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Old Monday, August 03, 2015
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Default Articles by Shaikh Aziz :A leaf from political and constitutional history of Pakistan

A leaf from history: Zia’s referendum


In the aftermath of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), there was unrelenting pressure on Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) General Ziaul Haq to relinquish and transfer power. By the beginning of 1984, even the general’s friends in the army began pressing him to adopt certain measures which could help the country return to normalcy. It was time to act.

There were two schools of thought: the first favoured seeking legitimacy from the people for Gen Zia, and towards this end they wanted him to hold a referendum. The second opinion was to hold elections and hand over power to the elected representatives.

As always, Gen Zia was averse to holding elections; the general had made it abundantly clear that were his administration to go down that route, he favoured non-party elections. But before any polls, he insisted on holding a referendum to elicit people’s will.

When it was time to secure another five years for the general, his team tied his continuation in power to the salvation of Islam and the preservation of Pakistan
Political circles immediately opposed this suggestion, and reminded the general that it was him and his friends in the army who had opposed Bhutto’s decision to conduct a referendum during the PNA agitation. But elsewhere, there was growing support for the referendum option.

In a meeting of martial law administrators (MLAs) on Nov 6, 1984, it was resolved that the referendum would be held on Dec 19, 1984. Gen Zia announced the decision on Dec 1 to the general populace.

Now came the most crucial phase of the process: crafting the question that was to be put before the public.

This process required a tricky question, asking the voter whether they wanted to support Islamisation and, therefore, want Gen Zia to continue for another five years after Martial Law was lifted. What was eventually crafted linked the general to the salvation of Islam and preservation of Pakistan: “Do you endorse the process initiated by the President of Pakistan, General Mohammad Ziaul Haq, for bringing the laws of Pakistan in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and for the preservation of the ideology of Pakistan, and are you in favour of continuation and further consolidation of that process and for the smooth and orderly transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people.”

The question sought a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer — affirmative replies would mean support for Gen Zia to continue as president till 1990.

The martial law administrators all knew that if arrangements were not undertaken to get a ‘Yes’ vote, the scheme might backfire. The governors were therefore asked to do everything in their control to prop support for the general. Meanwhile, Gen Zia would undertake visits to all provincial capitals and also address the nation on radio and television.

In his address, Gen Zia announced that national identity cards would be a must for voting. But due to flawed policies, not all citizens possessed identity cards. The issue was re-examined by the officials concerned, and two days before polling, the condition of producing a national identity card to vote in the referendum was waived.

The MRD and other parties boycotted the referendum. Polling stations on the day wore a deserted look but when the results were announced, it was claimed that the general had bagged more than 60 per cent votes and was thus elected for another five years after the lifting of martial law.
The MRD and other parties boycotted the referendum. Polling stations on the day wore a deserted look but when the results were announced, it was claimed that the general had bagged more than 60 per cent votes and was thus elected for another five years after the lifting of martial law.

With his power seemingly reinforced, the general was now confronted by another promise he had made during the MRD campaign on Aug 12, 1983: conducting general elections in February 1985. Towards this end, began an exercise aimed at reducing the vote bank of the PPP and other leftist parties. He did not want any move which diluted his political philosophy.

Source:A leaf from history: Zia’s referendum
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 2nd, 2015
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Old Sunday, August 09, 2015
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Default August 9th, 2015

Elections held on non-party basis


In the early 1980 General Ziaul Haq was under pressure from his Western supporters to deal with human rights violation issues, including the cases of political activists.

The pressure had mounted since first Nusrat Bhutto in 1982 and then Benazir Bhutto in 1984 were released from detention and allowed to go abroad. Visiting London and the United States, Benazir talked to the media, human rights activists and politicians there about human rights violations by the military regime and stated that Gen Zia was not prepared to restore democracy in the country.

As she travelled through Western capitals, Gen Zia discussed with his team and some legal experts about the future political set-up of the country. After holding local bodies elections on non-party basis he thought that a similar experiment in the national politics would also bring change in the country.

Time proved him wrong.

The MRD movement had created in him a latent fear about his future. Though the movement had been crushed brutally, its force left Gen Zia with the feeling that one day this passion could outclass his wits and as Ayub Khan could not withstand the people’s wrath, he could also become its victim. This was another reason for him to think about restoring democracy in some weak and dubious form. The referendum had assured him of his rule for five years; now he could share some power with politicians and landed aristocrats.

He had indirectly agreed, in August 1983, to hold the elections on non-party basis, with an approximate date of March 1985. Perhaps he wanted to buy time to think of some ways to clamp restrictions on taking part in elections so that only new and inexperienced people could come to the parliament who would act as his yes men; he wanted a house which would need his leadership.

Such amendments to the Political Parties Act, 1962 are introduced that are obviously meant to keep the PPP and liberals away from polls
The PNA parties except Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the PPP had refused to contest the polls, while the Muslim league faction led by Pir Sahib Pagara had decided to take part. The JI leadership had decided to participate in elections as its leader Tufail Ahmad was closely associated with the general. There was also a chance that Pir Pagara’s Muslim League would win sufficient number of seats to form a government. Gen Zia had a special regard for Pir Pagara, as in 1980 he had offered the general the platform of his faction of the Muslim League. But the general was not ready to make any compromises in a party set up.

On Jan 8, 1985, the Chief Martial Law Administer (CMLA) promulgated a Martial Law Order No 65 by which it was notified that the government could disqualify any person from taking part in politics; this was meant as a warning that the government was prepared to restrain any person whom it thought undesirable.

Two lawyers in his team, A.K. Brohi and Sharifuddin Pirzada, had been assigned the task of ensuring Zia’s continuation in power. They drew a long list of amendments which would disqualify almost all candidates belonging to the PPP and other liberal groups, who would like to contest despite their party’s decision to boycott.

The elections were held on Feb 25, 1985 on non-party basis, though some political parties allowed their members to contest the elections as independent candidates.
Such amendments in the Political Parties Act, 1962 were introduced that PPP leaders and activists, including former members or ministers, stood disqualified. For instance, the amended Political Parties Act implied that any person who had at any time after Dec 1, 1971, been an office-bearer or a member of the executive committee at the national or provincial setup of a party which had not been registered nor declared eligible to participate in elections by the Election Commission by Oct 11, 1979 stood disqualified for seven years to be elected as member of the National Assembly or a Provincial assembly.

Further, any person who had been a federal minister, minister of state, an adviser or provincial minister between Dec 1, 1971 and July 5, 1977 stood disqualified for seven years from participating in the elections. The very amendments provided guarantees to Gen Zia that no PPP supporter would reach any assembly.

The elections were held on Feb 25, 1985 on non-party basis, though some political parties allowed their members to contest the elections as independent candidates; after the elections some parties claimed winning a number of seats as the candidate had won due to their support. The election brought new faces belonging to the landed aristocracy and business tycoons.

There were different claims about the turnout of voters: official figures claimed a voter turnout at 53.71 per cent, while the political parties said it was not more than15pc. Four days later, elections to the provincial assemblies were also held. The elections brought hope that a house of politically elected members could also be hoped in future, and that the House could be tamed democratically.

With a separate electorate system, Gen Zia presumed that perhaps the minorities, especially the Hindus, supported the PPP and might have helped in bringing a few PPP supporters in the National Assembly. This would create a serious issue for Gen Zia.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 9th, 2015
Source: Elections held on non-party basis
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Old Wednesday, August 19, 2015
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Default August 16th, 2015

A leaf from history: Defacing the constitution


The results of the 1985 elections were not what General Ziaul Haq expected — a number of liberals managed to make it to the parliament, while many of his Shura members and ministers were defeated, indicating non-approval of his policies by his friends.

The next step was to find a prime minister in a parliament elected on non-party basis.

Accepting the outcome of the elections but not wanting to loosen his grip over the house, Gen Zia decided to seek legal help. His talented legal advisers, A.K. Brohi and Sharifuddin Pirzada, recommended undertaking a number of constitutional amendments to give him an umbrella. Gen Zia was bent on changing the character of the Constitution from parliamentarian to presidential. For this purpose, a long list of amendments was prepared and without going into details Gen Zia informed his Martial Law Administrators (MLAs) to authorise him to bring the required changes in the constitution for which, according to him, the Supreme Court had empowered him — a reference to the SC verdict in Nusrat Bhutto case on Nov 10, 1977.

On March 2, 1985, he issued The Revival of Constitution of 1973 Order (RCO). It changed 67 clauses and sections of 280 articles of the Constitution — largest number of amendments carried out in one day in the history of Pakistan. The purpose of the amendments was obviously to tailor the Constitution to suit Gen Zia and make him an all powerful president, by concentrating all powers of the parliament in one person.

To strengthen his rule and consolidate power in himself, Gen Zia amended the Constitution through the RCO and introduced the Eighth Amendment
Changing the basic character of the Constitution, the amendments altered the form of political set up from parliamentarian to presidential. Another change was the induction of Islamic provisions which he had pointed to on various occasions and were pronounced as Supreme Law. The most significant was the change of Preamble which reasserted sovereignty of Allah the Almighty in the body of the constitution. Addition of a new article (Article 2) in the Constitution gave Sharia Court the authority to strike out any law which it considered not in conformity with the basic tenets of Islam.

Under the 1973 Constitution the country had a parliamentary form of government with most powers vested in the Prime Minister, while the president was the constitutional head of the state; and that’s what Gen Zia disliked the most. By amendments in the Constitution he gave most of the executive powers to the president who could appoint and remove the prime minister, chiefs of the armed forces, provincial governors, judges of the superior courts, as well as authorised the president to dissolve the National Assembly without consulting the prime minister. The RCO also incorporated the referendum of 1984 which gave Gen Zia legitimacy to continue as president till 1990.

A glance at the amendments reveals the motive behind them. For instance, under the headline “Duties of Prime Minister in relation to President” it said: “It shall be the duty of the Prime Minister to communicate to the President all decisions of the cabinet relating to the administration of the affairs of the Federation and proposal for legislation; to furnish such information relating to the administration of the affairs of the Federation and proposals for legislation as the President may call for. At the commencement of each session of the Parliament the President shall address both houses assembled together.”

Under the headline “Exercise of executive authority of the Federation” it pronounced: the executive authority of the Federation shall vest in the President and shall be executed by him, either directly or through officers according to the Constitution. On the status of ministers and prime minister it said: “There shall be a cabinet of ministers with the Prime Minister at its head to aid and advice the President in the exercise of his powers. The Prime Minister shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.” About the conduct of business of federal government it said that all executive actions of the government shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the president. The president shall make rules for the allocation of and transaction of the Federal government.

The RCO also outlined the powers and limits of the chief ministers and governors. According to it the governor will pick a chief minister from among the members of the assembly, which will be approved by the president. Regarding the duties of chief ministers, the RCO mentioned similar duties for the CMs as were mentioned for the prime minister in relation to the president.

Gen Zia also thought it wise to draw clear lines for legislation — the basic function of the National Assembly. To ensure the continuation of his rule, he had amended the Constitution through the RCO but it needed a proper constitutional protection which was brought about in the form of the Eighth Amendment.

As advised by his legal consultants, Gen Zia sought constitutional cover for the decisions he took after he became Chief Martial Law Administrator and President; the RCO gave constitutional protection to all his presidential orders, martial law regulations and other actions taken by martial law authorities from July 5, 1977.

Source: A leaf from history: Defacing the constitution
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 16th, 2015
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Old Sunday, August 23, 2015
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Default August 23rd, 2015

A leaf from history: The battle for supremacy begins

Two days after the promulgation of the RCO (Revival of Constitution 1973 Order) on March 2, 1985, President General Ziaul Haq held a meeting with Martial Law Administrators (MLAs) to review the post-election situation and select a prime minister. Till then the names of Abdul Ghafoor Hoti, Mohammad Aslam Khattak, Mir Zafarullah Jamali, Illahi Bakhsh Soomro, Makhdoom Hassan Mahmood and Hamid Raza Gillani were being speculated on. The general told the meeting that initially the system would run under the umbrella of martial law and when it was lifted in December it would become part of the political administration.

According to the amendments in the Constitution, the president was to nominate a prime minister from the elected members.

The MLAs were of the opinion that since the last deposed prime minister (Z.A. Bhutto) was a Sindhi the new prime minister should also be from Sindh to remove the sense of persecustion. After discussion, the names of Illahi Bakhsh Soomro and Mohammad Khan Junejo were short-listed. The MLAs were of the view that Illahi Bakhsh Soomro bore more political weight than Junejo hence they would prefer him as the next prime minister. Before taking a final decision Gen Zia consulted Pir Sahib Pagara, whom he considered as his political mentor. Pir sahib said that if there was to be a prime minister from Sindh, he would be his man and suggested the name of Mohammad Khan Junejo. Thus the name of Illahi Bakhsh Soomro was dropped. When it became clear that Junejo was the next man, the MLAs were not happy; they wanted the general to have consulted them before changing their collective decision.

With an elected prime minister in office, Gen Zia tries to retain an upper hand
Mr Junejo was called at the President House on March 20, 1985 for a meeting where some senior military officers were also present. According to Gen Khalid Mahmud Arif, the meeting began on a sour note as Mr Junejo neither expressed his happiness nor thanked Gen Zia when the general enthusiastically told him: “I have decided to nominate you as Prime Minister of Pakistan.” A calm Junejo softly but resolutely asked: “Mr President, when do you plan to lift the martial law?” This apparently shocked the general who, keeping his cool, said in a casual way, “Martial Law is now in your support. It will help you to settle down in your high appointment. I will lift it whenever you are in control of the situation.” Junejo was a calm person who never showed any high ambitious when he was the communications minister with Gen Ayub Khan in the late 1950s and 1960s. But this time he thought of becoming a real prime minister, and from the moment Junejo questioned Zia about lifting the martial law he began thinking about his own future.

After taking oath, Mohammad Khan Junejo began to take control of affairs. The general too, grew wary and began to consider ways to keep his PM in check.

To block such moves which could possibly loosen his grip, Gen Zia once again sought the support of legal trickery. This time Law Minister Iqbal Ahmad Khan, perhaps in consultation with Attorney-General Aziz A. Munshi, on Sept 10, 1985 presented a bill before the House that aimed at reducing the parliament to Gen Zia’s rubber stamp. He had miscalculated the sense of law of the MNAs who threw away the bill, not wanting to even discuss or hear about it.

The Speaker found himself in a quandary. Some members were of the opinion that the bill should be sent back to the law minister with a note to reword it and present it in an objective manner keeping all democratic norms and respect for the elected house. The bill was reworded and presented again, though it was still not acceptable to the MNAs. The point of disagreement was its essence — that the president would have powers to dismiss the prime minister, dissolve the National Assembly at any time he felt that the government had lost confidence and there was a need of going back to the electorate.

The Eighth Amendment or Article 58 2(B) was a constitutional amendment which aimed at strengthening the authority of the president to dismiss the elected prime minister and dissolve the National Assembly and provincial assemblies “… if in his / her opinion, a situation has arisen in which the government of the federation cannot be carried on [out] in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and an appeal to the electorate is necessary.”

After taking oath, Mohammad Khan Junejo began to take control of affairs. The general too, grew wary and began to consider ways to keep his PM in check.
During Zia’s lifetime and after, the Amendment served the purpose of many individuals. The general himself was the first to use it for dismissing Junejo’s government on May 29, 1988 because Junejo wanted to act as an empowered prime minister. President Ghulam Ishaq used it to dismiss Benazir Bhutto’s government on Aug 6, 1990 and Nawaz Sharif’s government on April 18, 1993. The Supreme Court reinstated Nawaz Sharif but the political stalemate came to an end when both Ghulam Ishaq and prime minister Nawaz Sharif resigned.

Again in 1996 the Eighth Amendment was used to dismiss the government of Benazir Bhutto by president Farooq Ahmad Leghari who was from her own party.

Finally, in 1997 another constitutional amendment called the 13th Amendment gave the prime minister the power to repeal the Eighth Amendment. By the introduction of the 17th Amendment in 2003, the power to dissolve the National Assembly and check the misdeeds of the prime minister is now subject to the Supreme Court.

Source: A leaf from history: The battle for supremacy begins
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 23rd, 2015
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Old Sunday, August 30, 2015
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Default August 30, 2015

A leaf from history: Battle of nerves


To take credit for restoring democracy, General Ziaul Haq decided to address the first session of the National Assembly that opened on March 23, 1985. The session was important on two counts: Gen Zia in his speech, while outlining his wishes and plans, drew limits for the new parliament with regard to legislation. He declared in clear terms that this was not a transfer of power from the military government to a civilian government, but was in fact a power-sharing arrangement where some powers of the military government would be shared with the civilian government. He also advised the members to retain their non-party identity.

However Mr Junejo in his speech also did not miss the chance to convey his intentions, saying categorically that martial law and democracy could not co-exist. This again was not liked by Gen Zia, though the National Assembly gave Prime Minister Junejo a unanimous vote of confidence. Junejo fired another salvo in his address to the Senate on July 6, saying that the civilian government cannot work properly under martial law and that it would not become a partner in prolonging martial law.

In the provinces, army-backed politicians were appointed as chief ministers. Mohammad Nawaz Sharif was named as Chief Minister Punjab and the general lent him full support, which led to him being labelled a remnant of martial law by opposition leaders after the complete restoration of democracy. Arbab Jahangir Khan, Ghaus Ali Shah and Mir Ghulam Qadir Alliani were elected as chief ministers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP), Sindh and Balochistan respectively.

General Zia and Prime Minister Junejo engage in a power struggle
From his actions it was clear that Junejo was not content with ceremonial office and wanted to exercise all powers of the executive. Famed as a thorough gentleman he spent much time on administrative and financial issues and with time learnt how to deal with them without creating any hassles. His prime worry was to remove incompetent people from important positions of the government, improve the output of the administration and to curtail government expenses. To achieve this latter goal he even stopped offering food during cabinet meetings.

There were differences between Gen Zia and Prime Minister Junejo from day one but they were not the talk of the town, though the secretaries often faced an odd situation when they received two opposing orders on one subject from the President and the Prime Minister.

The election of the Speaker of the National Assembly was another occasion where Gen Zia thought he could prove his mettle. Among the members of the National Assembly there appeared to be three groups: one that supported Prime Minister Junejo; the other lending support to Gen Zia’s nominee and the third trying to remain independent. However, despite the house being elected on non-party basis a presence of Muslim League (Pagara, later Functional) could be felt. Junejo was trying to settle and prove that the elected house could act on its own and would never take dictation.

For Speaker, Gen Zia nominated Khwaja Mohammad Safdar who had earlier been nominated as chairman of the handpicked Majils-i-Shura. To gather support for his candidate, Gen Zia himself began meeting the MNAs and pressed them for getting Khwaja Safdar elected.

A small group of independent MNAs did not want Khwaja Safdar to be elected unopposed and began consultations among themselves. In fact, Syeda Abida Hussain was interested in contesting for Speaker but many members did not want to be presided over by a woman; finally they settled on the candidature of her husband Syed Fakhr Imam. The general, through Abdul Ghafoor Hoti, tried to make Syed Fakhr Imam withdraw and when just before the election Hoti made Fakhr Imam talk to Gen Zia on telephone, the general told him to desist from contesting the election and instead be content with some juicy ministry. Fakhr Imam simply refused to oblige.

After a few hours, Syed Fakhr Imam was elected as Speaker of the National Assembly.

This came as a shock to the general; nonetheless, he did not lose hope and decided to bring some kind of discipline in the National Assembly. The man who did not believe in party politics now thought of making some compromises and enter into some kind of political grouping, knowing that this was going to be a very queer experience for him. Journalist-author Azhar Suhail was of the opinion that the general was even prepared to form a kind of political group in consultation with Prime Minister Junejo which would be an official group within the assembly and would be obliged to support the prime minister and his policies, and prove to be a means to facilitate the system to resolve various problems. In actuality, Gen Zia wanted to form a group that was controlled by him, despite having the support of Junejo, the prime minister he disliked.

It was a strange situation; Junejo had to deal with a man who had dug himself deep during the past eight years and was still vying to continue as an unchallenged ruler. At the same time, the general decided to tame the man who entered politics in 1950s with another general, Ayub Khan, who had appointed him as communication minister, and now he was with an army chief who had enjoyed power for the past eight years.

Source: A leaf from history: Battle of nerves
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 30th, 2015
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Old Monday, September 07, 2015
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Default September 6th, 2015

A leaf from history: Junejo runs into the baboo brigade


As any prime minister worth his salt would do, Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo too began efforts to evolve a programme aimed at improving the country’s economy and social order — increasing the literacy ratio, enacting judicial reforms to dispense speedy justice, and bringing about an end to corruption, among other reforms.

To achieve this ambitious task, Junejo needed an honest bureaucracy and an apolitical administration on his side. But he was shocked to find both inimical to him; in an irony of sorts, this situation was created partly by him.

From the moment Junejo was sworn in as the premier, General Ziaul Haq had decided to keep him subservient. Even when making some amendments to the constitution, the general merely informed his colleagues of the changes that he deemed necessary to run the new democratic government smoothly. Then, in a meeting of martial law administrators on March 4, 1985, he revealed the names of ministers to be included in the federal cabinet, many of them his nominees. They included Dr Mahboobul Haq, Hamid Nasir Chathha, Aslam Khatak, Haji Hanif Tayyab, Prince Mohiyuddin Baloch, Khaqan Abbasi, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Balakh Sher Mazari, Mir Ahmad Nawaz Bugti, General (rtd) Majid Malik, Qazi Abdul Majid Abid and Sardar Ghulam Mohammad Mahar.

Gen Zia unmoved by Parliamentary resolution to lift martial law
Junejo was a soft-spoken and cooperative person, and he decided to adopt peaceful means to run his administration. He believed that members of the parliament and federal ministers had a natural propensity of getting permits, plots and other personal gains. He, therefore, thought that keeping an eye over them would help him achieve his goals.

He was wrong.

Junejo had asked officers of the administration to keep a watchful eye on MNAs and ministers, and report their activities to him. But what transpired was that the bureaucracy exploited the prime minister at will. Along with actual follies members and ministers did commit, they also fed the prime minister fabricated stories, thereby creating a wedge between the MNAs and the prime minister.

The bureaucracy, of course, used this practice for personal gain; these machinations grew stronger by the day until the bureaucracy finally succeeded in its objective to prevail over Junejo. He began losing friendly ties with the parliamentarians, a folly no prime minister would commit in the backdrop of events he had been facing.

Meanwhile, with the restoration of the National Assembly, many MNAs wanted martial law to be lifted. Various attempts were made to convince Gen Zia to do so, but he was not prepared to relent. His only reply was that it would be lifted at its appropriate time.

Later, when Junejo informed the general about the apprehensions of the House, he assured the prime minister that he believed in the supremacy of the parliament. Gen Zia then addressed a joint press conference with the prime minister and reaffirmed his belief in the supremacy of the parliament.
On many occasions, Junejo spoke to Gen Zia about a timeframe for complete restoration of democracy, but the latter would only reply that he had already announced that martial law would be lifted when necessary. In a public meeting in Lahore, Junejo announced that martial law would be lifted before the new year set in, but he had not spoken to Gen Zia beforehand.

Later, when Junejo informed the general about the apprehensions of the House, he assured the prime minister that he believed in the supremacy of the parliament. Gen Zia then addressed a joint press conference with the prime minister and reaffirmed his belief in the supremacy of the parliament.

With the passage of time, there grew more than one group of MNAS who began meeting among themselves to discuss how to evolve a mechanism by which Gen Zia could be forced to lift the martial law. Maulana Gohar Rahman (Mansehra) was among them. He convinced other MNAs in forming two other groups to move the NA and pass a resolution demanding the military authorities to bring an end to the martial law.

After many long meetings and discussions, on May 26, 1985, three identical resolutions were placed before the National Assembly. The movers made long speeches in support of their resolutions and asserted that when the civilian rule had been restored there was no need of continuing martial law. After reading them, the house unanimously passed a resolution demanding an end to martial law.

It was generally believed that after the passage of the resolution, Gen Zia would be obliged to follow the house’s consensus. But it was later learnt that he had chalked out a schedule way back in 1983, when he announced on Aug 12 that after the elections he would lift the martial law before the end of the year. Four days later, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) and the Punjab assemblies also passed similar resolutions calling upon the army to bring an end to martial law and return to the barracks.

Despite the resolutions, the general did not budge. In fact, he had long ago decided to assert himself as a powerful president while Mohammad Khan Junejo was also trying to settle down as an elected prime minister and make sure that he gets all privileges and powers that he deserved as prime minister. By temperament, Junejo was not a man to raise quarrels. He knew it was a hard task and could only be achieved by a slow process. Gen Zia too played the matter diplomatically, and waited till an appropriate moment to keep his upper hand and go unchallenged.

By promulgation of Revival of the Constitution (RCO), Gen Zia had already exercised his domination over the prime minister and the federal cabinet. He wanted to act in the style of a ruler with all imperial powers, which he had enjoyed for the past eight years. He was never bothered about the parliament’s will, either through a resolution or any other act.

Source: A leaf from history: Junejo runs into the baboo brigade
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 6th, 2015
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A leaf from history: Junejo’s actions cause ripples


The National Assembly had come into being on non-party basis and no political activity or creation of political blocs was supposed to take place. However, after the election of Mohammed Khan Junejo as prime minister, it was being felt that the Muslim League was the ruling party. It was reported that as many as 40 members of the National Assembly joined the Muslim League to show support for the prime minister.

This was not acceptable to General Ziaul Haq who had, in his first address to the National Assembly, pressed the MNAs not to join any party and retain their independent identity. Some members such as Abdul Hamid Jatoi wanted to remain neutral; on the other hand since a treasury bench had been formed some members wanted to create an opposition bench, led by Jamaat-i-Islami which wanted to be officially assigned the role of opposition.

In the midst of this activity Dr Sher Afgan Niazi sent a reference to the Speaker to seek verdict regarding the members including Prime Minister Junejo, who had by then joined Muslim League led by Pir sahib Pagara. The Speaker sent the reference to the Chief Election Commissioner for his decision. Dr Sher Afgan, a medical doctor by profession and a simple man by nature perhaps did not weigh the significance of the reference which could have led to the disqualification of the members including Prime Minister Junejo. When Junejo came to know of this he informed Gen Zia who was already against the Speaker, Fakhr Imam. The general assured the prime minister that he would thwart any action by the CEC.

In order to exert his authority, prime minister Junejo takes certain actions that shock Gen Zia
Unhappy with the Speaker’s action, Junejo decided to replace him; in this regard he had Gen Zia’s support. At the same time Junejo was aware that Dr Mahboobul Haq, the finance minister, Iqbal Ahmad Khan, minister for law and parliamentary affairs, Mir Zafarullah Jamali and Aslam Khatak were ‘general’s men’ who would not support him at any cost, so he decided to relieve them as well.

Dr Mahboobul Haq was the first to go. He was a key person in the cabinet and at that time was pushing for normalisation of ties with India on equal terms. When Gen Zia visited India in December 1985 he was in favour of normalisation of ties with India as he thought it would boost Pakistan’s trade and economy, but India took a hard stand and placed its own agenda on the table. Dr Mahboobul Haq was also for closer ties but did not insist on the terms of agenda, which meant normalisation without touching the core issue of Kashmir. Prime Minister Junejo asked India that instead of treating Pakistan like a junior partner, it should treat it equally. He even got a resolution passed by the National Assembly in support of Kashmir. Dr Haq’s removal shocked Gen Zia.

Junejo also refused to grant extension in service to Vice Chief of Staff General K.M. Arif and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rahimuddin. Though Gen Arif himself did not desire an extension, Gen Zia wanted him to stay as he trusted him the most; after all he was the master executioner of the July 5, 1977 coup. During his service Gen Arif had received quick promotions and had soon become a four-star general and now wanted to lead a quiet life focussing on his poetry.

Given Junejo’s background, his current actions created a storm. Soft-spoken Junejo was known for his calm temperament and non-violent nature, and had a clean political life. Hailing from the small town of Sindhri in eastern Sindh, Junejo had stepped into politics at a young age. During the Ayub Khan era he was elected as member of the National Assembly and held various positions including minister of health, local government, communications and railways. From the days of his railways ministry, his spiritual leader Pir Sahib Pagara used to call Junejo Railway Babu.

Supported by his spiritual leader, he thought of bringing decency in politics and restoring democracy in the country. It was a challenging task due to the constitutional amendments brought in by Gen Zia which had reduced the power of the prime minister. Junejo had set his mind to seek powers for an elected prime minister, though it finally cost him his government and dissolution of the five assemblies.

During his visit to the United States in July 1986 he was extended full support by the US. Reassured, on his return he removed many army and civilian officers who had been placed by Gen Zia at important positions. This came as a shock to Gen Zia, especially the removal of Secretary Information Ministry General Mujeebur Rahman.

Another serious shock suffered by Gen Zia was the removal of Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan as foreign minister, whom he had convinced to join the foreign ministry after the departure of Agha Shahi.

On Dec 31, 1985 Gen Zia lifted martial law and allowed political parties to function, but it made no change as Gen Zia had already dug deep and through various amendments made such constitutional changes that Junejo could hardly make any effect.

Source: A leaf from history: Junejo’s actions cause ripples
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 13th, 2015
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A leaf from history: Bushra Zaidi’s killing and the riots in Karachi


The morning of April 15, 1985, seemed like any other... only that by the end of the day, Karachi had ground to a halt.

Two sisters, Najma and Bushra Zaidi, were travelling in a mini-bus that morning in Karachi. When the mini-bus reached Nazimabad Chowrangi, both decided to get off near the Sir Syed Girls College bus stop. Despite the bus being still in motion, the bus conductor asked the girls to hop off as the bus won’t come to a complete halt.

But as the women skipped off, they were hit by another bus that was travelling in the same lane. Najma fell and fainted but Bushra was overrun by the bus. The sisters were rushed to the nearby Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where Najma was admitted to the hospital for medical treatment. But her 20-year-old sister, Bushra, was pronounced dead.

A single spark can start a fire — in Karachi, identity politics and squeezed resources take centre stage as the city grinds to a standstill
Meanwhile, their college mates rushed to the scene a few paces away from their college’s main gate. Students from the Nazimabad Boys College also reached there and began protesting. Soon, things turned ugly as students pelted stones at passing vehicular transport. Many mini-buses were torched too. By the time the police reached the spot, traffic had thinned while many buses had already been damaged. A number of students were injured and arrested.

As news of the rioting broke, the protest spread to the rest of the city, particularly in main city centres. The thrust of protests was on Golimar Chowrangi, Nazimabad, North Nazimabad and Liaquatabad, but protests were also being staged in Orangi and Banaras Colony. Many people from these vicinities had moved temporarily to their relatives in other areas of the town.

The army was soon summoned to restore order, with many areas of the city put under curfew. The next morning, as curfew restrictions relaxed, the protests resumed and spread to new areas of the city. Since reports said that the driver of the mini-bus which overran Bushra Zaidi was a Pashto-speaking driver, there were great apprehensions that rioting might take an ethnic turn.

Reports later confirmed that rioting had taken place in almost all localities inhabited by various ethnicities, including Pashto-speaking and Urdu-speaking people. Arson also claimed its toll on property. This trend was dangerous and the provincial administration faced a great dilemma in trying to protect the life and property of the citizens. The city had come to a standstill; business activity was left completely paralysed too.

In fact, the whole country had been left shaken by the effects of the riots. Long curfew hours had created shortage of foodstuff and medicines in affected areas. All educational institutions stayed shut for many days but rioting did not stop. The provincial government led by Syed Ghaus Ali Shah, a nominee of General Ziaul Haq, tried restoring peace but to no avail.

Protests in Karachi were not a new phenomenon, but this time, ethnic difference became a point of very sharp conflict. This sentiment was exploited by leaders of all communities. This meant that the government struggled to bring peace since it was difficult to bring all stakeholders to the table.
Protests in Karachi were not a new phenomenon, but this time, ethnic difference became a point of very sharp conflict. This sentiment was exploited by leaders of all communities. This meant that the government struggled to bring peace since it was difficult to bring all stakeholders to the table. The city had seen language rioting in 1972 but this time it had shown deeper ill-will.

With the number of casualties mounted, political leaders spoke their minds about bringing peace to the embattled city. Some saw the violence philosophically, but others wanted to identify fault lines in the city. A political party termed the incident a traffic accident like any other.

But very seldom was the issue seen in its true context. In fact, the phenomenon was rooted deep in the socio-economic milieu accumulated during the past three decades. The city had grown a serious kind of economic imbalance. The sentiment of diminishing economic resources had made things simmer.

The political leadership of the time knew that some day, these fault lines were going to blow up out of proportion. There was the need of evolving of a mechanism by which no such tragedy occurred in futire. Altaf Hussain, who had transformed All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation (APMSO) into Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), wanted a permanent solution to the issue.

The Federal government led by Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo could not fathom the gravity of the situation. Junejo was struggling to establish himself as a prime minister with powers, and could not guide the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Ghaus Ali Shah in resolving the grim situation.

With the chief minister overseeing efforts to broker peace, contact was finally established with various stakeholders. After agreeing on broad outlines of restoring peace, some trivial points were also heard. For example, the government had announced to pay remuneration for the dead and the injured, but some transporters wanted compensation for the damaged vehicles made earlier.

When the city finally ambled to normalcy, the official death toll stood at 50 while more than 300 had been injured.

Unofficial figures put the number of dead at 200. But Bushra’s death and the violence that ensued had brought many realities out in the open.

There were apprehensions though that below the surface, things were simmering again and could flare up again. A collective mistrust and fear for the unknown gripped the city. Some fears proved true, and a few ugly violent tragedies broke out again.

The temporary truce that had been brokered was exactly that: temporary. But for a long-term solution of Karachi, a group of socio-economists, sociologists and economic planners should have been formed to study the social fissures of Karachi and evolve a viable mechanism to create amity between Karachi’s ethnic communities again.


Source: A leaf from history: Bushra Zaidi’s killing and the riots in Karachi
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 20th, 2015
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Default September 25, 2015

A leaf from history: Power shift: Eighth Amendment gives Zia complete clout


On Sept 10, 1985, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Iqbal Ahmad Khan tabled a draft bill which elicited an unprecedented uproar in the parliament. This was the draft of the bill called the Eighth Amendment.

On the face of it, this amendment was aimed at bringing about a ‘balance of power’ by empowering the President to dissolve the National Assembly, dismiss the prime minister and provincial governments, and order them to seek a fresh mandate.

But it did much more: the amendment changed the system of governance from parliamentary democracy to presidential and made the prime minister subservient to the president.

It aimed at minimising the status of the parliament, office of the prime minister, cabinet and other institutions. Without the president’s permission, the prime minister could not do anything. And in case of any disagreement, the president could dismiss the prime minister and his government and dissolve the assemblies.

All actions of the martial law government since July 5, 1977 takeover indemnified through an act of Parliament
These changes weren’t ceremonial either. Three years later, on May 29, 1988, General Ziaul Haq proved that he had intended to deploy the amendment when he developed a disagreement with the prime minister. Junejo’s government was summarily dismissed and the assemblies dissolved.

Other anomalies in the draft bill included the act of approving all actions of the martial law government taken from July 5, 1977, including the July 5 proclamation under which the civilian government was overthrown and martial law was promulgated. Similarly, all ordinances and martial law orders issued by the general over the past eight years as well as decisions of the military courts were to be legalised.

When the bill was tabled, it created uproar within the National Assembly. Members of the Assembly were not prepared even to talk about it, and termed the proposed amendment as tantamount to signing their death warrants.

This opposition shocked the presidential camp. Having assessed the mood of the MNAs, they began making efforts to hold meetings with a number of them to chalk out some way forward. Were the bill to not go through, there was a possibility that the general might have dissolved the National Assembly and sent everything packing.

With a conflict brewing, some senior politicians warned the sitting MNAs about what they could face at the hands of the general. Now the whole fiasco centred around a possible ‘give-and-take’ proposition. More meetings were held but they too ended without conclusion. Prime Minister Junejo then formed a committee with both liberal and right-wing elements, but they too could not settle on an acceptable solution.

When the bill was tabled, it created uproar within the National Assembly. Members of the Assembly were not prepared even to talk about it, and termed the proposed amendment as tantamount to signing their death warrants.
The situation on Independence Day also reinforced misgivings.

Gen Zia wanted to celebrate the day with extra fanfare. He announced that the Independence Day parade would be held at the capital, and he’d be taking the salute. PM Junejo also wanted to be there but he immediately got a message that according to the amended Constitution, only the head of the state (Gen Zia) was entitled to take the salute while the chief executive was not entitled. To pacify himself, Junejo asked his party to hold a public meeting in Lahore, where he would address the audience as the chief guest.

With a stalemate having developed, Gen Zia discussed the situation with his ministers who had told him about the MNAs’ mood, and advised them to withdraw the draft bill and replace it with a new one. After a week, the first draft bill was withdrawn and another draft bill was tabled before the House.

Although no significant changes were made in the second draft, it had a softer tone. It took many days to debate the second draft, however, it was passed on Oct 17, 1985, after some reports of ‘special messages’ to the groups of active members.

The Amendment changed, amended and revoked 19 clauses of the supreme law of the land. Through the amendment the status of prime minister was relegated to the lowest ebb. In simple words he had become a subordinate to the president.

The president was given the power to nominate the prime minister, provincial governors, judges of the high courts and Supreme Court, as well as the chiefs of armed forces. The prime minister now needed to inform the president about administrative affairs decisions and any suggestions for legislation. The president was authorised to ask the prime minister to seek a vote of confidence, promulgate ordinances and take other administrative measures. He could also ask the prime minister to hold a referendum on some thorny issues. The number of members in the National Assembly was also increased from 200 to 207.

The most important act of the Eighth Amendment was that the parliament indemnified all orders, ordinances and martial law regulations issued by the President, ratified the referendum, and the orders issued from July 5, 1977 (including the proclamation of martial law) to Sept 13, 1985. This was the main result Gen Zia wanted to attain.

The spectre of this Amendment loomed long after Zia’s death, as four successive democratic governments were dissolved under Article 58-2B. In April 1997, the Mian Nawaz Sharif government got the 13th Amendment passed unanimously by the parliament and scrapped the Article 58-2B, thereby restoring the supremacy and status of prime minister and the parliament.

Source: A leaf from history: Power shift: Eighth Amendment gives Zia complete clout
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 25th, 2015
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A leaf from history: Benazir returns from exile

For the jiyalas of Lahore, April 10, 1986 was a celebration: after over two years in exile, having left Pakistan on January 10, 1984, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairperson Benazir Bhutto was returning to Pakistan and landing in their city. Amidst the tussle between President General Ziaul Haq and Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, an old foe was back.

Before departing London for Lahore, Benazir had already sent a message to the Pakistani leadership through a statement issued in the Times of London. She said that she did not believe in the politics of revenge; rather, she was returning to have democracy restored and to work towards building the country afresh.

But her arrival in Lahore drew a huge crowd of PPP supporters to receive her. After staying in Lahore for a day, she travelled to various towns in Punjab and addressed large gatherings. This sent a clear message to Gen Zia, who did not want any political activity at that point since he had already held polls on non-party basis and was locked in a battle with PM Junejo over the restoration of political parties.

Soon enough, the general began consulting colleagues on how to deal with two opponents at the same time: PM Junejo and PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto.

A month after arriving in Lahore, Benazir arrived in Karachi on May 3, 1986 to a rapturous response. Her reception procession took eight hours to reach the public meeting venue near Quaid-i-Azam mausoleum from Karachi airport. The general did not waste any time and issued a statement warning the PPP leadership that if any confrontation took place, he would clamp down with another martial law that would be stiffer than the previous one.

Soon enough, the general began consulting colleagues on how to deal with two opponents at the same time: PM Junejo and PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto.
From the next day, Benazir began meeting party leaders. It appeared that she wanted to reorganise the PPP on a pattern that met the demands of the new political atmosphere and infused people with a sense of confidence in democracy. She knew that her workers were the asset of the party, but she was also aware of the ‘uncles’ who wanted her to toe their line.

Nonetheless, this was a changed Benazir, who knew perfectly what to do and which end to meet. The trials and tribulations of the past decade had taught her much. She knew the way to struggle and how to survive.

Benazir decided to celebrate Independence Day on August 13 and 14 in a befitting manner. The Sindh government received reports that she might undertake a detailed tour of the province, and it subsequently banned her movement while she was still in Karachi.

Nonetheless, Benazir had made alternative plans to address a public meeting on August 14 at the Kikri Ground in Lyari. That too was banned under Section 144; in fact, any meeting of more than five people was prohibited in Karachi and many other districts of Sindh.

Meanwhile, PM Junejo was making his efforts to manage various government departments. He sought details of the ongoing talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan through United Nations. Till then, the Afghanistan issue was being handled solely by Gen Zia, who considered it a great personal service to Islam.

On the insistence of the United States (US), the United Nations (UN) had passed a resolution condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and called for the withdrawal of Soviet troops and return of democracy. In June 1982, Diego Cordovez was appointed as the personal representative of the UN secretary-general, with the sole purpose of pushing through talks about Afghanistan.

Discussions began the same month in Geneva. Indirect talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan were also held at various intervals. To facilitate the talks, an office of the UN was established, called the United Nations Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan (UNGOMAP).

During the process, the more serious elements of the talks were handled by Nawabzadah Yaqoob Ali Khan. But after Junejo took over as prime minister, he was relieved and Zain Noorani was appointed the minister of state for external affairs. Since Junejo wanted to have his hold on defence and foreign ministries, he took complete charge of both.

Before Junejo’s entry, the general had made Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lieutenant-General Akhtar Abdur Rahman as the head of the Afghan issue. But Junejo did not try to interfere in technical issues such as guerrilla training to Afghan Mujahideen or arms supply from the US and other sources — these matters continued to be handled by the ISI chief. The prime minister, however, kept himself abreast of all developments and the flow of financial assistance received for waging armed struggle against the Soviet Union.

Till the end of 1986, talks were moving in the right direction. Junejo wanted a quick withdrawal of Soviet troops, as he hoped that it would satisfy the US and its allies, Saudi Arabia, and other friendly countries. During the process, he had developed a kind of confidence that if he succeeded in brokering Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, it would also grant him support to continue in power for another term.

Gen Zia could read Junejo well, but he also wanted his name to be written in the annals of history if the accord was reached at according to his wishes. The general believed that any Soviet exodus would lead to him being remembered as a true mujahid.

In late 1987, a year before Junejo’s dismissal, Junejo was informed by the Soviet Union that they wanted to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan and complete the process in the next year. Similar information was also received from the US.

This was a welcome development and all stakeholders began preparations to finalise the terms and conditions of withdrawing that were to be placed before the Soviet Union. This is where Gen Zia and PM Junejo held opposing views— not on the very point of withdrawing all troops, but on what measures should be taken next to ensure that a peaceful Afghanistan emerged out of a devastating war.

Source: A leaf from history: Benazir returns from exile
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 4th, 2015
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