|Pakistan Table of Contents
In 1993 a protracted power struggle between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ishaq Khan played out as Pakistan's two leading politicians maneuvered each other out of power. This period of behind-the-scenes struggle was described by a Pakistani daily as a "Silent Revolution" and was watched with some concern by the international community, which feared that Pakistan could once again fall under military rule.
On April 18, 1993, the power struggle seemed to be resolved when President Ishaq Khan, exercising the extraordinary constitutional powers afforded the president by the Eighth Amendment, dismissed the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. For the second time, Ishaq Khan had invoked the Eighth Amendment to bring down an elected government. The charges of corruption and mismanagement of the economy that he leveled against Nawaz Sharif were almost identical to those he had earlier brought against Benazir in 1990. President Ishaq Khan appointed Balakh Sher Mazari, described by the New York Times as heading "a tribal clan of landowners," as caretaker prime minister and announced a new timetable for elections.
On May 26, 1993, the Supreme Court voted that Ishaq Khan's dissolution of the National Assembly and his dismissal of the prime minister were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court's action was a sharp rebuke of Ishaq Khan's heavy-handed exercise of presidential powers and was widely hailed as a victory for the advocates of democratization. Yet, although the Supreme Court was able to reinstate the Nawaz Sharif government, the status quo ante was not restored, and the struggle between the president and the prime minister continued unabated, making the pursuit of regular government workings impossible. Noting the mounting impatience of the Pakistani military with the endless machinations of the country's politicians, the United States and the European Community communicated their concern, warning against a military takeover.
The continuing political crisis in Pakistan came to an abrupt halt when the prime minister and president both resigned after two weeks of intense negotiations among the Nawaz Sharif government, Benazir, and the army. The resolution of the crisis was unique because for the first time in the nation's history a government had voluntarily stepped down in order to avoid a possible military intervention. Interestingly, the negotiations had been mediated by General Waheed, the chief of the army staff. The resultant agreement and its implementation followed strict constitutional procedure. Ishaq Khan was replaced by the chairman of the Senate, Wasim Sajjad, who functioned as acting president until the elections. More important, Moeen Qureshi, a former civil servant and senior World Bank official, agreed to serve as caretaker prime minister. Qureshi, a Pakistani national, had left the World Bank in 1992, obtained permanent residence status in the United States, and established his own company, Emerging Markets Corporation.
More about the Government of Pakistan.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress