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Politics & Policy
The timely move

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The timely move
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Amjad Rafi

All political parties unanimously welcome the action

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
Oct 18 - 24, 1999

Army's move to step in and dismiss Nawaz Sharif's government was not unexpected in view of what was happening in the country during the last few weeks. The thoroughly unjustified and most stupid action, to say the least, of Nawaz Sharif earlier during the day only prompted it.

On Tuesday afternoon the Prime Minister ordered premature retirement of Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Pervez Musharraf and appointed ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ziauddin, as new commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army. The change came as a shock and surprised everybody as only two weeks back the dual charge of Gen. Musharraf as Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee was confirmed by the Prime Minister. The orders came at a time when the General was on his way back home for an official visit of Sri Lanka. The PIA commercial flight in which he was travelling was not allowed to land in Karachi and was asked to land anywhere outside Pakistan. The Civil Aviation Authority at Karachi airport did not listen to the pilots plea that he was running short of fuel. The Army, however, thwarted the move and the plane finally landed at Karachi. Almost simultaneously the Army units cardoned off the PM House, Governors and Chief Minister Houses in the Punjab capital taking all of them under protective custody.

In a brief address to the nation on TV and Radio in the small hours of Wednesday Gen. Musharraf held the deposed government responsible for destroying the institutions, bringing the economy to the state of collapse and pursuing self-serving policies rocking the very foundation of the federation of Pakistan. The armed forces, he said, faced public glamour to remedy the situation and when he conveyed these concerns to the Prime Minister, instead of taking any remedial measure, he started a systematic campaign to politicize and destabilize the army and to create dissension within its ranks on ethnic and parochial basis. The General did not spell out his future plan in his brief address.

After marathon meetings spread over 50 hours and detailed discussion on various options available then their likely repercussions it was announced late on Thursday night that Chief of the Army Staff has decided to assume power as Chief Executive of the country. Putting Pakistan under Army by imposing emergency, the Chairman Joint Chiefs of the Staff Committee and Chief of the Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf assumed the office of the Chief Executive with sweeping powers, keeping the Constitution in abeyance and suspending the country's legislature at all level. The state will now be run under the provincial constitution order (PCO) which inter alia, lays down that the action taken by the Chief of the Army Staff, the Executive of the country or by any authorized person / agency cannot be challenged in any court of law.

All opposition parties have unanimously upheld the decision of the Army Chief about dismissing Nawaz Sharif's government on the grounds that it was the only way out under the prevailing law and order situation and the economic chaos. That was plainly visible to the common man, struggling with a fast eroding income. They cite the silence of the masses and the incredible ease with which the army high command ousted a Prime Minister who had received the heaviest mandate ever in the history of the country.

The claimants of the heaviest mandate and nuclear laurels have seen the exit out of power by their own action and policies, paying the ground for the armed forces to step in to take over the country's control for the fourth time in Pakistan's history. The chronology of events taking place during the whole more than half of the Nawaz Government's tenure is typically a sorry lesson bearing tale of how a popularly and democratically leader can go berserk in pursuit of the training full authoritarian powers thereby destroying all established democratic institutions by acting on personal whims, likes and dislikes making the government and the state a family affair. First of all he used his heavy parliamentary mandate to strip the president of all his powers and cleared the first main hurdle in his way. His second act was to launch a frontal assault on the judiciary by manipulating or at least encouraging the attack on the Supreme Court building by his partymen which ultimately led to the removal of the then Chief Justice thus getting a free hand Nawaz Sharif went on trampling and rampaging the authority of all other democratic institutions. In his public pronouncements, he continued to promise people to eliminate corruption, bring back country's looted wealth, recover loans from the defaulters, conduct impartial accountability of all, bring justice to people's door step, strengthening the country's economy by breaking the 'begging bowl' and attaining self reliance. In actual fact, however, as a result of a partisan and narrow approach, thoughtless policies, high government spending and mismanagement, the economy reached near collapse, industrialization came to a grinding halt, export went down, employment soared to a record high driving the people to unbearable financial crises and forcing many to commit suicide, corruption and favouritism continued to flourish. Sectarian violence and terrorism led to law and order situation making the lives of citizens insecure. Repeated attempts were made to coerce the journalists and press who pinpointed the flaws and mistakes in governance, vengeance against every dissenting voice became the rule of the day.

The international community has generally expressed much concern over the army intervention. Unfortunately our experience with democracy especially in the past about ten years has been a very sad one the circumstances compelled that a special and concentrated effort be made to address the outstanding problems facing the country without which Pakistan cannot move forward. The loopholes and lacunae in the democratic system leading to its failure in Pakistan must be removed before embarking on democratic rail again.