Civilian Governments

Shifting Civilian Governments

Benazir Bhutto became prime minister after her PPP won the general elections in November 1988. She was the first woman to head a modern Islamic state. A civil servant, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, was appointed president. In August 1990 he dismissed Bhutto’s government, charging misconduct, and declared a state of emergency. Bhutto and the PPP lost the October elections after she was arrested for corruption and abuse of power.

The new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, head of the Islamic Democratic Alliance (a coalition of Islamic parties including the Pakistan Muslim League), introduced a program of privatizing state enterprises and encouraging foreign investment. Fulfilling Sharif’s election promise to make Sharia (Islamic law) the supreme law of
Pakistan, the national legislature passed an amended Shariat Bill in 1991. Sharif also promised to ease continuing tensions with India over Kashmīr. The charges against Bhutto were resolved, and she returned to lead the opposition. In early 1993 Sharif was appointed the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League.

In April 1993 Ishaq Khan once again used his presidential power, this time to dismiss Sharif and to dissolve parliament. However, Sharif appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and in May the court stated that Khan’s actions were unconstitutional, and the court reinstated Sharif as prime minister. Sharif and Khan subsequently became embroiled in a power struggle that paralyzed the Pakistani government. In an agreement designed to end the stalemate, Sharif and Khan resigned together in July 1993, and elections were held in October of that year. Bhutto’s PPP won a plurality in the parliamentary elections, and Bhutto was again named prime minister.

In 1996 Bhutto’s government was dismissed by President Farooq Leghari amid allegations of corruption. New elections in February 1997 brought Nawaz Sharif back to power in a clear victory for the Pakistan Muslim League. One of Sharif’s first actions as prime minister was to lead the National Assembly in passing a constitutional amendment stripping the president of the authority to dismiss parliament. The action triggered a power struggle between Sharif, Leghari, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. When the military threw its support behind Sharif, Leghari resigned and Shah was removed. Sharif’s nominee, Rafiq Tarar, was then elected president.
Pakistan was beset by domestic unrest beginning in the mid-1990s. Violence between rival political, religious, and ethnic groups erupted frequently in Sind Province, particularly in Karāchi. Federal rule was imposed on the province in late 1998 due to increasing violence.

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