Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Remedial Actions in Pakistan and Post-Election Operations in India

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Remedial Actions in Pakistan and Post-Election Operations in India

Article excerpt

Remedial Actions in Pakistan and Post-Election Operations in India

Gen. Parvez Musharraf may be finding that it's easier to take over the government of Pakistan than to run it. From the time in 1998 when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dismissed Commander-in-Chief Jehangir Karamat, the civil and military authorities had eyed each other suspiciously.

Sharif was looking for an opportunity to make another change in the military leadership, and the military had prepared a contingency plan to deal with such an eventuality. But the army had not thought through the course of action to follow after a takeover.

Nevertheless, for the fourth time the Pakistan army has begun to cleanse the debris of corruption, ineptitude and callousness left behind by elected politicians.

Western idealism notwithstanding, the turn of events in Pakistan may not have been merely the best option. It seemed to be the only option.

Sometimes ground realities do not match aerial assessments. Pakistan is a case in point. It is wiser to risk an uncomfortable corrective phase than to push the system to the brink of total chaos and open up the possibility of an uncontrollable revolutionary wave. Pakistan is still pregnant with such stark possibilities.


General Musharraf had no more than a bunch of senior army officers with him after the takeover on Oct. 12, 1999. He had to go find men and women not tainted by previous corrupt regimes to help him cleanse the system and seek to put the country back on an even keel. He set up a National Security Council consisting of civilians and military officers, with himself as the chief executive to formulate policy and run the administration. Ironically, it was such a council that Commander-in-Chief Jehangir Karamat had proposed and for which he was dismissed by former Prime Minister Sharif.

Musharraf has also created a number of sub-councils to take care of various areas of the government. All members serve at the pleasure of the chief executive. The arrangements obviously are tentative, and can change in coming weeks and months. The judiciary, however, has been left undisturbed.


Judging by his first actions, General Musharraf is responding to a public clamor for accountability and his own desire to subject Nawaz Sharif to a quick judicial trial. He has delegated to the teams he has assembled in Islamabad the tasks of finding immediate and lasting solutions to financial and economic ills.

The criminal charges against Nawaz Sharif are "hijacking Pakistan International Airways Flight 805" and "endangering the lives of over 200 passengers including General Musharraf, who was on the aircraft on Oct 12, 1999." The former prime minister is being tried under a revised anti-terrorist act which carries the death penalty for those found guilty.

Because Sharif and his family also are charged separately for defaulting on bank loans, their property has been frozen for the time being. With memories of the hanging of deposed Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the late 1970s by Gen. Zia ul-Haq, who also took power in a military coup, Sharif's criminal trial has drawn considerable internal and external interest.

Both the United States and the United Kingdom have asked for a "fair trial" and advised against capital punishment. Since Musharraf has not disrupted the old judiciary, even a quick trial at a lower level may lead to appeals to higher courts and drag on for a long period unless, of course, rules of the game are changed mid-way.

Legal experts think that the hijacking charge may not hold. But, similarly, the case against the late Prime Minister Bhutto (father of deposed Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto) was described as "weak and full of holes." Interestingly, Musharraf has granted amnesty to military officers who sided with Sharif in the early hours of Oct. 12 when the situation was unclear.

On the economic recovery front, Musharraf's military regime issued orders to all defaulters to return bank loans or make suitable arrangements with the banks by Nov. …

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