|N E W S
I N ..D E T A I L
Friday, October 9, 1998
There was no official reason given for the resignations, which followed yesterdays surprise resignation of the Army Chief of Staff, Gen Jehangir Karamat, and the appointment of Gen Pervaiz Mushraf as his successor.
General Karamats resignation came just two days after he criticised Pakistans political leadership and advocated a national security council that would give the military a constitutional role in running the country, not unlike Turkey.
The political fallout of General Karamats resignation is still uncertain. Opposition parties have accused Mr Sharif of forcing General Karamats resignation to stifle his criticism of the government.
In a strongly worded
statement that accompanied his call for a National
Security Council, General Karamat warned Pakistans
political leaders that the problems facing Pakistan were
grave, namely, a crumbling economy that was on the brink
of collapse. He said Pakistani politics had become mired
in vendettas and insecurity-driven policies.
Sharif dilutes Bill on Islamisation
ISLAMABAD, Oct 8 (PTI) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to drop some of the controversial clauses of the proposed Islamisation Bill following strong resentment from all the opposition parties, human rights groups and some of his own partymen.
The federal cabinet, which met here this morning under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, discussed in detail the controversial Bill and after dropping the objectionable clauses decided to place the diluted version of the Bill before the National Assembly, lower house of Parliament, tomorrow, the NNI news agency said quoting official sources.
The cabinet resolved to drop the proposed changes in Article 239 of the Constitution which would have empowered the government to amend the Constitution with simple majority as against by two-third majority required now for enforcing Islamic law in the country.
It was also decided to drop the clause which delegates power to the Prime Minister to take action against any state functionary for non-compliance of the directives of the government for the implementation of Shariah law in the country.
The amended Bill was later
approved by the parliamentary party meeting of the
Pakistan Muslim League also and it was learnt that the
government intends to put the bill for vote in the
National Assembly tomorrow.
Beleaguered Sharif wins first round
ON the face of it, the resignation of General Jehangir Karamat as Pakistan Army Chief following his controversial remarks seeking an institutionalised decision-making framework signals the supremacy of the civilian authority in Islamabad. Though a positive development for democracy, this should not be seen as the downgrading of the armed forces in Pakistan's power structure.
The army has been a major factor in controlling the destiny of Pakistan. For decades, it has been at the centre of power starting with General Ayub Khan's coup way back in 1958 and later under General Yahya Khan and General Zia-ul-Haq. Notwithstanding Pakistan's half-hearted stints with democracy, both guided and unguided, the Generals have played a decisive role in crucial matters, Kashmir included.
General Karamat, who was the chief of the Pakistan Army for nearly three years and also the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, was different from some of his predecessors. He had the reputation of being a professional soldier. Though ambitious, he was not seen as over ambitious. He was pragmatic to the core and that is why he took care to avoid a direct confrontation with the civil authorities. He was aware of the massive majority that Mr Nawaz Sharif enjoys in the National Assembly. So, he preferred to play a role behind the scenes. He treaded cautiously but was all the while anxious to retain the supremacy of the army in Pakistan's democratic dispensation.
He was not a hawk. But like most Pakistani Generals, he too felt that any concession to India on Kashmir and other related issues would lead to a decline in the prestige and standing of the armed forces. Thus the army and the ISI managed to chalk out a decisive role for themselves. Experts acknowledge that the invisible military establishment calls the shots in all critical areas of Pakistani "interests".
It is no secret that differences have often surfaced between Pakistan's civil authorities and the military establishment on the conduct of foreign relations. Mr Nawaz Sharif and General Jehangir Karamat were, however, careful not to bring these differences into public focus. General Karamat, for that matter, was aware of the changing mood in Pakistan which would not have approved of a return to military rule. That is why he always took pains not to join issue with the Nawaz Sharif government though he did assert his authority.
His controversial speech, in a way, underlines the growing frustration of the Generals with the state of Pakistan and the decisions that were taken. General Karamat apparently wanted a greater role for himself in Pakistan's decision-making mechanism and hence his demand for a National Security Council so that decision-making could be institutionalised to avoid any political instability.
General Karamat's remarks are significant not in the light of the grave economic crisis that Pakistan is faced with. It should also be seen against the backdrop of the confrontationist course among the three sets of forces one headed by Mr Nawaz Sharif and his supporters, the second symbolised by Mrs Benazir Bhutto and her collaborators and the third represented by the Islamic fundamentalist outfits which are increasingly coming under the influence of Taliban philosophy (Mr Nawaz Sharif's Islamisation move is meant to counter these fundamentalist forces).
Amidst these chaotic conditions, Pakistan is in a state of drift. Mr Nawaz Sharif undoubtedly has emerged as the supremo with the exit of General Karamat. He has replaced him with Lt-Gen Pervez Musharaf, superseding another General in the process. Lt-General Musharaf is obviously a person of his choice. But in the Pakistani system such a delicately balanced power exercise does not always work. Ambitions grow, as happened in the case of General Zia-ul-Haq, who in 1977, seized power from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Mr Nawaz Sharif has, however, won the first round. He has reasserted his authority. But the going is not likely to be easy for him because of the growing undercurrents of unrest in Pakistan. The only consolation for him right now is that he continues to enjoy popular support. But the writing on the wall is clear. Post-Chagai Pakistan is caught in a messy situation.
The nuclear explosions at Chagai did help Mr Nawaz Sharif to survive politically in the wake of India's blasts. The exit of General Karamat too, for the present, restores Mr Nawaz Sharif's political supremacy. But the basic issue of power-sharing raised by General Karamat is unlikely to die down.
The army has earlier tasted power and it will be watching from the sidelines how Mr Nawaz Sharif is able to tackle the grave economic and political issues facing Pakistan. Apart from tight-rope walking, the Prime Minister will have to show results and take Pakistan out of the mess. If he falters, the Karamat syndrome will grow and assert itself in the critical months ahead. Pakistan is, once again, on the threshold of history.
Muhammad Najeeb of India Abroad News Service adds from Islamabad:
The appointment of General Musharaf, an Urdu-speaking Punjabi, was approved by Mr Nawaz Sharif himself.
Meanwhile, General Karamat has said: "(The) comments had not been taken in the sense in which I meant, and since the issue was made controversial overnight, I asked that I be allowed to retire so that the integrity of the institution I have served for so long is not harmed:"
This is not the first time that Mr Nawaz Sharif has overcome a challenge from Pakistan's powerful politico-military establishment. Former Pakistan President Farooq Leghari, too, had tried to institutionalise the army's role in decision-and policy-making by setting up the Council for Defence and National Security to advise the Nawaz Sharif government last year. However, Mr Leghari subsequently quit.
Mr Nawaz Sharif was also
seen to have emerged with the upper hand in a
confrontation with the then Supreme Court Chief Justice,
Mr Sajjad Ali Shah.
Lt-Gen Hamid Gul (retd), felt the government should have appointed the seniormost General to the post of Army Chief.
General Aslam Beg, who now heads the Awami Qiadat Party, asked: "What would the Prime Minister do if the newly appointed Chief of the Army Staff, General Pervez Musharaf, repeats General Karamat's stance after assuming his new position?"
The main opposition
Pakistan People's Party of former Prime Minister Benazir
Bhutto has not commented on General Musharaf's
appointment. The Jamaat-e-Islami chief, Qazi Hussain
Ahmad, felt General Karamat's resignation had further
deepened the current crisis.
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