|Pakistan Table of Contents
A powerful player in the political equation was President Ishaq Khan. The president, under the constitution, is elected by a majority of the members of the national and provincial assemblies. Ishaq Khan was a seasoned senior bureaucrat-turned politician who had been a key figure in Pakistan for more than three decades. Born in 1915 in the North-West Frontier Province, he was appointed to the prestigious Civil Service of Pakistan after independence in 1947. After holding various regional posts, including being chairman of the West Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (1961-66), he was appointed to several positions in the central government--first as secretary, Ministry of Finance (1966-70) and later as governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (1971-75). In the latter position, he questioned the wisdom of a number of the economic policies of then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. He was subsequently moved from the bank and made secretary general at the Ministry of Defence. Although an unusual post for a senior economics expert, it proved to be fortuitous in that it brought him into close contact with the senior officers of the armed forces. Among them was General Zia, who later ousted Bhutto and turned the management of the economy over to Ishaq Khan. During the martial law period (1977- 85), Ishaq Khan's titles changed, but he was responsible for all important economic decisions. Among other things, he supported the Zia government's efforts to Islamize the economy by changes in the fiscal and banking systems.
In 1985 Ishaq Khan was elected to the Senate and later became chairman of the Senate. The death of Zia in 1988 thrust Ishaq Khan to the center of the political stage. When the military decided to use the constitution to handle the issue of succession, Ishaq Khan, as chairman of the Senate and therefore next in the line of succession, became acting president. He and the emergency council he instituted decided to hold general elections and to allow political parties to participate. Thus, the country was guided back to democracy, Benazir became prime minister, and Ishaq Khan was subsequently elected president by the national and provincial assemblies.
Ishaq Khan's position was considerably strengthened by the Eighth Amendment to the constitution, introduced by President Zia, which allows the president to dismiss the government and to override the government's choice of army chief. When the previous army chief died unexpectedly, President Ishaq Khan reportedly turned down the government's choice and named General Abdul Waheed to head the army. General Waheed, who is not known to have any political ambitions, is from the same ethnic group as Ishaq Khan--the Pakhtuns of the North-West Frontier Province.
Intermittent and conflicting signals of rapprochement, realignment, and behind-the-scenes alliances among the various political players heightened the political tension in late 1992 and early 1993. There was speculation that the opposition and the government might join forces to muster a two-thirds majority in the parliament to repeal the Eighth Amendment or even that they might field a candidate against the president. However, it was also noticeable that Benazir had stopped openly attacking the president, and some observers considered that she might be playing for time, hoping to use the differences between the president and the prime minister to her own advantage. The army, however, always a key ingredient in the mix, continued to support the president as well as the continuation of the Eighth Amendment. Against this backdrop, Pakistan's developing democracy continued to be tested by economic problems, persistent violence, and corruption, as well as the power struggles of its leaders.
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Source: U.S. Library of Congress