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|Removal of Nawaz Sharif by Musharraf||| Print ||
Political AnalysisThe Pakistani armed forces took control of the key governmental institutions and the public institutions on Tuesday 12 October 1999, and dismissed the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This was only two hours after Nawaz Sharif had announced the dismissal of Chief of Staff, General Parvaiz Musharraf while he was on an official mission in Sri Lanka. Incidentally, it was only a week before the coup d’état took place that Nawaz Sharif himself had extended General Musharraf’s term as Chief of Staff until 6 October 2001. Musharraf emerged early on the following day with a pre-recorded message to announce to the masses in Pakistan the causes that led to undertaking that measure. He accused the Prime Minister of leading the country to a political, economic and security abyss and of attempting to fragment and politicise the military institution in order to satisfy his hunger for power.
The observers of the situation in Pakistan did not rule out a change in the authority, because the demonstrations organised by the Pakistani opposition parties had been consistent. The opposition, which included 19 parties, had one single agenda, that is to topple the government by exploiting the spirit of resentment felt by the masses in the wake of the Washington Declaration between the American president Bill Clinton and the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on June 1999, pertaining to the withdrawal of the Kashmiri fighters from the Indian side of Kashmir.
Furthermore, the American statement issued on 22 September 1999, which warns against thinking about toppling the elected government, and which calls for the concept of peaceful succession to power to be firmly instilled, gave a clear indication that the days of Nawaz Sharif in power had become numbered.
Pakistan is accustomed to witnessing the armed forces taking a firm grip of the ruling institutions. The army ruled Pakistan for about 25 years since her independence in 1947. This was since the days of General Ayyub Khan (1958-1969). He was then followed by General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, who was the Chief of Staff at the time and who yielded the reins of power in 1971 after the loss of East Pakistan (Bangladesh). After a short civilian spell, General Zia-ul-Haqq seized power in 1977, executed Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and declared martial law until 1985.
The bloodless coup staged on 12 October 1999 did not occasion any shift in the allegiances of Pakistan from one major power to another, and it seems that the army did not initially plan to directly seize power. They had rather attempted to remove Nawaz Sharif by forcing him to resign and then bring in a civilian government from among a host of technocrats, who would be approved by parliament. When they failed to do so, they declared the dissolution of parliament and dismissed all the rulers of the provinces, thus assuming the reins of powers directly. This scenario is strengthened by the confusion that the leaders of the coup displayed in their political performance and by the delay in issuing the first communiqué. It was also strengthened further by the statement made by the United States’ State Department spokesman, James Rubin, on the first day of the coup, in which he said that the United States was not sure about a coup taking place and that in case this happened, she would hope that democracy is restored as soon as possible.
The American president stated, “We do not wish to see the military leaders remove elected governments by force and we have made this clear to the Pakistani leaders.”
The question that springs to mind is: “If Pakistan were under the American influence, why this change of rulers?” In order to answer this question, we ought to perceive the international, regional and Pakistani local conditions that surround this event.
The main reason for the success of Vajpayee over Gandhi was because his coalition was presented as a victor in the war and capable of vanquishing the enemy. The battle of Cargill washed away the negative effects caused by the feuds between the coalition of Vajpayee during its first term of office.
Hence, the Kashmir crisis and the humiliating retreat from Cargill paved the way for the return of Vajpayee to rule India. This has however destroyed Nawaz Sharif among the Pakistani masses and among the armed forces. It was therefore necessary to bring in a strong substitute, capable of holding negotiations with India pertaining to the issue of Kashmir. This is effectively what Parvaiz Musharraf has promised.
As for the other regional crisis related to Pakistan, it is the issue of Afghanistan. Having backed the Taleban movement through Pakistan and Saudi, which enabled the Taleban to dominate 90% of Afghan lands, America wants to end the status of this movement which is not internationally recognised, in order to allow Afghanistan to regain the status of a politically stable country according to the international laws and conventions.
In order to achieve this, this movement must be internationally challenged through the United Nations and the Security Council. Hence, a host of resolutions were issued, condemning and threatening economic sanctions if Taleban failed to comply with the will of the international community. It is also necessary to pressurise the Taleban movement regionally and a military rule in Pakistan would be ideal for such a task. The pressure would be applied by preventing supplies from reaching Taleban via Pakistan and by preventing the Pakistani parties from supporting and embracing this movement.
America has attempted to topple Nawaz Sharif by destroying him in the eyes of the masses through forcing him to withdraw the military forces from Cargill and then inciting the masses and the political parties against him. However, Nawaz Sharif continued to cling to power and this forced the United States to remove him by a military coup, backed by a broad popular support. Furthermore, Nawaz Sharif failed to comply with the resolutions of the IMF, which stipulated tax increases and the privatisation of the public sector in order to repay the loans with the raised capital. The resolutions also stipulated that prices should be floated and that 220 billion rupees should be recuperated from influential personalities who defaulted in their repayments and returned to the banks. Due to his dictatorial attitude, Nawaz Sharif has squandered the state’s funds in buying people’s loyalty, especially in the media circles.
All these practices of Nawaz Sharif have made the government incapable of undertaking the future role expected of Pakistan, be it with regard to the Kashmir and the Afghan issues or in the region of Central and East Asia in general.
The Media Forum of Hizb ut-Tahrir
29 October 1999