Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unlike in the Past, Army in Pakistan Restrains Itself A General Wins Kudos for a Commitment to Democracy and His Refusal to Use the Military to Settle a Recent Political Crisis

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unlike in the Past, Army in Pakistan Restrains Itself A General Wins Kudos for a Commitment to Democracy and His Refusal to Use the Military to Settle a Recent Political Crisis

Article excerpt

Even in the low-key style of his morning drive to headquarters, it is obvious that Pakistan's Army chief, Gen. Jehangir Karamat, is determined to break from old traditions. Unlike with many of his predecessors, the general has no blaring sirens to clear his way. There's hardly a motorcade that would catch the attention of other drivers - only the general's black Mercedes and a second escort car.

General Karamat has not only earned praise for cutting down on pomp and festivity. He has also developed a reputation for being strongly committed to democracy and, with one eye on Western donors helping to restore the country's grim economy, he has shown a resolve to keep the military out of politics.

For the country's young democracy, those qualities came to the fore last month when Karamat refused to be drawn into a political crisis among Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former President Farooq Leghari, and the former Supreme Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. The Supreme Court under Mr. Shah was aggressively pursuing a contempt of court charge against Mr. Sharif. If found guilty, Sharif would have been disqualified as a member of parliament and dismissed from his job. When the Supreme Court building was ransacked by angry workers belonging to the ruling political party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), Karamat refused a request from Shah and Mr. Leghari to give military protection. In an unprecedented event, President Leghari quit while Shah went home on a "long leave" until his retirement, due in February. Usually prime ministers and parliaments are sacked when they quarrel with the president. In the past 10 years, four elected prime ministers have been thrown out of office without completing their terms, simply because they have fought with the president of the day. "General Karamat played an honorable role when he refused to send the military," says a senior Western diplomat in Islamabad, who asked not to be identified. …

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