A backgrounder by Wali Zahid
The month of October in 1999 and in 2016 appear to be no different for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Largely.
In 1999, General Pervez Musharraf, then just-terminated army chief and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, plotted a coup, removed Sharif in a humiliating manner and became Chief Executive of the country.
Was a power struggle then.
In 2016, 30 October (or revised 2 November) is being considered a day when Sharif is likely to face a similar challenge, but in a different facade.
Is a power struggle now.
It may not be a coup this time.
1. Could it be a Minus-One Formula finally bearing fruit: demanding Sharif’s resignation through Islamabad lockdown by Imran Khan’s PTI et al on the ruse of Panama Papers and a resultant law and order situation, possibly bloodied if Sharif resisted, or bloodless if he gave in peacefully?
2. Or, could it be through a potential judicial commission set up by Supreme Court on the TORs drafted by the court itself if not agreed by the government and opposition parties?
#Pakistan top court says no one can get PM Nawaz Sharif and his family off the hook if proven guilty in #PanamaGate https://t.co/L8NPrK5Uow
— Mehreen Zahra-Malik (@mehreenzahra) November 8, 2016
3. Or, could it be a relaunch of Khan or another character in a few weeks’ time?
4. Or, the Dawn Leaks scandal permitting, could it be business as usual?
One cabinet minister told Reuters PM picked Bajwa because of low-key style, felt he may cede more control to govt https://t.co/YPpNL7ssP4
— Mehreen Zahra-Malik (@mehreenzahra) November 27, 2016
Cartoon above, courtesy: Sabir Nazar, The Friday Times.
LATEST: 14 December piece by Zahid Hussain, in Dawn: Back in the Saddle
1 November update: PTI postpones ‘lockdown’, to celebrate ‘thanksgiving’ day instead after Supreme Court agrees to form Panama Commission in an interim order, with hearing adjourned to 3 November.
#ImranKhan asks supporters to come to parade ground tomorrow for thanksgiving celebration https://t.co/dvSGeUgaGg #Pakistan pic.twitter.com/dupvOOJEhT
— Dawn.com (@dawn_com) November 1, 2016
Some insightful pieces:
Imran Khan’s second assault | Zahid Hussain | Dawn
Turbulence in Pakistan: the same old story of Sharif vs. Establishment | Raza Rumi
Storm in a teacup? | Abbas Nasir | Dawn
Too clever by half | Najam Sethi | The Friday Times
On a knife edge | Cyril Almeida | Dawn
The 2014 PTI dharna – then against alleged electoral rigging – did not succeed.
In my piece on ‘Pakistan of future’ for Independence Day edition of The News, I wrote this:
Goldman Sachs forecasts get yearly revisions and our ranking may keep on moving down a point or two if our governments fail in doing their job, or the forces of disruption become too huge to manage (as I write this on 6 August, I am anxious about the 14th August Azadi march by the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and its intended consequences). Intended in italics.
Sharif was originally identified and groomed by army by then Governor Lt-General Ghulam Gilani at the behest of President General Ziaul Haq as a rising urban force against Punjab’s dominant feudal factor in politics.
Sharif first became the Finance Minister in Punjab in 1981 and then the Chief Minister of Punjab in 1985.
See also: Did General Ziaul Haq know his end was near?
Sharif and army’s paths separated when after the 1990 electoral win by IJI led by Sharif, the then army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan wanted to make Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi the Prime Minister, and not Sharif, which was the original promise.
The differences grew further when the army-backed President Ghulam Ishaq Khan appointed General Abdul Waheed Kakar as chief of army staff in 1993 against Sharif’s will. General Kakar later forced the resignations of both President Ishaq Khan and PM Sharif.
More on Nawaz Sharif
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Since then, Sharif has been out of army’s favour, and a target of Minus-One. Sharif’s lost distrust on army has never been repaired.
Sharif’s first government (1990-1993) was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1993.
And it’s nothing but amazement at God’s doing that Sharif returned to power second time after a landslide electoral win in 1997 and then in 2013 (after being exiled and humiliated by General Musharraf), becoming a third-time Prime Minister of Pakistan.
If Sharif is able to come out of current November crisis, he could be on his way to become the most powerful fourth-time Prime Minister – an unprecedented event in country’s history.
Only after a year in office after Sharif refused to share commercial space with army, in 2014, PTI’s Imran Khan and Awami Tehreek’s Dr Tahirul Qadri, a fiery cleric – once imam at the Sharif mosque and now based in Canada – were launched in Islamabad to dislodge Sharif.
Imran Khan would often refer to a third umpire (reference to army chief) and his finger to be lifted, but army and ISI deny they were behind dharna.
I don't think that anything is now possible accept intervention !
— jasmeen manzoor (@jasmeenmanzoor) August 29, 2014
During the 2014 dharna, there did come a moment when the Sharif government could have been sent home when just at that very moment, PTI’s then President Javed Hashmi leaked the inside story of dharna and the London Plan and the removal NS mission was aborted.
From now on, Nawaz needs to govern better, seek sound advice & fight incumbency effect. All, hawkish eyes on his performance. Better deliver
— Wali Zahid (@walizahid) September 2, 2014
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It’s the economy, stupid
Some Octobers in Nawaz Sharif’s life
October 1994: Sharif leads labour and industrial strikes throughout country against Benazir Bhutto leading to Bhutto’s departure two Octobers later
October 1996: Benazir Bhutto’s second government removed by President Farooq Leghari paving the way for Sharif’s return
October 1998: Sharif forces the army chief General Jehangir Karamat to resign
October 1998: Sharif promotes Lt-General Pervez Musharraf and appoints him army chief, later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, paving the way for Musharraf to wage Kargil War without notifying Sharif and overthrow Sharif an October later.
12 October 1999: Sharif removes army chief General Pervez Musharraf for Kargil fiasco, and appoint General Ziauddin Butt as army chief.
12 October 1999: Just-terminated General Pervez Musharraf removes Sharif government in a coup.
October 2002: Imran Khan (born 5 October) elected MNA from Mianwali.
October 2011: Imran Khan gets a launch in Lahore with 100,000 supporters ahead of 2013 general elections
October 2013: Sharif visits Washington DC and meets US President Barack Obama.
30 October 2016 (2 November): Islamabad lockdown postponed to thanksgiving after Supreme Court agrees to form Panama Commission.
Sharif, however, had to leave significant space – mostly commercial, national security and foreign policy (particularly on India and Afghanistan) – to army. Since then, his government has been off balance with the army.
A new bone of contention is CPEC. Since US money supplies from Coalition Support Fund are nearly over and US Congress didn’t allow $300 million military aid this year unless action against Haqqani network is taken, army wants control of $46 billion CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) as well.
Some engineered movements and their timing with country’s economic ratings, bottom.
There were indications that Sharif will get some of this lost space back after General Raheel Sharif retires on 29 November and a new army chief of Nawaz’s liking is appointed.
But the powers that be may have other plans, hence the hurried 2 November Islamabad lockdown.
Something else happened in October.
All hell broke loose with Dawn oped writer Cyril Almeida breaking the story on 6 October that civilians told the military to take action against non state actors. The story might have been ignored but Cyril’s name was placed on ECL. This made global headlines and resulted in 1.6k RTs of the original story.
Dawn: Exclusive: Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military https://t.co/6fOZypto6T
— cyril almeida (@cyalm) October 6, 2016
The travel ban was later lifted and Cyril left for USA.
An inquiry was ordered.
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid had to resign till completion of the inquiry. Journalist Hamid Mir tweets:
Information Minister Pervez Rashid is the 1st causality of Dawn leaks real culprit is yet to be identified he will also go
— Hamid Mir (@HamidMirPAK) October 29, 2016
Al Jazeera TV tweets:
Pakistan information minister removed over news report alleging the military is secretly supporting armed groups https://t.co/9kfYYwQyw9
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) October 30, 2016
Below is a selection of tweets that indicate what to expect from 2 November high-stakes game:
Journalist Ahmad Noorani tweets about PTI lockdown:
IK asked to show results. He is calling workers himself& conveying mesg,"Now or Never".Objective wil b to create chaos using max dead bodies
— Ahmad Noorani (@Ahmad_Noorani) October 14, 2016
Journalists Ejaz Haider and Zahid Hussain discuss the puppeteers :
#Baylaag tonite: i ask @hidhussain about the puppeteers that control the puppets. PMLN-PTI standoff #PRSack https://t.co/J2yXqO9OrL
— EH (@ejazhaider) October 29, 2016
Imran indicates possibility of military intervention during his protest but says it wil be govt's fault. pic.twitter.com/GLAH99twww
— Syed Talat Hussain (@TalatHussain12) October 23, 2016
Journalist Syed Talat Hussain tweets on 23 October on the possibility of military intervention during lockdown.
If Nawaz doesn't bow, 'dogs of protest may be unleashed in streets & hawkish Sharif loyalists hacked away quickly'https://t.co/PlXbV14p6e pic.twitter.com/uRGLQAJTFP
— Wali Zahid (@walizahid) October 29, 2016
Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida writes: The oldest of scripts is back.
If Raheel doesn’t believe Nawaz can be convinced to return to his box, the dogs of protest may be unleashed in the streets and hawkish Sharif loyalists hacked away quickly.
And if that doesn’t prove enough, the ultimate script is already written.
Flashback: Just after General Pervez Musharraf overthrew Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 12 October 1999, a Pakistani magazine, Pakistan Calling, published a cover story – Halt! About Turn.
For the cover story, they interviewed several overseas Pakistanis. At that time, I was head of marketing communications at Muslim Aid, UK’s relief and development charity, in their North London head office.
Pakistan Calling was a magazine published by the organisation that is now called PILDAT, based in Islamabad. You may have heard of PILDAT surveys on Pakistan’s governance performance.
The cover story was quite a damning account of Sharif’s tenure and like most in-country Pakistanis reportedly ‘distributing sweets’ on his removal, overseas Pakistanis expressed their happiness that Musharraf took over.
Then there was this one lone voice: of me, saying this should not have happened. Have a look at screen shot image, above. Or, you can download the full article (2MB), below:
October-November 1999 issue of Pakistan Calling
As a trends-picker and futurist, most of the time, I have been able to forecast the outcomes but 2 November has so many variables and without authentic information from any side, it’s difficult to make a call until the last 24 hours.
All sides have kept their cards close to their chests in this high-stakes game.
However, during the 2014 dharna, I could forecast. Two tweets then:
So you can calm down & concentrate on work objectives, Aug14 will pass & government will stay. So much you & I need to do for this country.
— Wali Zahid (@walizahid) August 6, 2014
IK gives 3-day deadline. ARY throws rigging 'bombshell'. Coincidence? Mark my words: No govt falls by a Lucman show! Koi credible nahi mila?
— Wali Zahid (@walizahid) August 24, 2014
Above: It’s the economy, stupid. Some engineered movements and their timing with country’s economic ratings.
Wali Zahid is an award-winning journalist, futurist, disruptor, blogger, social media strategist, reformer, LinkedIn writer and author of iBook, Great Training in 10 Steps.
He runs a #Pakistan2050 hashtag on Twitter and appears on national TV on issues of significance to Pakistan.
On walizahid.com, he’s writing a series called How We Messed Up Pakistan.
Wali recently gave a keynote at the Managing Megacity Karachi conference by George Mason University USA at University of Karachi, supported by US State Department.
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