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The unending tussle.

* The restoration of National Assembly started a constitutional civil war.

* Political analysts are predicting that there is no option left with the ruling party except to hold the elections.

* Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is fighting a battle of survival.

Immediately after the reconciliation Assembly Session, on May 31, 1993 two provincial assemblies namely NWFP and the Punjab Assembly were dissolved. According to one source the conciliatory session was forced upon the two leaders. It is reported that the army was losing its patience and both the leaders were warned that the current political crisis had brought about a paralysis of the official machinery. It was recommended that the politicians must mend fences, forget the past and to put their act together if they were interested in protecting the democratic system.

Political analysts are predicting that there is no option left with the ruling party except to hold the elections. Both the leaders Mr. Nawaz Sharif and Ms. Bhutto had formed teams of negotiations. The PDA's conditions appears to be quite difficult like the holding of general elections, the formation of national government, undoing of the Eighth Amendment in toto, reinstatement of dismissed government employees and appointment of a new chief election commissioner.

It is not known what issues the government wants to bring on the agenda for talks. But it is believed that it may ask for the opposition's cooperation against President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, which may not be easily forthcoming, as the PPP is a staunch ally of the President now.

It is reported that the PPP committee will insist on the reinstatement of thousands of employees, recruited by the Placement Bureau during Ms. Bhutto's tenure, who were dismissed in 1990. According to a report, they are nearly 26,000, of them mostly PPP workers who had greatly suffered during the longest martial law period in Pakistan's history.

Another demand which Ms. Bhutto has frequently highlighted was that a new chief election commissioner should be appointed to supervise the elections in consultation with the leader of the opposition. The government and the opposition both stand to dismantle the Eighth Amendment except that the latter also wants to repeal provisions relating to the Federal Shariat Court while the former wants to retain them for fear of backlash from the religious lobby.

There is yet another snag. The reconciliation of the Prime Minister with the President appears to be difficult. Although the President had no reservation in respecting the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan about the restoration of the National Assembly, he appears to be reluctant to accept a prime minister and his cabinet who were allegedly undermining the constitutional role of the head of the state. The considered opinion of the president's lobby, obviously provoked him and he concluded that the disobedient prime minister and his cabinet was hatching a conspiracy against him. The president was also given an impression that if he failed to control the situation, he would be remembered in history as another Ghulam Muhammad.

In a bid to thrash out differences the IJI government started negotiations with the opposition leaders. But these were not successful as it was considered that PM was trying to gain time. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is fighting a battle of survival with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The restoration of the National Assembly started a constitutional civil war. Nawaz Sharif after securing the Supreme Court judgement was emboldened and thought of the impeachment of the President. Two Provincial Assemblies have already been dissolved. The President is still the supreme commander and has not yet sought retirement. The Punjab Assembly which is bastion of power of the Prime Minister is not with him. Balochistan Assembly has already gone out of his hands. The Advocate Generals of Punjab, Sindh and NWFP had sought permission to put up their cases against Mian Nawaz Sharif in the Supreme Court.

There is no federal government beyond Islamabad's Zero Point, provincial governments are on their own not willing to accord even the barest protocol to the Prime Minister. Under the circumstances there is extreme uncertainty. According to one political observer: "The receding months for the nation have been full of shocks, surprises, conspiracies and turmoil which plunged the people in a cesspool of despair". Political observers felt that Nawaz Sharif lost the political advantage he had gained with the Supreme Court judgement when he began fighting on all fronts. He was already pitted against the President as well as the joint opposition and with straining of relations with the army he was left with very little room to manoeuvre.

There is also a talk of emergency. The President may issue a proclamation of emergency on three accounts. This can be on account of war or external aggression or by internal disturbance beyond the power of a Provincial government to control. The President may also issue a proclamation in case of failure of the constitutional machinery in a province. And a proclamation of emergency may also be issued if the President is satisfied that a situation has arisen whereby economic life, financial stability or credit of Pakistan is threatened.

As the present situation prevails in the country Clause 8 of Article 232 or Clause 4 of Article 234, as the case may be, shall apply in case of Emergency is enforced in the country. That means if emergency is enforced under Article 232, it shall be enforced for a period of 4 months initially which may be extended by prior approval of the Senate. In case emergency is enforced under Article 234, that means in a particular province, it shall be initially for 3 months but, if a general election to the National Assembly is not held before the expiration of 3 months, it shall cease to be in force at the expiration of that period unless it has earlier been approved by a resolution of the Senate.

What Punjab is now facing is the brink of a civil war. The constitutional prerogatives of the Governor and the Chief Minister have been challenged. Some portions of the constitution have been suspended. As of this writing a constitutional civil war is raising its head like catastrophe.

The Governor has been charged with fabricating documents. The Secretary of the Assembly has been kidnapped. The Punjab government has been openly saying that he has been hidden in the house of one of the VVIPs. Fearing a police raid Punjab police has been removed from the Lahore residences of the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister etc.

Against the provisions of the Blue Book Federal Rangers have taken up guard duties, just in case what happens if the Punjab police raids these homes to search the Secretary on whose testimony the whole case seems to hinge. There would be blood bath - "civil war" feared by the Punjab Governor and the Chief Minister. What if the opposition i.e. PML (Nawaz group) in the Punjab Assembly is arrested?

About the question of the violation of 'Fundamental Rights', the sources said the court had entertained the case in a logical way. The violation of 'Fundamental Rights' should not be ignored by the competent authority while dissolving an institution that represented the people of the country. However, the sources claimed, the president was bound to monitor the political, social and economic conditions of the country. There was a change of guard in the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. General Javed Nasir was replaced by Lt. General Javed Ashraf. The change at the ISI is significant. It may be recalled that not just the Americans but several friendly Arab countries had discreetly complained about Nasir's activities.

The appointment of a moderate, non-ideological general to the post of Director General, ISI, sent a salutary signal both at home and abroad. Having been head of Military Intelligence (MI) during 1991-92 Lt. General Ashraf brings with him experience to his new job. Reputed to be 'nonpolitical', Ashraf will hopefully extricate the ISI from domestic political affairs. With his political neutrality well-established during his one year as director of MI, the army seemed to be saying by his selection that it disapproved of any domestic political role for the agency.

Internationally, the change was well received. As one western diplomat put it: "This represents the most serious and credible step taken by Pakistan recently to counter the terrorism charge. "The high point of American pressure came at the end of last year, when the outgoing Bush Administration placed Pakistan on a "watchlist" of states suspected of sponsoring terrorism.

Effectively this meant that Pakistan was given 130 days to prove its innocence or face the multiple repercussions provided under US legislation. These of course go much beyond the effects of the Pressler Amendment, under which all bilateral aid to Pakistan is suspended. The terrorism laws involve an American commitment to intercede with multilateral donor agencies and also other G-7 countries to stop them from any interaction with Pakistan.

Terrorist State

The charge against Pakistan to be declared as a terrorist state is that Pakistan has attained nuclear supremacy and it can also deliver the atomic bomb. Another charge is the Islamic fundamentalism. Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali in a press conference charged Nawaz Sharif after leaving the post of minister that he was helping unnamed extremist Islamic organisations (comprised mostly of non-Pakistani personnel) which were using Pakistan as a base for terrorist activities in other countries, Assef Ali revealed that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Prime Minister had made specific complaints.

Much credence could be attributed to Assef Ali's assertion that the "sheltering" of terrorists had led to Pakistan's isolation from a large chunk of the international community. As Minister of State for Economic Affairs, he could presumably speak with authority on the perceptions which the Western and Arab countries, mostly major donors of assistance had of Pakistan.

In fact, Assef Ali ran through the entire compendium of international problems facing the country. Well, almost all. International concerns about Pakistan's nuclear programme and worldwide incomprehension about the size of its defence spending the two sacred cows of national policy were not touched upon, but it was still quite a list.

Russia, which had at one stage promised a treaty of friendship and cooperation and endorsement of Pakistan's stand on Kashmir, had back-tracked from both when Pakistan failed to deliver on its end of the bargain and secure the release of a mere five ex-Soviet prisoners of the Afghan war.

As can be made out from his dissertations on the terrorism angle, Assef Ali's statement interconnected the international and domestic problems the country was facing matters like the role being played by Islamic courts in the country, the failure to protect women's rights, the impact on the minorities of the blasphemy laws and the country's human rights record might be taken as strictly pertaining to the internal sphere. Yet, they have their transnational dimensions as most donor-countries have asked Pakistan to clear up its record on these matters. These internal conditions were not only negative perse but also formed the elements which contributed to the prevailing image of Pakistan as a medievalist country quite enamoured of Islamic militancy.
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Title Annotation:Industrial Pakistan-1993; Pakistan's political future
Author:Haidari, Iqbal
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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