Musharraf’s dictatorial regime and the intensification of Pakistan’s state-centric national security approach

After his coup in October 1999, General Pervez Musharraf appointed himself as "Chief Executive,” declared a state of emergency, and suspended the 1973 constitution under a “Provisional Constitution Order” (PCO), which ensured that his actions could not be challenged in the courts. Like his predecessor, General Musharraf blamed the political leadership for systemic corruption, a weak economy, and political instability in the country. Moreover, he gave assurances that he would revive genuine democracy, improve the economy, and end corruption. Like General Ayub, Musharraf s coup was accepted by the general public, who considered the civilian government corrupt and incompetent. Most of the liberal-minded people in Pakistan also saw some cause for optimism that General Musharraf s rule might bring stability and order to the country. In January 2001, President Rafiq Tarar was forced to resign from his office by means of a PCO, and General Musharraf succeeded as the new president of the country (Kronstadt 2004).

Internationally, Pakistan was becoming more isolated and its Commonwealth membership was suspended after the coup. In March 2000, US President Clinton was on an official visit to India. At an insistent request from Pakistan’s foreign office, Clinton visited Pakistan for just five hours, without, however, meeting General Musharraf. Moreover, further international sanctions were imposed on

Pakistan, and the IMF froze the last instalment of the SUS 1.56 billion credit allocated in 1997 (Jaffrelot 2004). So Pakistan became more of a diplomatic pariah state after the coup.

Like the earlier military regime, General Musharraf wanted to have a civilian government that worked under the direction of the military. Prior to the elections, he incorporated a “Legal Framework Order” in the constitution which increased presidential power over that of the prime minister. The ISI also planned to rig the polls in advance of the elections in 2002 and formed their own king party (promilitary) known as the Pakistan Muslim League - Quaid-e-Azam Group (PMLQ) (Dawn, Pakistan 27 February 2008). Like the IJI, the alliance of six far-right Islamist political parties was formed under the banner of Muttihada Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), including the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JULS), Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith, Pakistan Islami Tehrik, and JI (Khan 2014). The ISI was alleged to have secretly supported the MMA to counter mainstream secular political parties and used them as an Islamic card in dealing with the US after 9/11 (Abbas 2004).

The general elections were held in October 2002. The PMLQ won the 2002 election with narrow margin winning 77 seats of the 268 seats at the federal level, followed by the PPP with 63 seats (Appendix 10). After the elections, the ISI allegedly formed a forward block within the opposition PPP to support the PMLQ government. Moreover, many politicians changed their party allegiance after the elections and joined the PMLQ by offering key positions in the subsequent government (Abbas 2004). Thus, the political divide has continued that helped General Musharraf to establish PMLQ led government under his rule. Nevertheless, the MMA won 45 seats in the national assembly and won a majority of seats in the KP and Balochistan provinces. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the Islamists emerged as a major opposition political party and formed provincial governments in these two provinces (Appendix 11). On the other hand, General Musharraf excluded the leadership of the two largest political parties, PPP and PMLN, from contesting the elections.

Like General Ayub Khan, General Musharraf maintained military control over state affairs following elections. The PMLQ passed the 17th constitutional amendment through parliament, with the support of the MMA, in December 2003. The amendment reinstated Article 58 (2) (b) and shifted back power to the president by dismissing parliament and the prime minister. More importantly, Musharraf succeeded in establishing the infamous NSC, which undermined civilian supremacy and which previous military generals had failed to implement. Under the NSC, important powers were transferred back to the military (Adeney 2007; Appendix 5). Thus, the NSC has institutionalized the military’s role in the political sphere of the country.

In addition, General Musharraf promulgated the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance in October 1999. The ordinance was approved by the then President Rafiq Tarar (Pakistan Today, 28 April 2011). In the past, such anti-corruption campaigns/reforms have been used for the political victimization of high-profile political figures in Pakistan. In fact, two successive elected governments, those of Bhutto and Sharif, were dismissed on allegations of corruption in 1990 and 1993. On the other hand, the military is exempt from the jurisdiction of the NAB ordinance. According to section four of the NAB ordinance (XVIII of 1999), “the applicability extends to all public servants and citizens other than a person who is a member of any of the armed forces of Pakistan.” So the Pakistani military has impunity and is outside the ambit of this ordinance.

The NAB, as an autonomous organization, was established under the administrative control of the military. The apparent objective of the 1999 NAB ordinance was to “eradicate corruption and corrupt practices and hold accountable all those persons accused of such practices and matters.” The NAB is provided with extensive powers. Under the NAB ordinance, corruption suspects may be placed in custody for 15 days without charge and may be denied access to counsel prior to charging. Moreover, the offences are non-bailable and the chairman of NAB has special powers to decide whether to release or detain suspects under investigation (NAB - XVIII of 1999). With such discretionary powers, the military establishment has used the NAB ordinance as a tool “to either fix political opponents or make them pliable” (Ahmed 2013); Sareen 2018). For example, General Musharraf utilized it to deal with his political rivals in order to prevent any opposition to his dictatorial regime. Most recently, it was used against the former ruling party PMLN and its leader Nawaz Sharif, who was put in jail for alleged corruption just before the 2018 parliamentary elections (BBC News, 6 July 2018). Thus, the NAB was another sword hanging over the heads of political leaders which the military establishment utilized for the persecution of its opponents among the political leaders and subordinate civil servants (Chene et al. 2008). In other words, it is an effective tool for political engineering in order to control state affairs within the national security state.

Besides controlling politicians, the military, with the support of the ISI, has maintained a greater control over the media in Pakistan. In March 2002, General Musharraf promulgated the “Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority” (PEMRA) and relaxed restrictions on the electronic media (PEMRA, Retrieved: 9 November 2018). Many media houses were established, which led to a vibrant electronic media in the country. While public access to information has increased, the flow of information is largely controlled by the military establishment. The ISI has cultivated many journalists in the media houses directly and indirectly, in order to manage public opinion and counter dissent. On the other hand, the military have opened their own television channels and radio stations to counter dissent. In fact, the media has been used to propagate the positive image that the military is the only guardian institution of the country. More importantly, the media houses blamed civilians for all the wrongdoings in the country. Most of the talk shows have recently become media trials of anti-military establishment political parties, politicians, and civil rights groups.

The Pakistani military established its own media agency, known as the InterServices Public Relations (ISPR), in 1949. It is headed by at least a serving major general. General Musharraf has extended the ISPR’s capacity in order to control both the electronic and print media (Yusuf 2011). They have been

Pakistan’s post-Cold War national security 83 involved in the Pakistani film industry, the theatre, and an extensive radio network. The ISPR have run different campaigns through the media to glorify the military chiefs and denigrate politicians. For example, they have funded films, dramas, and songs to propagate their so-called hyper-patriotic security narrative. According to prominent defence analyst Ayesha Siddiqa (2017), “the ISPR is known for intimidation such as directing television channels regarding their choice of news-programme anchors, and in certain cases, even their choice of guests.’’ In this process, the military has emerged as a major stakeholder in the media as well. There is no credible information on how many media channels the military operates. The late Asma Jahangir, a former senior lawyer and human rights activist, submitted a petition to the Pakistan Supreme Court in 2016 to demand information about television and radio channels run by the military. However, the court simply kept prolonging action on the petition (Malik 2016). With the addition of the above institutions, the Pakistani military elite further consolidated its power and extended itself serving national security state under General Musharraf regime.

Internationally, General Musharraf portrayed himself as pro-Western leader who could defeat Islamic militancy in the region after the 9/11 terror attacks. For this, he promoted his so-called agenda of “enlightened moderation” to counter militancy and extremism in the country. However, he provided a politics space to religious groups by ousting major political parties in order to gain political power. Therefore, the Musharraf rale was not really moderate on Pakistani politics, but he successfully gained international support for his illegitimate dictatorial rule by presenting himself as a liberal Muslim leader, who could work with the US to defeat this menace of terrorism (Adeney 2007). More importantly, he adopted dual policy by supporting the US global war on terror but at the same time provided covert aid to the Afghan Taliban in post-9/11.

Similarly, in the post 9/11 era, one of the major concerns was nuclear terrorism as global terrorist groups have been seeking nuclear weapons. All the nuclear power states were worried about the possibility of losing control over nuclear weapons and its materials. So the state must pay greater attention to securing its nuclear weapons (Mowatt-Larssen 2009). About Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the international community has constantly raised their concerns due to the rise of home-grown terrorism and political instability in the country that could lead to the nuclear weapons or materials falling into the hands of terrorists. Consequently, it has provided another justification of a strong military-centric national security state in the country as the Pakistani military establishment maintains control over the nuclear arsenal. Thus, General Musharraf used the extremist threat and nuclear terrorism to buttress their national security state in post-9/11.

However, the year 2007 significantly changed domestic politics and internal security in Pakistan. General Musharraf confronted severe challenges in 2007 to his control of the state and society. A crisis loomed when General Musharraf sacked the chief justice of the Supreme Court in March 2007 and later imposed restrictions on the media. The alienated journalists joined the lawyers’ movement which had been started as a protest against the suspension of the chief justice of Pakistan. Subsequently, massive demonstrations were carried out against Musharraf, demanding his resignation from office (Chesser 2007).

In July 2007, General Musharraf also cracked down on the radical clerics of the "red mosque” when unrest reached a level which was difficult to control in the heart of Islamabad. Actually, General Musharraf was trying to present himself as the only Pakistani leader able to counter terrorism in the country. In this way, he thought he would tackle the secular lawyer’s movement and other groups who were opposing his rule in the country. Nonetheless, the red mosque operation was a mining point in the militant landscape of Pakistan as it led to a series of suicide attacks against security forces and government officials (Schaffer 2008). It was the worst crisis faced by General Musharraf since his military coup in 1999. In order to control the situation, General Musharraf imposed a state emergency on 3 November 2007. The emergency was condemned nationally and internationally. Despite the state of emergency, terrorist attacks continued and, subsequently, General Musharraf further lost control over the government. Finally, he lifted the emergency on 15 December 2007.

Despite international pressure, General Musharraf s regime continued with its support of proxy militant groups active in Kashmir and Afghanistan. However, these proxy wars have severe adverse consequences for the internal security of Pakistan. Many Kashmiri commanders and outfits joined anti-Pakistani state Taliban militant groups and Al-Qaeda. Moreover, the Afghan Taliban insurgency fuelled militancy in Pakistan (Siddiqa 2011). In December 2007, the Pakistani Taliban groups united under the umbrella of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), fighting against the Pakistani security forces. Baitullah Mehsud became the central commander of the TTP who pledged allegiance to Mullah Omer, the then chief of the Afghan Taliban. Furthermore, TTP and the Afghan Taliban maintained both logistical and financial support for each other.

After the unification of various militant groups and the army red mosque operation, TTP became the most lethal militant group in the region. According to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), in 2007, around 3,448 people were killed and 5,353 injured in 1,442 terrorist attacks, mainly conducted by the TTP. The lethality and number of terrorist attacks had increased considerably since 2006, when 907 people died and 1,543 were injured in 657 terrorist attacks (PIPS report January 2008). On top of this, the Taliban insurgency spread from tribal areas to settled areas in KP province. Since then, the TTP has carried out major terrorist attacks on military installations, including the GHQ, the Mehran airbase, and the Pakistani Ordnance Factory Wah Cantt.

Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile in October 2007. On her return, Bhutto narrowly escaped in two bomb blasts when she was welcomed by a massive crowd at Karachi, in which 149 people were killed. Despite threats to her life, she continued with her political campaign for 2008 elections. On 27 December 2007, Bhutto was assassinated in a public gathering that forced Musharraf to resign and to hold parliamentary elections in earlier 2008. Prior to her assassination, "Bhutto said a sinister cabal of intelligence officers and presidential aides were plotting to kill her, and that Musharraf should be

Pakistan’s post-Cold War national security 85 blamed if anything were to happen to her. PPP has always maintained that line” (The Guardian, 31 August 2017). General Musharraf s dictatorial rale continued for nearly eight years in which the military had extended further its control over the state affairs.

 
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