As elections near, a timeline of Pakistan’s troubled history of military interventions

Special As elections near, a timeline of Pakistan’s troubled history of military interventions
The collection of file photos displays Pakistan's military rulers (from right to left): General Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq, and General Pervez Musharraf. (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia)
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Updated 04 February 2024
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As elections near, a timeline of Pakistan’s troubled history of military interventions

As elections near, a timeline of Pakistan’s troubled history of military interventions
  • Pakistan has been ruled directly by its military for over 30 years of its history 
  • Analysts say civilian politicians willing to do army’s bidding have damaged democracy

ISLAMABAD: Millions of Pakistanis will head to the polls on Feb. 8 to cast their vote in the thirteenth general elections in a South Asian nation where democracy remains fragile under the shadow of military rule and civilian politicians willing to do the army’s bidding, damaging long-term prospects for democracy.

The nuclear-armed nation of over 240 million people has been ruled directly by its all-powerful army for over 30 years of its history, and even when not in power, the military remains the invisible guiding hand of politics, with an outsized role in decision making related to foreign affairs, national security and the economy. The army says it no longer interferes in political affairs. 

“Of the many disadvantages that Pakistan has suffered because of military coups, discontinuity and constant interruption in the political setup, in the running of the government, and indeed in the running of the parliament, has been the biggest disadvantage,” Nasim Zehra, Pakistani author and journalist, told Arab News. 

She said military coups had instilled a “lack of security and unpredictability of policy” in the country, and created an “almost dangerous” competition among Pakistan’s political classes, constantly clamoring to curry favor with the army to stay in, or entrench themselves, in power. 

It was unfortunate that the army had always found “civilian partners” to exert political influence, Zehra said, and it was civilian politicians who bent laws to accommodate generals, undermining the trust of the people and further entrenching the military’s power.

And even though the last coup in Pakistan was in 1999, Pakistanis would only be able to convincingly say the era of military rule was over for good if political parties and their leaders said with one voice and believed that they would not support any future “military adventure,” Zehra said: 

“But that seems not on the cards as of now.”

Here is a look back at Pakistan’s troubled political history of military intervention:

“TROUBLED HISTORY”

In Pakistan’s first military coup in 1958, Governor-General Iskander Mirza enforced martial law and appointed Commander-in-Chief General Ayub Khan as chief martial law administrator. Just thirteen days later, Khan assumed the presidency and sacked Mirza, who was exiled to England. 

Protests mounted against Khan after ruling for over a decade, with discontent heightening in the country’s East Pakistan wing, present day Bangladesh. But rather than resigning and allowing a constitutional transfer of power, Khan requested that Yahya Khan, then Commander-in-Chief of the Army, use the military’s supra-constitutional authority to declare martial law and take power, which he did on March 25, 1969.

Elections took place in 1970, to date considered one of the most transparent polls in the country’s history, but led to widespread unrest when East Pakistani leader Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman’s Awami Muslim League (AML) party emerged the winner but was not allowed to form government by Yahya Khan and the AML’s main political rival, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which was popular in West Pakistan. 

The delay in the inauguration of the National Assembly unleashed significant unrest in East Pakistan, with the situation deteriorating into a civil war that led to the secession of the east wing of the country and the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh in March 1971. 

Martial law was finally lifted in Pakistan in 1972 and Bhutto became prime minister in 1973 after a new constitution proclaimed Pakistan a democratic country. Bhutto took over the reins of a demoralized country that had suffered humiliation in war and governed Pakistan until elections in 1977.

The PPP won a majority in the elections as the right-wing religious opposition Pakistan National Alliance accused Bhutto of rigging. Protests and unrest followed, prompting Pakistani army chief General Zia-ul-Haq to remove Bhutto in a bloodless coup, suspend the constitution and declare martial law. The new military ruler promised “free and fair elections” within 90 days, but these were repeatedly postponed and it was not until 1985 that party-less general elections were held and a new assembly elected Muhammad Khan Junejo as prime minister while Haq was president. 

Haq dismissed Junejo’s government three years later in 1988. The military ruler himself stayed in power for a total of 11 years until his death in a plane crash.

From 1988 to 1998, Pakistan was governed by former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, two bitter rivals heading the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PPP, respectively. This democratic period in Pakistan was marred by allegations of corruption against the two leaders and both their tenures were cut short controversially on charges of corruption. 

Pakistan’s last military coup took place in 1999, after tensions mounted between Sharif and then-army chief General Pervez Musharraf over Pakistan’s military action against India in Kargil. When Sharif attempted to sack Musharraf and appoint another army general in his place, the Pakistani army chief overthrew his government and declared martial law on Oct. 14, 1999.

Musharraf’s coup was ratified by Pakistan’s top court and in 2001, he assumed the office of the president. In 2002, polls were held in Pakistan and a king’s party led by Sharif’s former political aides, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), formed government at the center.

After widespread protests amid his plummeting popularity, the military ruler, a key Washington ally during the War on Terror, resigned as president under the threat of impeachment in 2008 and was replaced by Benazir Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari. 

Musharraf’s was Pakistan’s last military coup but analysts remain wary of the military’s continuing influence over politics. 

“HYBRID REGIME”

Pakistani journalist and political analyst Zarrar Khuhro said the future of the country’s democracy was “bleak,” considering the military’s overarching and enduring influence over politics. 

“There won’t be any real stability in the political system even after these elections, provided these elections do happen,” Khuhro told Arab News. 

“And that is not a bug of the system, that is a feature of the system. It is designed to be unstable so that the [military] establishment’s huge influence on Pakistani politics can be maintained.”

What was worse, he argued, Pakistan was now run as a “hybrid” regime in which the military retained control over multiple domains including politics without actually having to carry out a military coup.

“Because it [hybrid regime] provides the illusion of democracy,” Khuhro added, “thus discrediting the entire democratic process itself.”

Veteran Pakistani journalist and political commentator, Hamid Mir, said it was unfortunate that the military as the most important institution in the country had repeatedly abrogated the law and damaged the constitution, the only binding document.

“Now you see, the forces that refer to themselves as the guardians of Pakistan or say that they have to save Pakistan or that we are fighting for Pakistan, are the biggest enemies of this constitution,” Mir told Arab News. 

“They think nothing of it [constitution], so this is a huge contradiction.”


Pakistan to pay $2.5 million to families of Chinese nationals killed in March suicide bombing

Pakistan to pay $2.5 million to families of Chinese nationals killed in March suicide bombing
Updated 23 May 2024
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Pakistan to pay $2.5 million to families of Chinese nationals killed in March suicide bombing

Pakistan to pay $2.5 million to families of Chinese nationals killed in March suicide bombing
  • Five Chinese workers, Pakistani driver were killed in suicide bomb attack in northwestern Pakistan on Mar. 26
  • Chinese interests have increasingly come under attack in Pakistan where Beijing has pledged $65 billion investment

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top economic body on Thursday approved $2.5 million in compensation for families of Chinese workers who were killed in March when a suicide bomber targeted their vehicle in northwestern Pakistan. 

Five Chinese workers and their Pakistani driver were killed on Mar. 26 while they were on their way to the Dasu hydropower project in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 

Pakistan has vowed to trace the masterminds of the suicide attack and increase security of Chinese personnel, projects and institutions in the South Asian country. The Pakistan army said earlier this month the suicide bomber was an Afghan national, and the attack was planned in Afghanistan. The Taliban rulers in Kabul deny the accusations. 

“The ECC considered and approved proposals for Technical Supplementary Grants, including: $2.58 million and Rs. 2.5 million to the Ministry of Water Resources as compensation packages for Chinese and local casualties at Dasu Hydropower Project,” the Finance Division said, referring to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC).

The package was approved by Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb who chaired the meeting of the ECC.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi said earlier this month the South Asian country would introduce new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the security of Chinese nationals in Pakistan. 

The Dasu attack was the third major one in a little over a week on China’s interests in the South Asian nation, where Beijing has pledged over $65 billion in energy, infrastructure and other projects as part of its wider Belt and Road initiative. 

The Mar. 26 bombing followed a Mar. 20 attack on a strategic port used by China in the southwestern province of Balochistan, where Beijing has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects, and a Mar. 25 assault on a naval air base, also in the southwest. Both attacks were claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan.

Dasu, the site of a major dam, has been attacked in the past, with a bus blast in 2021 killing 13 people, nine Chinese among them, although no group claimed responsibility, like the Mar. 26 bombing.
 
Pakistan is home to twin insurgencies, one mounted by religiously-motivated militants and the other by ethnic separatists who seek secession, blaming the government’s inequitable division of natural resources in southwestern Balochistan province.

Chinese interests are mostly under attack primarily by ethnic militants seeking to push Beijing out of mineral-rich Balochistan, but that area is far from the site of the Mar. 26 bombing. 


IMF demands Pakistan secure parliamentary approval on reforms for loan agreement— official

IMF demands Pakistan secure parliamentary approval on reforms for loan agreement— official
Updated 23 May 2024
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IMF demands Pakistan secure parliamentary approval on reforms for loan agreement— official

IMF demands Pakistan secure parliamentary approval on reforms for loan agreement— official
  • Government will present “prior actions” needed to secure IMF loan in federal budget next month, says finance ministry official 
  • Leading economist says Pakistan left with no option but to secure IMF bailout to meet external financing needs of $80 billion 

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has asked Pakistan to seek parliamentary approval on major economic reforms related to the energy, power, tax sectors and on the privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) before starting formal talks for another loan program, a finance ministry official said on Thursday. 

Facing low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, Pakistan last month completed a short-term $3 billion IMF program that helped stave off a sovereign default. However, the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has stressed the need for a fresh, longer-term program with the global lender. 

An IMF mission reached Islamabad last week to negotiate with Pakistani authorities for a fresh bailout program, holding talks with officials on reforms in key economic sectors. The mission is wrapping up its visit today, Thursday, without reaching any staff-level agreement with Islamabad. 

The government would present the economic reforms demanded by IMF or “prior actions” in parliament in the Finance Bill 2024-25 likely to be presented on June 7, the finance ministry official with knowledge of the negotiations, said on condition of anonymity. 

“The IMF has suggested authorities to get parliamentary approval for the new loan program’s targets and conditions before initiation of the formal talks,” the official told Arab News. 

“In fact, these are the prior actions that Pakistan is required to take care of before reaching a staff-level agreement with the Fund for the new bailout package.”

The international lender has urged Islamabad to overhaul its SOEs and introduce tax, energy and power reforms. Pakistan has had to take painful measures in line with the IMF’s demands since 2022, which included hiking fuel and food prices. 

The finance ministry official said the government intends to introduce key reforms in the energy and power sectors in line with the IMF’s demands, besides broadening the tax base through progressive initiatives. 

“The government will take all parliamentary parties into confidence over the digitalization of the Federal Board of Revenue and the privatization of the SOEs,” he added. 

Sajid Amin, a senior economist and deputy executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), said the government had “no option but to secure the IMF loan program.” He said the IMF’s program was critical in helping Pakistan meet its external financing needs of around $80 billion in the next three years. 

“The IMF wants political ownership of the loan program and that’s why it is pushing the government to get all the targets and conditions approved by the parliament,” Amin told Arab News.

“The biggest challenge for the government is to convince the coalition partners and opposition over its reforms agenda to secure the IMF loan,” he said. 

Amin warned the upcoming IMF program would be the “toughest” one for the government as it would not be easy for it to complete it. 
 


Tickets for Pakistan-Saudi Arabia football World Cup qualifier go up for sale

Tickets for Pakistan-Saudi Arabia football World Cup qualifier go up for sale
Updated 23 May 2024
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Tickets for Pakistan-Saudi Arabia football World Cup qualifier go up for sale

Tickets for Pakistan-Saudi Arabia football World Cup qualifier go up for sale
  • Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will play against each other in Islamabad on June 6 for round two of World Cup qualifier
  • Saudi Arabia beat Pakistan 4-0 in November 2023 when the two sides met each other for first round of qualifiers

ISLAMABAD: Tickets for Pakistan’s upcoming FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier Round 2 home-leg match against Saudi Arabia are officially on sale, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) announced on Thursday. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will lock horns at the Jinnah Football Stadium in Islamabad on June 6, with the match scheduled to kick off at 8:30 p.m. Pakistan Standard Time. 

Pakistan is in Group G of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tajikistan. The South Asian country will face Tajikistan on June 11 in an away fixture. 

A total of 36 football squads have been split into nine groups with four teams each in the second round of qualifiers. The winners and runners-up from each group would progress through to the third round.

“In a bid to make the event accessible to all football enthusiasts, ticket prices have been thoughtfully set at budget-friendly rates,” the PFF said in a media release, adding that tickets were available at Bookme.pk website. 

It said tickets for the Premium Plus enclosures were set at Rs4,000 [$14.37] while the Premium enclosure tickets were priced at Rs1,500 [$5.39]. The General enclosure tickets are being sold for Rs750 [$2.69]. 

Saudi Arabia thrashed Pakistan 4-0 when the two sides met in November 2023 for their first clash of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Al Ahsa. 

Preliminary Pakistan squad

Goalkeepers: Hassan Ali and Tanveer

Defenders: Haseeb Khan, Mamoon Moosa Khan, Huzaifa, Waqar Ihtisham, Abdul Rehman, Umar Hayat, Muhammad Adeel, Muhammad Saddam and Zain ul Abideen

Midfielders: Yasir Arafat, Alamgir Ghazi, Ali Uzair, Rajab Ali, Moin Ali, Junaid Ahmed and Fahim

Forwards: Adeel Younas, Shayak Dost, Ali Zafar and Fareedullah

The PFF said the names of diaspora players joining the national training camp later would be included in the final squad.


Heat wave cancels lessons for half of Pakistan’s schoolchildren

Heat wave cancels lessons for half of Pakistan’s schoolchildren
Updated 23 May 2024
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Heat wave cancels lessons for half of Pakistan’s schoolchildren

Heat wave cancels lessons for half of Pakistan’s schoolchildren
  • Some 26 million students will be out of lessons from Saturday in Punjab as temperature soars
  • Met Office has forecast three heatwaves, one underway and two set to hit in early and late June

LAHORE, Pakistan: Half of Pakistan’s pupils will be shut out of schools for a week as the nation takes crisis measures to lessen the effect of a series of heat waves, officials said Thursday.

Some 26 million students will be out of lessons from Saturday in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, which has ordered schools to close for the summer break one week early because of the soaring temperatures.

The early closure was confirmed by a spokesperson for Punjab’s Education Department.
Pakistan’s meteorological office has forecast three heat waves — one already underway and two more set to hit in early and late June.

Temperatures in Punjab are currently six to eight degrees Celsius above normal, the disaster management agency said, with the provincial capital Lahore due for 46 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) at the weekend.

The government’s Coordinator on Climate Change and Environment told journalists in Islamabad on Thursday that “global warming is causing a sudden change in weather patterns.”

Parts of Pakistan are facing power cuts of up to 15 hours as demand for fans and air conditioning surges, leaving students sweltering at their desks.

The Save the Children NGO said the 26 million Punjabi schoolchildren with lessons canceled account for 52 percent of pre-primary, primary and secondary students in Pakistan.

“Prolonged exposure to intense heat impacts children’s ability to learn and to concentrate and this puts their education at risk,” country director Muhammad Khuram Gondal said.

“Excess heat is also potentially lethal to children.”

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said more than three-quarters of children in South Asia — or 460 million — are exposed to temperatures above 35C (95F) for at least 83 days per year.

It warned that children are at risk of “dehydration, higher body temperature, rapid heartbeat, cramps... and coma.”

Pakistan is responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the nation of 240 million ranks high among countries vulnerable to extreme weather events, which scientists have linked to climate change.

A third of Pakistan was submerged by unprecedented monsoon rains in 2022 that displaced millions of people.

It was also battered by above-normal rainfall last month that killed at least 144 people in the wettest April recorded since 1961, with more deluges forecast this summer.

Lahore’s students also saw lessons cut this winter when schools were shut as the megacity was enveloped by choking smog.


Pakistani exporters confident of increasing sales in Kingdom after encouraging response at ‘Saudi Food Show’

Pakistani exporters confident of increasing sales in Kingdom after encouraging response at ‘Saudi Food Show’
Updated 23 May 2024
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Pakistani exporters confident of increasing sales in Kingdom after encouraging response at ‘Saudi Food Show’

Pakistani exporters confident of increasing sales in Kingdom after encouraging response at ‘Saudi Food Show’
  • Saudi Food Show, Kingdom’s largest food and beverages sourcing event, is being held in Riyadh from May 21-23
  • Thirty Pakistani companies are among 1,000 exhibitors from over 97 countries taking part in the exhibition

KARACHI: Buoyed by an overwhelming response at the “Saudi Food Show 2024” being held in Riyadh, Pakistani food exporters on Thursday said they were confident of increasing their market share in the Kingdom. 

The Saudi Food Show is the Kingdom’s largest annual event for food and beverage sourcing. The event is being held in Riyadh from May 21-23 where over 1,000 exhibitors from 97 countries are taking part in the exhibition. Among the exhibitors are also thirty Pakistani companies that are taking part in the event, the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) said. 

“The annual demand for rice in Saudi Arabia is 1.2 million tons and Pakistan’s share is only 7 percent at present,” Chela Ram Kewlani, chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), told Arab News.

“We are expecting to increase our share after this exhibition.”

The Saudi groundbreaking platform convenes a distinguished global contingent of exhibitors, thought leaders, industry communities, strategic partners, innovative brands, and acclaimed chefs.

The Pakistan Pavilion at the event featured 30 companies comprising 15 from the rice sector, 12 from the processed food sector, two from the meat sector, and two from the dairy sector, the TDAP said.

Pakistani rice exporters hope to achieve a new milestone in exporting the product after India decided last year to ban rice exports. 

India, the world’s top rice exporter, banned the export of non-basmati white rice last year to control its rising domestic food costs and maintain domestic supplies.

The move prompted Pakistan’s rice exports to increase by more than 80 percent this fiscal year to $3.28 billion. REAP officials hope rice exports will cross $3.5 billion mark by the end of the current financial year.

Praising the response received at the Saudi Food Show, Khalid Ghori, a representative of the leading Pakistani agribusiness Matco Foods Limited, hoped “the market will be fruitful for Pakistan in the coming days.”

“Large number of people including importers and exporters visited our stalls and we hope that the market will be very fruitful for Pakistani products,” Ghori told Arab News. 

Pakistani food exporters also participated in a three-day major food and beverage trade show held last week in Canada’s Montreal. 

SIAL Canada featured about 10 Pakistani companies that displayed various products including beverages, dairy products, rice, pink salt, sweet snacks, seafood products, fresh fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, frozen and ready-made products.