In any case, the Pakistan army had by then gone too far with its planning for Operation "Badr" in the Kargil district of J&K and was not going to allow Sharif to ruin what the Pakistan GHQ thought was a bold plan to once again seize the military and moral high ground in Kashmir. Bruised and battered into submission through a half-century of either direct military rule or the military's watchful oversight over national affairs through a proxy civilian government, the people of Pakistan appear to have resigned themselves to their fate.
Nawaz Sharif was young and inexperienced and failed to show any commitment to resolve Pakistan’s numerous problems. In April 1993, the president dismissed Nawaz Sharif and installed Balash Sher Mazari as head of an interim government. However, the Supreme Court ordered the re-instatement of Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister and ugly situation was developing when General Waheed played a positive role. “By a combination of tact, forcefulness, honour and tenacity, he convinced the President and the Prime Minister that they should stand down” and they did. Moeen Qureshi, a World Bank economists agreed to lead a caretaker administration.
In army-supervised elections, Benazir Bhutto managed to put together a working coalition and once CPEBABE again took over as Prime Minister in October 1993. This time she lasted for three years and, alter a lacklustre performance, was finally dismissed again in November 1996 by President Farooq Leghari as the nation was once again becoming ungovernable and was on the verge of financial bankruptcy. In elections held-in February 1997, Nawaz Shands Muslim League was voted to power. The new Prime Minister was determined to show the nation who was the real boss.
Among the first few major initiatives of the Nawaz Sharif government was the 18th Amendment to the Pakistan Constitution that curtailed the president’s power to dismiss an elected government. The government then politicised the issue to appoint five new- Supreme Court judges and sought to exploit the deep divisions within the judiciary. During October-November 1997, there was a standoff between the executive and the judiciary, with President Leghari openly siding with the judiciary and criticising Nawaz Sharif’s “personal dictatorship”. On 27 November 1997, unruly Pakistan Muslim League workers physically prevented a Supreme Court bench from hearing a contempt petition against the Prime minister.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister threatened to initiate impeachment proceeding against the President. The Pakistan COAS, General Jehangir Karamat, who had been watching from the sidelines with growing consternation, finally intervened to broker a truce between the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice. In an hour of constitutional crisis, the civilians had once again failed to get their act together and had to settle for military arbitration. If there was anything that emerged clearly trom this imbroglio, it was that the Pakistan COAS was undoubtedly the ultimate arbiter of power.
President Farooq Leghari resigned on 2 December 1997 following irreconcilable differences with the Prime Minister. However, Nawaz Sharif’s highhanded rule continued. The army, bureaucracy and the intelligentsia. watched from the sidelines as Nawaz Sharif continued to push through controversial legislation despite widespread objections. Sharif had accumulated so much power that his critics had begun to call him an “elected dictator’.
However, despite having gained almost unquestioned supremacy over virtually every aspect of governance in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif was unable to rein in the military.
Nawaz Sharif attempted to keep the military at bay by leaning on it for administration. The armed forces were asked to assist in collecting unpaid electricity bills, building roads and fighting crime to hold the divided country together.
They were also given the task of conducting the national census and were asked to take over and run Pakistan’s largest power company. In November 1998, civil rights were suspended and martial law was imposed in Sindh in an attempt to curb ethnic violence in Karachi. To administer swift justice, military courts were established.
A western observer described Sharif’s dependence on the military as a “coup by invitation”. Involving the army In running the administration was bound to result in its increasing politicisation due to its wooing by petty politicians and a steady deterioration of its professional military capabilities.
The COAS, General Jehangir Karamat, was well aware of the falling professional standards and low morale in the Pakistan army and as a professional himself, he wished to set things right. During a lecture at the Naval War College he advocated the setting up of a National security Council. PML ideologues interpreted his recommendation as a veiled attempt to institutionalise the role of the Pakistan army in governance and encouraged the media to make an emotive issue of it.
General Karamat’s resignation sent shock waves through the army as the Pakistan media suggested that the COAS had been asked to resign by the Prime Minister and had complied. Karamat himself has gone on record to state that he voluntarily chose to step down, as he did not wish to create an unnecessary controversy between the army and the civilian government.
He wrote to Brian Cloughley: “The speech was wrongly interpreted as a bid for power by the military and a criticism of the government… I left at my own request, to save my institution from controversial and uninformed public debate… never did the Prime Minister ask me to leave”. This appears extremely plausible because not even a Prime Minister with Nawaz Sharif’s majority in the National Assembly coil have dismissed an army Chief of Pakistan. However, the military establishment was rather upset; the feeling was that Sharif’s autocratic rule had gone too far. The Prime Minister appointed General Pervez Minister appointed General Pervez Musharraf (a Mohjir) to the post of COAS and till the Kargil conflict, Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf got along quite well. Musharraf was instrumental in establishing Special Military Courts in Karachi to try MQM workers. Also, it was during his tenure that the Pakistan army took over the Water, and Power Development Authority. At this time, Pakistan’s economy was in shambles, corruption was rampant and administration was characterised by extreme inefficiency. The rate of growth hovered between negative and one to two percent — a figure that was being derisively referred to as the “Islamic rate of growth”.
Nawaz Sharif, as was his wont, excelled in running with the hare and hunting with the hound. Even as he kow-towed to the Muslim clergy for political-gains and to the Pakistan army by approving the Kargil excursion, he made overtures to India and invited Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Lahore in February 1999.
Musharraf and the other two Service chiefs snubbed their own Prime Minister by staying deliberately away from Lahore on a flimsy excuse. Sharif himself was jess than effusive in reciprocating Vajpayee’s warm hug and friendly tone as he did not wish to be publicly seen to be endorsing a policy of friendship with India though he certainly wanted to pursue renewed ties, particularly to enhance trade in which he and his cronies had a vested interest.
With hindsight it can be clearly Stated that the bus diplomacy was deeply resented by the Pakistan army and the Islamic fundamentalists, as moves for peace with India did not suit the vested interests of either of them. In any case, the Pakistan army had by then gone too far with its planning for Operation “Badr” in the Kargil district of J&K and was not going to allow Sharif to ruin what the Pakistan GHQ thought was a bold plan to once again seize the military and moral high ground in Kashmir.
The Musharraf regime’s sole contribution so far appears to have been to institutionalise the role of the army in governance. Pakistan’s economy is surviving on external life support systems. The lot of its people has never been worse than what it is today. Bruised and battered into submission through a half-century of either direct military rule or the military’s watchful oversight over national affairs through a proxy civilian government, the people of Pakistan appear to have resigned themselves to their fate. Perhaps they are convinced that only Allah can question the military rulers who have proclaimed themselves to be above the law of the land.