HT This Day: October 13, 1999 — Sharif overthrown in military coup
Islamabad/Washington- Pakistan, A country that has been ruled by unelected governments for 25 of its 52-year history, today opened another chapter of military rule. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was dismissed this evening by the man he had sacked earlier in the day: Army chief General Pervaiz Musharraf.
Shortly after Gen Musharraf’s dismissal was announced by the government this morning, troops took positions around Mr Sharif’s residence, the state-run Pakistan TV building, the main airports and all major government buildings.
PTV recommenced its telecasts later in the evening to announce that the Pakistan Muslim League Government of Mr Sharif had been dismissed and Gen Musharraf would be addressing the nation “shortly”.
The PTV announcement about the dismissal of the Sharif Government did not specify who had ordered his dismissal.
Mr. Sharif and the man he chose to replace Gen Musharraf, Gen Ziauddin was house. Policemen guarding his official residence were disarmed and the PM was asked not to leave the building.
In Washington, US government spokesman James Rubin said the Clinton Administration “naturally hoped” that the Constitution of Pakistan would be adhered to “in letter and spirit”.
CNN’s Islamabad correspondent Imtiaz Gul reported that there were “spontaneous” show of public support shortly after it was clear that a coup had been staged and the democratically elected government had been unseated.
Gen Musharraf, who returned from Colombo this afternoon, was reportedly given a ceremonial welcome by the Army at Karachi airport.
An AP report said he was met at the airport by a large contingent of soldiers. He was seen leaving the airport accompanied by several jeeps filled with soldiers. He did not talk to reporters.
Soldiers also have taken over the homes of several Sharif ministers, including information minister Mushaid Hussain, foreign minister Sartaj Aziz and accountability chief Saif-ur Rehman.
In New Delhi, officials said troop along the border with Pakistan were on “full alert”.
In Washington, senior Clinton Administration officials said messages had been sent to the Pakistan Army through diplomatic channels that the US does not support any military takeover anywhere, that the Constitution has to be respected and it would be not right to presume it would be business as usual after a democratically elected government is overthrown.
Earlier in the day, the official APP news agency said Mr Sharif had “retired” Gen Musharraf “with immediate effect” and that Lt Gen Ziauddin, chief of the Inter Services Intelligence, had been promoted to full General and made the new Chief of the Army Staff.
The sacking of the Army chief comes barely a fortnight after Mr Sharif publicly gave him a vote of confidence. The announcement on state television gave no reason for Gen Musharraf being “relieved” of his job, but the General has been at the centre of a political storm since late May when tension with India over Kashmir flared up.
When asked what was going on at the PTV headquarters in downtown Islamabad, one of the Army officers surrounding the building told Reuters: “You will find out in a short while.”
In 1998, Gen Musharraf’s predecessor Gen Jehangir Karamat was forced to resign after suggesting setting up of a national security council that would give the Army greater say in the running of the administration.
Gen Musharraf’s removal by the PML government earlier in the day came in the wake of reports of growing differences between him and Mr Sharif and fears of another Army coup in Pakistan. This had even prompted the United States to issue a statement late last month that it would strongly oppose any extra-constitutional change in Islamabad.
In an apparent conciliatory move towards the powerful Army, Mr Sharif, on September 29 had extended by one-and-a-half years till October 6 next year the additional charge of Gen Musharraf as JCSC.
He was appointed as Army chief for three years last October after his predecessor, Gen Karamat resigned following differences with Mr Sharif. Pakistan’s Naval chief, Admiral Fasih Bukhari resigned on October 2, apparently for not being considered for the crucial JCSC’s post.