SPREADING lawlessness is rattling the government of Pakistan
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Only a few weeks ago, Mr. Sharif, an industrialist better known
for his political contacts than finesse, seemed to step into his own
after a bumpy six-month initiation to power. He survived turmoil
over his support for the US-dominated coalition during the Gulf war.
The threat from the military eased with the announced retirement
of Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg. Despite a US aid cutoff, Sharif
impressed foreign investors and donors with ambitious plans to
restructure Pakistan's floundering economy.
But now Sharif grapples with a wave of crime and terrorism which
has killed hundreds of people through bomb blasts, train crashes,
kidnappings, and murders.
In a controversial move, Sharif pushed through a constitutional
amendment in July to handle cases in high-crime areas. The new law
suspends supreme court jurisdiction and establishes special
"terrorist courts" in terrorism-affected areas.
But to placate critics, the amendment stopped short of giving
police emergency arrest and detention powers.
Several gruesome massacres have shaken Punjab, for years a refuge
in Pakistan's long history of violence. Troubled Sindh province has
plunged deeper into ethnic and political turmoil and threatens to
undermine Sharif as it did his predecessor, former Prime Minister
A dispute over whether the military should be able to arrest,
try, and convict offenders eventually led to Mrs. Bhutto's dismissal
in early August.
"Nawaz is most vulnerable on Sindh," says a Western diplomat.
"This is the area of most concern for the military."
"This law--and- order situation has to be brought under control,"
says a minister in Sharif's government, "especially in Punjab, which
is the heart of Pakistan."
Unnerved by the disarray, Sharif has cried conspiracy by Indian
and Afghan intelligence services, and in late June he called for
tighter border security. Earlier in the summer, he canceled a trip
to Japan during which he had hoped to win crucial investment and
The government has tightened law enforcement, including ordering
the arrest of all members of Al-Zulfikar, a militant organization
linked to the family of Benazir Bhutto and her party, the Pakistan
People's Party (PPP). Bhutto denies her party is involved with the
The crackdown comes as the situation in Sindh has become acute,
Pakistani analysts say. Since the murder in mid-June of a judge
trying Bhutto's husband and several top leaders of her party, the
Sindh provincial government has blamed the PPP for the violence and
arrested hundreds of its supporters. …