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1 March 2016

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Bhutto lifted martial law within several months, and after an “interim constitution” granting him broad powers as president, a new constitution was promulgated in April 1973 and came into effect on August 14 of that year, the twenty-sixth anniversary of the country’s independence. This constitution represented a consensus on three issues: the role of Islam; the sharing of power between the federal government and the provinces; and the division of responsibility between the president and the prime minister, with a greatly strengthened position for the latter. Bhutto stepped down as president and became prime minister. In order to allay fears of the smaller provinces concerning domination by Punjab, the constitution established a bicameral legislature with a Senate, providing equal provincial representation, and a National Assembly, allocating seats according to population.

Islam was declared the state religion of Pakistan. Bhutto had the opportunity to resolve many of Pakistan’s political problems. But although the country finally seemed to be on a democratic course, Bhutto lost this opportunity because of series of repressive actions against the political opposition that made it appear he was working to establish a one-party state. In a final step, he suddenly called national elections in March 1977, hoping to catch the opposition unprepared and give his party total control of the National Assembly. When Bhutto’s party overwhelmingly won the election, the opposition charged voting irregularities and launched mass disturbances requiring action by the army to restore law and order. Bhutto was ousted by the military, which again took control.

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