1968 movement in Pakistan Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_movement_in_Pakistan

1968-69 Movement in Pakistan
Part of Protests of 1968
Dominion of Pakistan & Indian Controlled Kashmir (orthographic projection).svg
Date7 November 1968 – 23 March 1969
(4 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)
Pakistan, including East Pakistan (current-day Bangladesh)
Caused byIndo-Pakistani War of 1965, Inequality
MethodsOccupations, wildcat strikes, general strikes
Resulted in
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Non-centralized leadership
Dr Rasheed Hassan Khan
Miraj Muhammad Khan
Ayub Khan
(President of Pakistan)
Casualties and losses
Deaths: 239

The 1968 Movement in Pakistan was part of the protest against the dictatorial regime of Ayub Khan. It took the form of a mass uprising of students and workers, attracting people from every profession. The uprising took place from early November 1968, to the end of March 1969, around 10 to 15 million people were involved.[1] The movement resulted in the regime of Ayub Khan being brought down.[2][3]


Since the nation's birth in 1947, Pakistan had been governed though bureaucracy. In 1958, the army seized power through a coup led by Ayub Khan. Under his rule, the country's economy grew at an average yearly rate of more than 5%.[4] However, due to income inequality, Pakistan became a country with extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Ayub Khan's policies nourished the capitalist class, whose fortunes amassed, but it oppressed ordinary people with increasing material poverty, as well as intellectual poverty due to rigorous political and cultural censorship.[5] On April 21, 1968, Dr. Mahbub ul Haq, the then Chief Economist of the Planning Commission, identified Pakistan's 22 richest families that controlled 66 percent of the industries and owned 87 percent shares in the country's banking and insurance industry.[6] Similarly, the Ayub regime implemented its own version of land reforms, under which a limit was imposed upon land holding. However, it failed miserably, and over 6,000 landowners exceeded his defined ceilings, owning 7.5 million acres of land.[7] The average income in West Pakistan was a mere £35 per year; in East Pakistan, the figure was lower at £15.[4] In 1965, presidential elections were held. These elections were not based upon adult franchise but on basic democracy. A few thousand so-called elected representatives of local bodies had to elect the president. There were wide speculations of election interference which also led to the opposition's protest.[8] That same year, Pakistan went to war with India. The costs of the war put an end to economic growth and saw massive increase in defence spending. Private investment growth in Pakistan saw 20% decline in the following years.[9]

Movement '68[edit]

In the early months of 1968, Ayub Khan celebrated what was called the "Decade of Development", outraged citizens erupted into agitations. In response to the "Decade of Development" in early week of October 1968 the National Students Federation (associated with the Maoists faction of the Communist Party of West Pakistan started demands weeks and started a protest campaign to expose the so called "development". Demands week started on 7 October 1968 and the first demonstration took place in front of board of secondary education,Karachi. The movement spread across the country when later in November a group of students from Rawalpindi were heading back from Landi Kotal, and were stopped at customs checkpoints near Attock. They were aggressively met by customs officials. On returning to Rawalpindi, they staged a protest against their mishandling by police as result of their experience. Protests grew to a sizeable amount, resulting in the police trying to dismantle the protests and shots being fired.[10] A student of Rawalpindi Polytechnic College, Abdul Hameed, was shot dead. Already, outraged citizens were protesting against a rise in the price of sugar; the death of Hameed sparked the whole society and workers to join.[11] Prominent writer Tariq Ali narrates incident in following words;

Without any physical provocation the police, who were fully armed with rifles, batons, and tear-gas bombs, opened fire. One bullet hit Abdul Hamid, a first-year student aged seventeen, who died on the spot. Enraged, the students fought back with bricks and paving stones, and there were casualties on both sides.[12]

In February and March 1968, a wave of strikes occurred in the country. On February 13, for the first time in ten years, the red flag was hauled up in Lahore, as more than 25,000 rail workers marched along the main street chanting: "Solidarity with the Chinese people: Destroy capitalism." However, there was no mass Marxist party to provide leadership.[4] In the industrial district of Faisalabad, the district administration had to seek the permission of a local labor leader named Mukhtar Rana for the supply of goods through trucks. All censorship failed. Trains were carrying the revolutionary messages across the country. Workers invented new methods of communication. It was the industrialisation, exploitation, and oppression widening the gulf between rich and poor which brought this change.[11] In an interview for the book, Pakistan's Other Story-The 1968–69 Revolution, Munnu Bhai revealed some anecdotes of the upsurge. "At a public meeting in Ichra, Lahore, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Maulana Maudoodi held a piece of bread in his one hand and the Holy Koran in the other. He asked the crowd, 'Do you want roti (bread) or the Koran?' The people had replied, 'We have the Koran in our homes, but we don't have bread.' "[13] According to the telegraphic narration of the events of those days in Mubashar Hasan's book, The crises of Pakistan and their solution.

"In this movement, a total of 239 people were killed, 196 in East Pakistan and 43 in West Pakistan. According to details police firing killed 41 in West Pakistan and 88 in East Pakistan. Most of them were students. In East Pakistan, they included Asad, Matiur, Anwar, Rostom, Dr. Shamsuzzoha and Sergeant Zahrul Huq".[14]

By early 1969, the movement was joined by peasant committees and organisations in the country's rural areas. In March 1969, a group of senior military men advised Ayub to step down, fearing the eruption of a full-scale civil war in East Pakistan and the political and social anarchy in the country's west wing.[15] Even Ayub Khan conceded how the movement had paralysed the functioning of the state and society.

"The civilian labor force in Karachi dockyards had struck and stopped work. No loading or unloading of ships was being done. In one case a ship went back empty as it could not be loaded with cotton. Bhashani has been in Karachi and elsewhere spreading disaffection. Expectations were that the situation was likely to deteriorate".[16]


On the 25th of March, Ayub Khan resigned as President of Pakistan and announced he was turning over the government of the nation to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Yahya Khan.[17] Two days later, he highlighted reasons for his resignation in letter to General Yahya Khan in the following words;

I am left with no option but to step aside and leave it to the Defence Forces of Pakistan, which today represent the only effective and legal instrument, to take full control of the country. They are by the grace of God in a position to retrieve the situation and to save the country from utter chaos and total destruction. They alone can restore sanity and put the country back on the road to progress in a civil and constitutional manner.[18]

The Police Service of Pakistan was unable to control the situation and the law and order situation began to worsen in the country, especially in the East where the serious uprising and riots were quelled in 1969. It became so serious that at one point, Home and Defence Minister Vice-Admiral Rahman told the journalists that the "country was under the mob rule and that police were not strong enough to tackle the situation.[19]" In the 1970 Pakistani general election, the AL won 98 percent of the allotted national and provincial assembly seats in East Pakistan, whereas in West Pakistan, the PPP swept the polls in the region's two largest provinces, Punjab and Sindh. NAP performed well in the former NWFP and Balochistan. Most of the "status quo parties" (such as the many Muslim League factions) and most religious outfits (except Jamiat Ulema Islam) were decimated.[20]


  1. ^ Ali, Tariq (2008). The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-6102-6.
  2. ^ Authors, Dawn Books And (2012-08-18). "REVIEW: Pakistan's Other Story: The Revolution of 1968–1969 by Lal Khan". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  3. ^ "پاکستان کی اصل کہانی". The Struggle | طبقاتی جدوجہد. Archived from the original on 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  4. ^ a b c Woods, Alan. "Pakistan's Other Story: 1. Introduction". www.marxist.com. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  5. ^ Bellingham, Justen. "The 1968-9 Pakistan Revolution: a students' and workers' popular uprising". marxistleftreview.org. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  6. ^ Hussain, Dilawar (2007-12-09). "People who own greatest amount of wealth". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  7. ^ Haider, Murtaza (2016-11-01). "What they never tell us about Ayub Khan's regime". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  8. ^ "Presidential Election | Elections were held on January 2, 1965". Story Of Pakistan. 2013-10-25. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  9. ^ "The flipside of the 1965 war". www.pakistantoday.com.pk. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  10. ^ "Tribal tales ‹ The Friday Times". www.thefridaytimes.com. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  11. ^ a b Pakistan Labor Party, Party (19 September 2005). "Past, Present and Future of Left Movement in Pakistan". Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières.
  12. ^ Ali, Tariq (1970). Pakistan: Military Rule or People's Power. William Morrow and Company. ISBN 978-0-224-61864-9.
  13. ^ "Munnoo Bhai — a friend and comrade". Daily Lead Pakistan. 2018-01-22. Archived from the original on 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  14. ^ Khan, Lal. "Pakistan's Other Story: 6. Witness to Revolution – Veterans of the 1968–69 upheaval". www.marxist.com. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  15. ^ InpaperMagazine, From (2014-08-31). "Exit stage left: the movement against Ayub Khan". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  16. ^ Khan, Ayub (2008). Diaries of Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, 1966–1972. Oxford. pp. Sunday, 9 March 1969 p.305.
  17. ^ UPI (25 March 1969). "President of Pakistan Out, Army Chief In". Desert Sun. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  18. ^ "ARCHIVES:". pakistanspace.tripod.com. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  19. ^ Siddiqui, Kalim (1972). Conflict, Crisis and War in Pakistan. Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  20. ^ InpaperMagazine, From (2012-01-08). "1970 polls: When election results created a storm". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2018-08-31.