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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nawaz Sharif (1990-1993) ; Perspective on Current Debate

As a result of general elections of 1990 the IJI, led by Mian Nawaz Shareef , emerged as the leading group in the National Assembly of Pakistan with 106 seats in a house of 217 and formed the government at the center with the support of Haq Parast Group (MQM), having 15 seats, JUI(F) 6, JUP(N) 3 ANP (6), PNP (2), JWP (2), PKWAP (1) and 22 independents besides the 10 minority MNAs i.e.173 in a house of 217, With The opposition PDA, having 44 MNAs. Thus the position of Mian Nawaz Shareef led coalition was the best one could imagine.

The situation in the provincial assemblies were also completely in favor of Nawaz led IJI. In Punjab IJI got massive 216 seats in a house of 240, the main opposition PDA having only 10 seats, the others being independents and minorities. In the Provincial Assembly of Sindh, IJI ally MQM (Haq Parast Group) got 28 seats, IJI 6, and independents 20.

The PDA having 46 seats, in a house of 100, there were 9 minority seats. In Sindh Jam Sadiq Ali was, easily able to form government with a comfortable majority of 63 in a house of 109, which he went on consolidating gradually by forcing defections from PDA.

In NWFP IJI got 29 seats in a house of 80, other 3 seats being for minorities, followed by ANP which bagged 22 slots and independents getting a sizeable 17 and poor PDA getting a miserable 8 seats followed by 2 for JUI((F) getting only 2 . In Province of Baluchistan, in a house of 40 + 3, JWP 9, IJI 7, JUI 6, PNP 5, PKMAP 3, BNM2, PDA only 3 and 3 minority representatives.

The IJI formed governments at the center and all the four provinces. What else could have been desired? Mian Nawaz Shareef commenced his tenure as the Prime Minister with such massive mandate, having favorable governments in all the four provinces and having announced an ambitious program of industrialization, de-nationalization of industries in the public sector, five year tax holidays for industries in rural areas and provision for speedy justice, approval of public hanging for perpetrators of kidnapping for ransom.

However, it also decided to dismiss all employees appointed by PPP government in grade 5 and above.

Against his earlier assurance, Mian Nawaz Shareef filed another reference concerning the placement Bureau. During a whirlwind tour of Sindh he announced Rs.10 billion for development schemes in Sindh and a further Rs.7-8 billion for similar schemes for Karachi.

The first year (1991) of Mian Nawaz Shareef in the top slot may not be the worst year of our times but it came close. The winds of change that swept across the world simply bypassed our borders. As dictatorships around the world gave way to democratic dispensation of various hues and colors, our own elected government looked like a disguised dictatorship. The first month of the year brought a distant war to our doorstep.

The Gulf war was fought on the street of Pakistan with a greater fervor than the one displayed by forces of Saddam Hussain during the battle. However, it was besides the point that the government had aligned itself with the US led coalition forces by sending troops and blessings etc. In Saddam Hussain people of Pakistan saw the grit and the will their own leaders so sorely lacked.

Mian Nawaz Shareef’s promise of a privatized, Islamized Pakistan remained just that, a promise, even though it took the government barely half an hour to get the 12th Constitutional amendment through the National Assembly. In the meanwhile, the privatization of few companies and a bank, created a flurry of scandals with abounding rumors of shady back door deals. Mian Nawaz Shareef remained unfazed and went on spouting his philosophy that the government should spend more time on economics than on politics, perhaps simply because he got his personal finances and that of the country muddled up.

The bank loans to Ittefaq brothers and Shujaat group made Asif Zardari look like a small time con artist. Above all 1991 were the year of unbridled avarice, the greed cut across the government, from the top elected officials to the mohalla councilors. Politics seemed to be fast replacing the drug business as means of making quick mega bucks. The horse-trading having commenced its journey in the hills of Islamabad, descended on the plains of Punjab, where the cost of a vote for Local Bodies polls went up to Rs.1000/- per vote.

In Sindh political chaos continued unchecked as Jam Sadiq Ali and his allies, perfected the art of political persecution with new connotations of the word “viciousness”.

The people of Sindh, urban and rural, were caught between increasingly professional and patronized dacoits, car snatchers, and kidnappers for ransom and equally brutal and corrupt to the core police force. It appeared that, for them, the nightmare would never to end.

Karachi paid a heavy price for a relative calm as Mian Nawaz Shareef and Jam Sadiq gave a free reign to MQM to run a state within state, who perpetrated and unleashed a terror regime on people of Karachi for extracting BHUTTA from all and sundry and used it to arm its militant wing to the teeth and developed a formidable militant machine, which in turn further emboldened them in their designs of fleecing the very electorate which gave them mandate. Elements with in it also perfected the art of car snatching, kidnappings, torture, and all other forms of moral ills.

However, this eerie calm was also broken time and again by fractious infighting’s , resulting in scores of tortured and mutilated dead bodies in gunny bags, arson and destruction of houses of dissidents etc.

On the economic front suffice it to say that it was gloomy. Dr. Mahbubul Haq , a former luminary of Pakistan’s Financial Establishment, was so concerned as to make an unscheduled trip home from USA, to discuss the impending ” TOTAL ECONOMIC COLLAPSE”, the then President GIK and MNS.

The former had spent an uncharacteristically patient three hours and was reported to be in agreement with the Dr.Mahbubul Haq that certain immediate measures were required to avert the collapse. Unlike his unwavering upbeat assessments and reassurances of the past the veteran economist was painting a dismally alarming picture. For example he said ” that of the 800 million dollars of foreign deposits in the country, nearly 550 million (dollars) have been misused by the (NAWAZ) Government itself.

“He said this misappropriation could explode into a scandal even more damaging than the co-operative societies debacle. This time around a jolt of that magnitude could prove fatal for Pakistan Economy.” It was also revealed by him that a bill was likely to be tabled in the US senate in early January 1992 to declare Pakistan a terrorist state owing to its alleged failure to keep its nuclear capabilities below lethal levels.

Officials in the ministry of Finance had admitted that the Economy of Pakistan had not improved despite the release of 324 million dollars by the IMF on December 17,1991.

They said Pakistan had foreign exchange reserves of 600 million dollars, but Pakistan was also required to pay 450 million dollars for oil imports. They said World Bank was still hesitant in releasing 500 million dollars and since no agreement was reached with Asian Development Bank for a soft loan of $ 200-300 million as such they maintained the depleted foreign exchange reserves should continue to haunt the economy for next six months of 1992.

The budget deficit had mounted to 70 to 80 billion rupees. The revenue recovery had stagnated. The inflation was a whooping 13%, resulting and increases in prices of all essential commodities.

There was obvious polarization with opposition, with the then COAS (Gulf War), Jamaat-e-Islami- a coalition partner and others, including MQM. It resulted in lot of bickering and commotion on the political scenario. In 1991 the succession of General Aslam Baig the COAS, became a high profile media event rife with lots of speculations, at times bordering on misunderstanding.

However, it was resolved through an advance announcement of the successor i.e. General Asif Nawaz, nipping the controversy in the bud.

The year 1992 also brought in its wake the legacy of 1991, i.e. the continued escalation of polarization between the government and the opposition. Political stability remained elusive. It was a year of living nervously. The government opposition confrontation degenerated into a no holds barred struggle for power in which a wary public remained aloof and alienated.

The high point of a politically charged year was opposition’s call for a “LONG MARCH” on the capital in November.

A marked deterioration in Law and Order situation in Sindh urged the government to deploy the Army to clean up the long troubled province. However, ironically, an operation that began in May, 1992 with agreement amongst the government, The President and Armed Forces soon saw this consensus dissolve into mistrust and suspicion.

The crackdown on MQM did not suit the government or the President owing to their respective utility in the game of numbers. It also distanced between the GHQ and the Presidency, owing to latter’s misgivings about the action against the MQM militancy became known publicly.

The irony with our country is that even with the holders of highest office, the paramount consideration remains their own survival in the office and/or to perpetrate their stay in such offices and in such cases the national interest is required to take a back seat.

Same happened in the case of action against urban terrorism in Sindh, despite incontrovertible evidence that MQM had virtually established a state within the state through intimidation, militancy and terrorism and the things had worsened to an extent that the Officers of the Armed Forces were also being targeted. It was also known that in its creation the MQM was an ethnic, anti-state and fascist organization and that its leadership had no love lost for its own constituents, the people of Pakistan, the State of Pakistan and its organs.

The people of Pakistan are witness to this selfish and self serving approach of the then Prime Minister and the President that in the first place they agreed that a swift surgical procedure was a must in Sindh and they ordered the Army to move in and in the second, when they saw that it is likely to hurt the Government of the former and that it was not conducive for a second term in the Presidency to loose precious odd 30 votes of MQM in the Sindh Assembly and 15 votes in the National Assembly for the later, even if the Army Operation was in the Supreme National Interest. Both the incumbents dragged their feet and virtually tied the hands of the Army behind its back.

Thus due to this selfish approach the tumor of urban terrorism in Sindh was allowed to degenerate into malignant cancer in the body politic of the State of Pakistan. The Army was left with the role of a police force doing aggressive policing, without a clear-cut mandate and requisite powers. Thus the then COAS General Asif Nawaz publicly expressed Army’s desire to withdraw from Sindh, which clashed with the then government’s views that it should extend its stay in the Province, off course to keep on giving the government a breather.

As far as the relations between the GHQ and Nawaz Government were concerned, Sindh was not the only bone of contention, as there were other sources of friction between the two. During 1992, strains were injected into this relationship by number of other issues, which ranged from Prime Minister’s change of Guard at the ISI, GHQ’s perception of ‘ political ingressions’ into its internal affairs. So also the Army’s efforts to strike a posture of political neutrality left the government more suspicious. All this meant that despite the Army Chief’s public declarations that “the army fully supported the democratic order,” Nawaz Government spent an anxious year wondering about GHQ’s intentions.

In 1992, the then Chief Minister Sindh Jam Sadiq Ali passed away in the month of March, after a protracted illness and Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah stepped into his shoes, to lead the Jam-MQM coalition.

The sale of Foreign Currency Bearer Certificate turned out to be a big scandal and resulted in thoroughly disrupting the Country internationally, resulting in uncalled for embarrassment to the country. The government after loosing face nationally and internationally called of the sale. September saw worst floods in living memory of the people, engulf vast areas of the country, bringing in its wake large number of deaths, human misery and destruction of crops and properties and rendering thousands homeless.

Our politicians, as usual , turned it into a media event rather then gearing up the administration for relief work and as usual the armed forces, specially Army rose to the occasion and did the best to provide relief to the masses and saving lots of lives. In November, the long march by PDA was crushed by use of heavy force by the government.

The then President GIK started sending out eager signals for seeking a seeking a second term in office. Lot of mistrust and mutual suspicion was generated between the Presidency and the PM House.

The run for the second term syndrome also contributed to President’s colored perceptions, reservations and apprehension about the army’s role in Sindh.

The army operation, in its very concept has to be swift, precise and firm, if not ruthless. It could never be toothless. It has to have clear-cut objectives, well-defined mechanism and a blanket mandate with requisite legal cover and powers.

The fact is that in Sindh the army did have well defined objectives, the requisite mechanism for going for it.

However, the entire exercise was marred by ambiguous mandate and so also inherently flawed in as far as the supervisory umbrella in the form of Provincial Operation Committee was concerned.

There should not have been the presence of and/or interference from the unrepresentative, biased and self-serving political set-up. The administrative interference and lack of will for the attainment of the objectives of the operation was also clearly visible.

It is also now part of our history that very dimension of the operation had changed owing to variation in perceptions of the President and Prime Minister soon after announcement of Mr. Altaf Hussain that MQM elected representatives in Provincial Assembly and National Assembly should resign.

It was obviously owing to narrow self-serving objectives and this resulted in further erosion of WILL on the part of the Governments at Federal and Provincial levels. It deteriorated to an extent that the very priorities changed and instead of going for the operational objectives the main thrust became the sustenance of the government by any means-the dubious means.

It would have been in the fitness of things that since the provincial government had lost its legitimacy owing to block resignations of MQM MPAS, it should have been wound up as per constitutional dispensation and an interim set-up should have been installed and army allowed to go for its objectives of eradication of militancy, terrorism and crime from the province with a blanket charter.

However, it was not come to pass and left the army in the lurch and limbo. The army made it quite clear that it was in its best interest that it was allowed to withdraw. This also did not suit the self serving politicians as they knew that if army withdrew the dilapidated political structure in the province would crumble like a house of cards, which neither the President nor the Prime Minister could afford from their narrow, self serving and selfish points of view.

Neither of them paused even for a minute to analyze and evaluate that Army is an institution which has to live up to its image and reputation at national and international levels. It should not have been allowed to be perceived as partisan.

It also did not occur to either of them that it is very rare and always as a last resort that army could involve itself within the country.

It could not afford to be in the area of internal deployment for a long span of time. The decision to deploy the army, once taken, should have allowed going up to its logical conclusion, quickly and swiftly in shortest duration of time.

The things should never have been allowed to protract to a point where it would appear that the army was bogged down in a civilian strife or insurgency. As it could have had disastrous consequences, especially in the kind of regional environment we are placed. One is certain, the Indians would have loved to exploit the situation to the hilt to their advantage.

It is matter of record that the army operation, when commenced, had approval from all relevant quarters such as the government, the presidency, the provincial government, other political parties and so also the opposition.

The public opinion in Sindh and other parts of the country was also in tune. The international community was also sympathetic. There could have been no better environment for a swift surgical procedure, given the requisite tools, charter and independence.

How unfortunate that some thing required to be done in supreme national interest was although initially allowed but subsequently conscious attempts were made to obstruct, protract and render the exercise useless and instead the presence of the army was used and exploited for self serving narrow political expediency.

However, the army did its best despite the above state of affairs. It was able to restore a sense of security in the people of Sindh. The people of interior Sindh, after a long period of estrangement and alienation, poured their hearts out for the army and extended total support to the defenders of its frontiers.

In urban Sindh also a sigh of relief came. The people become optimistic that alas ! they could hope for coming out of the dragnet of intimidation, extortion and subjugation thrown by militants. The crack down on anti social, anti state and militants sent them into hiding and the entire militant and terrorist network had been smashed and was on the run.

Mr. Altaf Hussain had also reckoned that his days were numbered and he may be held to account for his misdeeds and this realization made him announce his retirement from politics and he reluctantly handed over the reigns to Azeem Tariq.

All the areas in the city were freed from all kinds of fetters, may it be demolition of iron gates or doing away with the psychological barriers of fear and intimidation. The city did come around to some of its lively traditions and out door life was returning to normalcy.

The performance of the government on the economic front was also dismal, which may be an understatement. The budget deficit continued to grow and independent sources had put it at 4.3 billion dollars, however ,the government projected it to be at 2.1 billion dollars, but it does not base its figure on over all goods, services and incomes from the State Bank. Money supply expansion in 1991-92 was 20.6 percent against the safe allowance made of 12 percent (which translates to 77.00 billion rupees).

The government indulged in frantic borrowing to the tune of Rs.90/- billion in short span of five months i.e. July to November, 1992. Prices increased by 9 % compared to the previous year. The official inflation figure was 12.5.%, which in reality would translate to above 20 %.

The government borrowed Rs.100 billion as against projected borrowing of Rs.65 billion. The reason lavish over spending by the government. The political instability increased. Nawaz Shareef remained a looser on the political front also, as Jamaat-e-Islami deserted the IJI, the MQM also called quits , besides Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, the so-called stalwart, also jumped ship.

The arrival of 1993 did not augur well for Pakistan as it lost one of its best son on 8.1.1993. General Asif Nawaz, the then Chief of Army Staff, died of a heart attack. It was an irreparable loss to the nation and particularly to the army. In him we lost a gentleman, a sound human being and a professional.

In January a bitter raw broke out between the Prime Minister and the President over the Eighth Amendment. It was a year of come back from oblivion for PPP. Benazir Bhutto turned the heat on Mian Nawaz Shareef from London by signaling her support for GIK.

In March, 93, Mian Zahid Sarfaraz demanded dissolution of National Assembly. On 27th March, 1993, Mr. Hamid Nasir Chattha and three other ministers resigned from Federal Cabinet. On March 31, one more Federal Minister resigned and 16 MNAs and Senators from FATA announced their support for GIK. The drift was getting momentum.

On April 4, Federal Cabinet nominated GIK as the Presidential candidate for a second term. On same day 3 MNAs resigned from National Assembly. April 8, 92 MNAs tendered their resignation from the house. April 9, PML formally announced its decision not to repeal 8th amendment and reaffirmed that GIK shall be its presidential nominee. April 10 another minister quit. April 17, PML splits into two factions. April 18, the President dissolved the National Assembly.

A caretaker government was formed under Mr. Balakh Sher Mazari. Mian Nawaz Shareef demanded resignation of the President. April 19, the then Speaker of the dissolved assembly challenged the dissolution in Lahore High Court.

In Punjab Mian Manzoor Wattoo was elected leader by 137 rebel MPAs of PML. April 22, Chief Minister Punjab Ghulam Haider Wayne was voted out by 162 MPAs.

On April 25, Nawaz Shareef went to Supreme Court for restoration of National assembly. On April 26, Supreme Court restored the National Assembly.

After tremendous political upheavals, negotiations took place amongst the Troika and after being thoroughly discredited, the Prime Minister and the President arrived at a formula to hold mid-term polls. As a result on April 18, Mian Nawaz Shareef and GIK stepped down from their respective offices and Mr. Moin Qureshi was sworn in as the Caretaker Prime Minister.

Mr. Moin Qureshi carried out many vital economic reforms and took necessary administrative measures to improve the efficiency of the government. The people of Pakistan discovered that Nawaz Shareef’s yellow cab scheme and grandiose highway projects were high ways to economic hell.

Mr. Moin Qureshi took bold decisions. He publicized the lists of defaulters of bank loans, imposed agriculture tax, and took measures to make Pakistan a drug free society by the beginning of the next century.

Above all he, as promised, did quit on completion of his mandate. Many in Pakistan wished he had stayed. The MQM boycotted the elections for National assembly and as usual took a wrong political decision as its presence in the National Assembly could have been useful for it, as it became obvious after the elections. However, they did participate in the provincial assembly elections and got 28 seats in the Sindh Assembly, thus becoming a formidable opposition in Sindh, but they did not put it to constructive use of its electorate, as later events told.

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