Pakistan in the 1990’s

By | December 18, 2021

The transition phase from the military regime to a complete parliamentary democracy, which began in 1985 with the restoration of the Constitution, proved to be extremely complex and contradictory. In fact, it was heavily conditioned in its stability and credibility by the lack of renewal of the elites executives, who have in fact maintained consolidated positions of dominance, perpetuating the traditional economic and social structures. Access to political office has remained almost exclusively a prerogative of the landowner landed aristocracy, while the army has maintained, albeit indirectly, a high degree of control over civilian life. Hegemonized by charismatic personalities, the parties have struggled to formulate political programs on which to gather consensus and build lasting alliances, and this has contributed to the instability of governments, on which the institutional conflict between Prime Minister and President of the Republic has continued to weigh.. The lack of economic take-off has subsequently exacerbated the social problems, aggravated by the persistence of inter-ethnic conflicts,1988 to 1990) nor N. Sharif (1990 – 93) managed to pacify. For Pakistan 1996, please check

After the October 1993 elections, Bhutto returned to the leadership of a coalition government between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and some smaller parties, with a program of economic and social reforms aimed at promoting modernization and encouraging Western investors. To attract foreign capital, the executive endeavored to build a new image of the country, which would dispel the traditional vision of a fundamentalist state, a refuge for Arab extremists, presenting the Pakistan as a moderate Islamic state, willing to help the West in the struggle. against drug trafficking and against terrorism.

In reality, the government’s economic program struggled to take off, while the openings to the West did not correspond to an actual change in Pakistani society in which, on the contrary, in these years the weight of fundamentalists was growing, on the wave of the affirmation obtained in Afghānistān dai Ṭālibān (fundamentalist movement of students of the Koranic colleges, formed largely precisely in Pakistan) and of the moralizing campaign conducted against the rampant corruption that involved most of the political and administrative circles of the State, and from which the Bhutto herself.

The executive also had to face the re-explosion of ethnic clashes (particularly serious in Sind) and the rekindling of the institutional conflict with the President of the Republic F. Leghari, in a climate of growing social discontent generated by the worsening of the economic situation recorded starting from since 1995.

The fiscal tightening (June 1996), imposed by the government to fill the budget deficit and meet the conditions required by the IMF for the granting of economic aid (from which, however, agricultural incomes were excluded), relaunched the protest of the opposition, led by by Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) – Nawaz Group, born in 1993 and expression of the industrial and commercial forces, joined by religious leaders and sectors of the armed forces. Strikes and protests followed one another, while Bhutto’s popularity also declined within her party, especially after the killing (September 1996) in Karāchī, following a clash with the police forces, of his brother M. Bhutto, her political opponent in the PPP, killing in which Bhutto herself was suspected of being involved. On November 5, 1996, President Leghari dismissed Bhutto for abuse of power and maladministration; at the same time AA Zardari, Bhutto’s husband and investment minister, was arrested on corruption charges.

The early elections of February 1997 sanctioned the overwhelming victory of the PML (134 seats against 18 of the PPP), following which the leadership of the executive was assumed again by Sharif. The latter, with a majority of three quarters of the Parliament, succeeded in having the amendments to the Constitution that had been adopted in 1985 repealed (April 1997), thus considerably reducing the powers of the President of the Republic, who was revoked the right to dismiss the prime minister, to dissolve Parliament, and to appoint the head of the armed forces and governors of the provinces. However, the conflict between the highest offices of the state was not definitively resolved: in December a new clash appeared, but this time ended with the resignation of President Leghari; in his place was elected MR Tarar, candidate of the PML.

Having strengthened on an institutional level, the government committed itself to an economic recovery program based on a global reduction in the tax burden and on parallel support for the prices of agricultural and industrial products; the measures aimed at attracting foreign capital were also reiterated. Among the executive’s priorities there was also the fight against terrorism, to face which a law was approved (August) that attributed special powers to the police.

On the international level, during the nineties, Pakistan had to face a sharp deterioration in relations with the United States, less willing to accept the country’s nuclear program with the loss of its strategic function after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghānistān (1988) and the subsequent collapse of the USSR (1991). Relations between the two countries only improved from 1995, and in 1996 the United States, after six years, resumed sending military supplies to Islāmābād.

In the regional context, during these years the Pakistan pursued the ambition of creating his own sphere of influence in Central Asia and for this purpose intensified the cultural and commercial ties with the populations of the former Soviet Republics in the region. In this perspective he played a dynamic role in the Afghan crisis, providing his military support to the Ṭālibān ; moreover, the country was among the first states to officially recognize the new regime imposed in Afghānistān in September 1996.

Relations with India, on the other hand, remained constantly tense, with the questions concerning the main points of contention remaining substantially unresolved: the dispute over Kashmir and the respective nuclear weapons. In February 1995 and again in February 1996 the Pakistani government organized a national general strike in support of the Kashmir independence movement, while even in the following years the clashes between the troops deployed on the borders continued to repeat themselves. The phase of partial detente that occurred following the diplomatic talks between Sharif and Indian Prime Minister IK Gurjal, in September 1997, suffered a sudden setback in May 1998: the decision of New Delhi to carry out a series of nuclear tests provoked the immediate reaction of Pakistan, who carried out similar experiments in June. Soon after, however, the government announced a unilateral moratorium on atomic tests and declared its willingness to resume peace talks with India. After a series of preliminary contacts, relations between the two countries were re-established in October and issues relating to security in the Indian subcontinent and the situation in Kashmir were placed on the negotiating table.

Internally, the economic sanctions imposed by the international community following the atomic explosions caused serious repercussions, given the country’s dependence on foreign aid. There was also a further strengthening of fundamentalist movements, and in August 1998 Sharif proposed a new constitutional amendment (approved by the National Assembly in October) that declared the Qur’an and Sunnah the supreme law of the state, placing them above the Constitution, and gave the government broad powers of interpretation. The measure, probably intended to appease the religious opposition strengthened by the US attacks (August) against Sudan and Afghānistān, was harshly criticized by human rights organizations who also feared a resurgence of tensions between the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority.

In August, the withdrawal from the majority of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), an expression of the Muhajir minority (Muslim refugees who arrived from India after 1947), caused a weakening of the executive, criticized for its inability to stop the growing violence ethnic and political that upset the Sind region, where the MQM had the pre-eminence. In November the region was placed under the direct authority of the government and the legislative assembly was dissolved; military courts were also set up to judge terrorist incidents. In December 1998 the United States temporarily lifted the economic sanctions imposed on Pakistan after the nuclear tests carried out in June, while maintaining those relating to military supplies. This did not succeed in substantially modifying the economic situation which in 1999 became particularly critical. On 12 October 1999, Sharif was dismissed by a military coup led by gen. Pakistan Musharraf who, having suspended the Constitution, established (26 October) a new executive body made up of military and civilians, the National Security Council, of which he assumed the leadership.

Pakistan Sharif