No, former PM I.I. Chundrigar was not ousted through a no-confidence vote

Published March 9, 2022
An issue of Dawn newspaper dated December 12, 1952.
An issue of Dawn newspaper dated December 12, 1952.

With Prime Minister Imran Khan facing a no-trust move against him by the opposition, the question arises whether such a move has ever succeeded against a premier in Pakistan's history.

Former prime ministers Shaukat Aziz and Benazir Bhutto had managed to defeat similar attempts in the past while several sources on the internet and social media are suggesting that I.I. Chundrigar was removed as the prime minister of Pakistan through a no-trust motion in 1957.

However, the fact is that no prime minister has been ousted from office as a result of a successful no-confidence motion and Mr Chundrigar resigned from office after developing serious differences with a key coalition partner over the issue of separate electorates.

Dawn.com dived into its archives and dug out copies of Dawn newspaper from December 1957 to get a clear picture of how Mr Chundrigar left office in 1957.

Ismail Ibrahim Chundrigar, leader of the Muslim League parliamentary party in the National Assembly, was asked by then-president Maj-Gen Iskander Mirza to form a new cabinet on October 18, 1957, following the resignation of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy as prime minister.

However, less than two months later, Mr Chundrigar submitted his resignation on the night between Dec 11 and Dec 12, which was accepted on Dec 16.

In his resignation letter to the president, which was published in the Dec 12, 1957, edition of Dawn, Chundrigar wrote, "I was called for consultations by you to help in the formation of Government. In the beginning I declined to form a coalition with the Republican Party as there was basic difference between the Muslim League Party and the Republican Party on the issue of the system of electorate ...

"As you are aware, this coalition was formed on the basis of agreement on three conditions, one of which was that separate electorates will be substituted for joint electorate," he wrote, noting that the election programme was also revised after the agreement and the cabinet approved a bill substituting separate electorates for joint electorates in the Electoral Act.

However, "the resolution passed by the Republican Party in favour of joint electorate amounts to breach of the agreement and the solemn promise given by them at the time of formation of the Government. As they have resiled from their promise, and as the basic agreement on which the coalition was formed has been broken by the Republican Party, my party can no longer continue in coalition with the Republican Party.

"I, therefore, tender my resignation from the office of the Prime Ministership, and that of my Cabinet."

Chundrigar's resignation is also mentioned in volume one of M. Rafique Afzal's book – Political Parties in Pakistan 1947-1958 – in which the author wrote, "... The Muslim League declined to accept their (Republican Party's) support at such a price; and the coalition ministry resigned."

The development is also mentioned in Mushtaq Ahmad's Government and Politics in Pakistan.

President Mirza then prorogued the parliamentary session after Chundrigar's resignation, giving him 36 hours to form a new cabinet that would assume office. However, Chundrigar was unable to form a new cabinet within that time. His resignation was accepted later that week after which Malik Firoz Khan Noon became the new prime minister.

In a statement at the time, Chundrigar called on the president to choose someone else, "who, in his opinion, was most likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly, to form the Government".

A report published in Dawn's Dec 15, 1957, edition says:

"The outgoing government of I.I. Chundrigar had assumed office on the basis of an agreement between the Muslim League, the Republican, the KSP and the Nizam-i-Islam parties that separate electorates would be introduced in both the wings [East and West Pakistan]. The Government resigned because the Republican Party resiled from the agreement."

Dawn newspapers of the time carried statements by politicians praising Chundrigar for his stance. Deputy leader of the Muslim League in what was then West Pakistan, in a statement, praised Chundrigar for "being the first prime minister to have left office to safeguard principles of the party and uphold the ideology of Pakistan".

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