilani was not allowed to complete his term, ousted in 2012 over contempt of court charges, and was replaced by Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The 2013 elections represented Pakistan's first ever democratic transfer of power. Nawaz Sharif, who went into exile after the 1999 coup but returned to the country in 2007, won the contest in his most stunning comeback yet, becoming prime minister for the third time.

Nawaz vs a 'silent coup

Sharif again clashed with the military, this time over his efforts to seek better relations with arch-rival India. He was ousted by the Supreme Court following a corruption investigation in 2017, and banned from politics for life. He denied the allegations and claimed he was being targeted by the military. An election is called for July 25. Sharif is sentenced to 10 years in prison for corruption and later arrested. It is widely believed that Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, will benefit from the turmoil and may have links to the army. Media, activists and analysts decry pressure from security institutions, "unabashed" pre-poll rigging, and even a "silent coup". The military denies the claims. (Photo Credit: AFP)