PUTTING THE SYSTEM RIGHT – IN THE LINE OF FIRE
PUTTING THE SYSTEM RIGHT
Given Pakistan’s checkered political history, alternating between martial law and sham democracy, the way to true democracy has been difficult, requiring travel on several different paths at once. Our main political parties have in reality been no more than family cults, a dynastic icon at their head. Remove the icon, and the party evaporates. Hardly any of our political parties have been democratic on the inside, and therefore these parties never bother to hold genuine internal elections. The head of the parry is the party. A party head appoints whom he (or she) wishes, almost always sycophants, to party positions. These sycophants always look upward to the boss who appointed them rather than downward at the parry workers who ought to elect them.
I noted the absence of democracy at the grassroots level and the absence of effective checks and balances over the three power brokers of Pakistan: the president, the prime minister, and the army chief These were the main impediments to sustainable democracy. Each of these problems needed to be solved.
More broadly, when I took power, I knew that freedom needed to be spread to everyone, and guaranteed. I wi11 discuss the emancipation of women and other issues of rights in Part S. But without a system that could produce true democracy-the sort that I have described earlier, one that gives rise to governments that improve the human condition continuously and significantly-none of the other changes would have made any difference. Former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, who had twice been tried, been tested, and failed, had to be denied a third chance. They had misgoverned the nation. Furthermore, they would never allow their parties to develop a democratic tradition, as was clear from the fact that neither Benazir Bhutto’s parry nor Nawaz Sharif’s had held internal elections. In fact, Benazir became her party’s “chairperson for life,” in the tradition of the old African dictators! For both individuals, legal cases were pushing against them. All I had to do was make clear that the charges would not be dropped. Benazir Bhutto had already run away from the country and absconded from the law during Nawaz Sharif’s time. Later, Nawaz Sharif and his family were happy to sign a deal with my government to go into voluntary exile in Saudi Arabia, a deal he now brazenly denies. Both have chosen to avoid the rule of law by staying away, though they keep insisting now and again that they wi11 return, even together, in order to keep alive the morale of their parry members and remain politically relevant.
They were the heads of two significant political parties-the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). And because these parties were run like dynasties, candidates who could pro-vide alternative leadership were nonexistent or mere pygmies. It did not appear practicable to maintain those parties alone. Something more had to be done.
I was very conscious that in doing something more, with whatever political restructuring I did, I had to satisfy two international concerns. One, the process must remain democratic; and two, elections, whenever they were held, had to be fair and transparent.
Thus, before we could proceed with elections, we needed another political parry. Without a fresh option, Bhutto and Sharif could still run the show from abroad.
Nawaz Sharif had been convicted of hijacking my plane. He faced life imprisonment. He could not withstand the rigors of isolation and confinement. He used his previous contact with Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who asked me to allow Nawaz Sharif to go into exile there. I could not turn this request down, since it came from a great friend of Pakistan who also genuinely called me a brother-and I in return called him an elder brother. I also thought that sending the entire family of Nawaz Sharif out of the country might be politically advantageous. It would avoid the prolonged destabilizingeffect of a high-profile trial. I obliged. We struck a deal. I would give Nawaz Sharif a conditional pardon, and he and certain members of his family would go to Saudi Arabia for ten years and remain out of politics. They would also give up some of their properties as reparation for their misdeeds. This deal was signed by all the elders of the Sharif family, including Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shahbaz Sharif, and their father. It must be said that Shahbaz Sharif initially refused to sign and did not want to leave Pakistan. But we could not have this partial acceptance. So anxious were Nawaz Sharif and his father for Nawaz to avoid serving the sentence that they persuaded the younger brother to sign. The entire family thus left for Jeddah. In retrospect, I now feel that the decision was absolutely correct and beneficial for Pakistan. It facilitated the creation of a new political party.
In early 2006 Nawaz Sharif approached me through a very dear friend of mine for permission to go to London to be with his seriously ill son. Wishing the boy well, I readily agreed. Having reached London, however, Nawaz Sharif reneged on his promise not to indulge in politics. He showed a lack of character, launching a tirade of lies and distortions against me. Exile and isolation are an opportunity for introspection and critical self-analysis. Nawaz Sharif apparently learned nothing from his exile and failed to grow intellectually or politically.
I needed a national political party to support my agenda. I had the option of forming a new party, but I decided-and the emotion of a soldier had a lot to do with this-to revive the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), the party of Quaid-e-= Muhammad Ali Jinnah that had led us to freedom and to our own country.
My principal secretary, Tariq Aziz, an old and trusted friend, had the idea in advance of the elections of 2002 of converting the PML(N) back to a true PML(Q), the Q standing for Quaid. Chaudhry Shujat Hussain and his cousin Chaudhry Pervez Ilahi, seasoned politicians from Gujrat in the Punjab, were prominent within the PML(N). Tariq Aziz’s idea was to encourage them to reconstitute the PML(N) into the PML(Q). The Chaudhry cousins had been victims of some mudslinging, but they were good men. I agreed to the proposal. Tariq Aziz then introduced them to me, and I asked them to spearhead the effort to galvanize and reinvent the Muslim League. I must say, to their credit, that they demonstrated complete commitment to my cause and tremendous grassroots political skills. They reinvigorated the PML and identified it with Quaid-e-Azam by adding the Q. Most of the members of PML joined the fold of the new PML(Q) with Chaudhry Shujat as the president. at was left of the party called itself PML-N to identify itself with Nawaz Sharif. I realize, however, that many joined the new party because of their support of and commitment to me. I must also acknowledge the active role played by my friend Tariq Aziz in drawing people to me. He showed complete loyalty to me personally and to my agenda.
Thus PML(Q) was formally launched on August 20, 2002, with the hope that it would dominate the elections of that year.
We were cobbling together and launching the new Pakistan Muslim League in the wake of 9/11, when I had taken a firm stand against terrorists (as I wi11 discuss in Part Five). My popularity was at a peak after the dust of my decision about 9/11 started settling and the masses realized that Pakistan was firmly on a progressive path. The ranks of the PML swelled accordingly. The politicians of PML saw me as their leader, but-ironically-I was not trying to play politics. My idea was to remain above the fray, and avoid joining any party. Still, I had to transfer my popularity to the new party before the elections scheduled for October 2002. How to do it? I decided that we should hold a national referendum on my office. I knew it would result in a sizable vote in my favor, and I could then transfer that demonstrated popularity to the embryonic PML(Q) by voicing my support for the party. Many of my close associates disagreed with this approach, but I overruled them and decided to hold a referendum. It was held on April 30, 2002. The question asked of the people was:For the survival of the local government system, establishment of democracy, continuity of reforms, end to sectarianism and extremism, and to fulfill the vision of Quaid-e-=, would you like to elect President General Pervez Musharraf as President of Pakistan for five years?
The referendum went smoothly. There was a very high turnout, and the overall count was very strongly in my favor. There were some irregularities, though. I found that in some places over enthusiastic administrative officials and bureaucrats had allowed people to vote more than once, and had even filled out ballot papers themselves. I also later found that this absolutely unwarranted “support” was helped along by the opposition in certain areas where they have a hold and where they stuffed ballot boxes in my favor sd as to provide supposed evidence for claims of foul play. The whole exercise ended in a near catastrophe.
In retrospect I realize that in Pakistan, unless there is an opposition candidate or an alternative party that can monitor the process, any opinion poll wi11 end in a fiasco. Detractors wi11 cry foul, and you will not be able to prove otherwise. That was the case with this referendum; it placed inordinate demands on the dedication, honesty, and integrity of individual polling staff and the administration.
Finally, in a national broadcast, I had to come clean. I thanked the people for their support but also admitted that some excesses had indeed taken place without my knowledge or consent. I took full responsibility for them and for the wrong decision of the referendum in the first place, and offered my deep regrets. Telling the truth, how-ever unpleasant, gives the public the chance to forgive and forget. But tell lies, as our politicians habitually do, and the people will punish you.
As the election of October 2002 approached, I involved myself more and more in political issues. I soon realized that political reforms in some areas were a sheer necessity. The first amendment I proposed was to reduce the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen years. After all, if young people can be considered mature enough to get married at eighteen, or to get a driver’s license, why can they not be responsible enough to vote? Thus we decided to empower youth.
Women, I have always believed, suffer special discrimination in the male chauvinist world, especially in developing countries. Redressing this problem at its core would require political empowerment. We created sixty reserved seats for women to mitigate the acute gender imbalance in the National Assembly, knowing that women would be their own best advocates to remove gender bias and societal inequities. This arrangement does not exclude them from contesting the other seats in the Assembly. When elections were held in October 2002, a total of seventy-two women were elected to the National Assembly, twelve from general seats. This has set the stage for the irreversible process of the empowerment of women, as I will discuss in Chapter 30.
The census of 1997 conducted under the auspices of the army had shown that Pakistan’s population had risen to 140 million. The number in the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies was based on a census held decades earlier when the population was much smaller. Constituencies had become bloated. We therefore raised the number of seats in the National Assembly from 217 to 342. Of these, 272 are directly elected general seats, sixty are reserved for women on the basis of proportional representation, and ten are reserved for non-Muslims in accordance with their population ratio. We did the same proportionally in the four provincial assemblies.
The separate electoral system that had been followed for the minorities, in which non-Muslims could vote only for non-Muslim candidates on reserved seats, predictably led to a feeling of isolation from mainstream politics. No Muslim needed their vote, and this fact reduced their significance. We gave them a joint electoral system in which minorities vote for any candidate, and also allowed them to retain the reserved seats. With this change, all candidates have to solicit minority votes and therefore have to address the concerns of minorities. They are now mainstreamed into national political life.
We also made it incumbent on all candidates for the Senate, the National Assembly, and the provincial assemblies to be university graduates or the equivalent (ten years of school and four years of college or university). This was done not only to have better-educated parliamentarians but also to sift out many undesirable politicians, thus giving our parliaments a new, younger, more enlightened outlook.
We established a rule that no one could be president or prime minister more than twice, whether the terms were consecutive or not and whether either term had been fully served or not. Many people thought this law has been brought in to prevent Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto from ever becoming prime minister again. This is partially true, but above all, the new rule was enacted to encourage new blood to compete for high offices. It will be a check on the dynastic rule of a few individuals.
Imposing checks and balances on the three power brokers of the country was always high on my agenda. I was convinced that unless this was done, democracy could not be sustained or good governance guaranteed. There had to be an institutional way of motivating the prime minister to perform well, aside from presidential censure and later denouncements or the ad hoc, unconventional, but popular norm of the army chief’s “advising” the prime minister to govern better. It almost invariably happened that the prime minister would refuse to listen, and this refusal would lead to intense acrimony between him and the president or even the army chief This invariably resulted either in dissolution of the Assembly by the president or, once the power of the president to dissolve the Assembly was removed, the danger of the imposition of martial law by the army chief.
The president could also be impulsive and attack the prime minister because of very personal whims. When the president had the authority to dissolve the Assembly under Article 58(2)b of the constitution, this could-and very much did on one occasion-lead to an unwarranted interruption of democracy. An unreasonable president needed to be checked.
The last and perhaps most important check had to be imposed on the army chief In Pakistan’s political environment the opposition always tends to undermine the government, fairly or unfairly. The easiest way to do this, though unconstitutional and undemocratic in the extreme, has been to incite the army chief against the prime minister. This situation is compounded when the prime minister is grossly mis-performing and people who are generally concerned about the well-being of the country reach out to the army chief to save it. I saw this happening with every army chief after 1992, when I became director general of military operations. Between October 1998 and October 1999, when I myself was the army chief in Nawaz Sharif’s government, I know how many people-both men and women-taunted me for not acting against the prime minister. “Why don’t you take over? Are you waiting for Pakistan to be destroyed?” they would ask. Such situations, far too frequent during the 1990s, put the army chiefs in a quandary.
An impulsive army chief, having failed to change the prime minister’s behavior by persuasion, could take over. This must never be allowed to happen in the future if democracy is to be sustained. Martial law is never an answer to political malaise.
A foolproof, institutional system of checks is essential. I proposed the National Security Council (NSC), a body that would be chaired by the president but would have no executive function. It should be only a consultative body, neither above nor below parliament. We ultimately defined the membership of this body to include the prime minister, the four provincial chief ministers, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, the Senate chairman, and the speaker of the National Assembly, plus four men in uniform-the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the chiefs of the army, air force, and navy. That makes thirteen: a chairman and twelve members. I know that the army chief only should be brought in to keep him out of politics, but interservice sensitivity demands the inclusion of all four four-star commanders.
With the NSC composed thus and meeting at least once a quarter, I am convinced that we have instituted a check on the three power brokers. The prime minister has to perform, or he wi11 come under pressure from the NSC-or at least from the leader of the opposition and the uniformed members. The president had better not be impulsive when no member of NSC is with him. The army chief can never take over, because he has an institution available to voice his concerns (and the concerns of a worried public) to the prime minister and can then allow the constitution and the political process to take their course.
I am aware of the opposition of certain politicians to the NSC, and especially to the inclusion of the uniformed members. I am also conscious of western concerns of keeping the military out of political institutions. In spite of all this I am certain that the NSC, coupled with the safety valve of the presidential power to dissolve the National Assembly, is the best way possible to sustain democracy and avoid martial law. It is tailored to the Pakistani environment and will remain applicable until we mature enough to be able to create effective checks and balances within our parliaments and political institutions.
Unfortunately, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, whose appointment was supported by the PML(Q) on the assurance that he would attend the NSC’s meetings, backed out after pledging that he would attend. He belongs to the alliance of six religious parties and has been boycotting these meetings. They are either ignorant of the efficacy of the NSC or simply trying to sabotage my political reforms so that they can return to their bad old ways of the bad old days.
In any developing country, where political and governmental institutions are not entirely mature, there is always a large gap between formulation and implementation of policy. Traditionally, Pakistan has had a central (federal) government and large regional (provincial) governments, but local affairs have been either unregulated or managed by the provincial governments. It is said that “all politics is local.” If the masses are to participate effectively in the political process, democracy has to permeate down to the grassroots. This was lacking in Pakistan.
In fact, genuine democracy has to evolve from the grassroots upward, not be thrust from the top down. The base of the pyramid has to be very strong, or else it will collapse. A local government system that is genuinely empowered politically, administratively, and financially lies at the heart of democracy because it is best equipped to understand and also to address the needs and problems of the common people. This is what touches the people most, not assemblies in far-flung provincial or national capitals.
As noted earlier, we achieved a silent revolution with our Local Government Ordinance of 2000. This ordinance did away with the vestiges of the colonial era, when a deputy commissioner and a superintendent of police ran districts like lords. With the stroke of a pen they were both subordinated to the elected mayor (nazim). I had to withstand tremendous pressure and intrigue from the bureaucracy trying to nip this system in the bud, but we held our ground and succeeded in putting the new system in place. If, over time, it succeeds-as, God willing, I am convinced it will-history will call it ingenious.
The first local government elections were held in five phases, from December 30, 2000, to July 5, 2001. Each local government has three tiers: the union council at the lowest level, the tehsil (or subdistrict) council, and the district council. The district is headed by the nazim (equivalent to a mayor). Each union council (the lowest body, representing a population of 15,000 to 20,000) has thirteen members, four of whom must be women. We also gave one reserved seat in each union council to a non-Muslim. Four seats are kept for workers and peasants, thus mainstreaming the poor. The districts are allocated development funds from the center (i.e., the federal government) and the provinces, but they can also raise their own revenues. This, I believe, is the true empowerment of the people.
The first district governments were formally installed on August 14, 2001. I addressed all the nazims, motivating them to work for the uplift of their areas and their people. Unfortunately, the members of the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies felt threatened by the new local governments. They did not realize that their actual job is to legislate, not manage every village and neighborhood. I am sure that as our democracy gradually matures, this realization will dawn. When the local government system really takes root and people start voting only for the genuinely honest and deserving, rejecting the corrupt and inefficient, we will have achieved a bloodless revolution.
The district governments of 2001 functioned reasonably well for their first term of four years. How well they functioned depended, however, on the mayors. Wherever the elected nazims were good, progress was very visible. The districts that elected the wrong candidates stagnated. The second local government elections were held in 2005. The campaigns were conducted with much greater fervor and resulted in the election of better candidates. Voters exhibited an increased maturity, at least at the local level.
We will have to wait for Pakistan’s next general elections in 2007 (the assemblies have a term of five years) to see whether that maturity extends to the national and provincial levels. I am very glad that in many places, corrupt and inept council members were rejected in the second local government elections. Another encouraging sign was the massive rejection of religious groups in the North-West Frontier Province and also in Balochistan, where they are part of the ruling coalition at the provincial level. Their support dropped from 76 percent of the total provincial assembly seats in the provincial elections of 2002 to 24 percent of the total seats in the local elections of 2005. This was partially because of their own poor governance. I also made an effort to make people aware of the dangers of supporting the mullahs.
In retrospect, notwithstanding all the allegations and counterrevolutions of vote rigging and inept performance, I see the local government experience as very positive. I always look at the glass as half full. Obviously, such a glass is also half empty, but it will gradually be filled with more experience and maturity.
The Supreme Court had given me three years to stabilize Pakistan, hold elections, and hand over power to an elected government. By 2002, we had the new local governments in place, a new political party, and the economy stabilized to a considerable extent. The shock of 9/11 was being absorbed. I can say with some pride that for three years I had the most efficient and compact cabinet in the history of Pakistan. My team performed exceptionally well, and we turned the tide in all areas of governance. I salute all my cabinet ministers and the heads of the main public corporations and departments who worked so selflessly, with such patriotic zeal, and gave the country and myself such complete loyalty.
Several people advised me not to hold elections, and to ask the Supreme Court for more time. They thought that the reforms we had introduced needed time to mature. But I was adamant-not only because I had given my word to the people to hold elections as desired by the Supreme Court, but also because I firmly believed that it was absolutely essential to set a democratic dispensation in motion, the earlier the better.
We went ahead with the elections under a Legal Framework Order (LFO) that gave legal cover to all the electoral and political reforms we had introduced. The elections were held in the fairest and most trans-parent manner, irrespective of all allegations to the contrary. The PML(Q) won the largest number of seats in the National Assembly, but not an outright majority The only locality where it got an outright majority was in the Punjab provincial assembly; there, it comfortably formed the provincial government. In Sindh, Benazir Bhutto’s new Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) won the most seats but also fell well short of a majority. So the coalition in that province was up for grabs. In Balochistan, the PML(Q) won the most seats, but not enough to form a government. In the North-West Frontier Province the religious group of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Aural (MMA) won an outright majority and formed the government there.
At the national level, the PML(Q) had the choice of entering into a coalition with either the MMA or the People’s Party A coalition with the Muttehida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the fourth largest group in the National Assembly, would have fallen short of a strong majority. The People’s Parry has always claimed the progressive and liberal ground. If this claim was taken at face value, it was the logical first choice for the coalition. It was a good opportunity for them to demonstrate that they were truly liberal and not just a family cult that practiced fascism rather than liberal democracy, as when this parry was in power in the 1970s. But all efforts by the PML(Q) to work with them failed, for the sole reason that Benazir Bhutto would not countenance anyone else from her parry becoming prime minister. She treats the parry and the office like a family property.
A coalition with the MMA after 9/11 would have had a very negative international fallout, but still, it was attempted as a last resort. The MMA demanded the prime minister’s office for a man who would have been quite unacceptable both inter-nationally and domestically. He even came to me personally to ask for the coveted position, committing himself to a very reconciliatory approach toward the United States and the West and complete support against al Qaeda and other extremists. We faced a dilemma.
At that point, a group of stalwarts from the People’s Parry proved bold enough to disagree with the self-centered attitude of their chair-person, Benazir Bhutto. They formed a bloc called the Patriots. They have since taken the old name Pakistan People’s Party (three P’s) to differentiate themselves from Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Parry Parliamentarians (four P’s.) This new PPP together with MQM and the PML(Q), formed the government with a thin majority That led to regional bargains. The PML-Q and MQM agreed to form a government in Sindh. This in turn led to a period of peace and harmony in Karachi, the commercial hub of Pakistan that the MQM dominates.
Some people at home and abroad questioned the credibility of the elections. Some even accused the “establishment”-i.e., the intelligence agencies and me-of supporting the MMA because it won so many additional seats unexpectedly. These charges are not only false but absurd. If I had wanted to rig the process, why would I have done so for the MMA? That would have made no sense, but conspiracy theories are popular in Pakistan.
While all the negotiations were going on, we needed to authenticate the Legal Framework Order by bringing it into the constitution of Pakistan as an amendment. In effect, we needed to save the constitution and our nascent democracy by ratifying the steps already taken. Such a constitutional amendment required a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. The only way this could be achieved was to get the PPPP or the MMA on board. The MMA was more amenable because it wanted the assemblies to function so that it could exercise power. Extensive meetings were held by the leaders of PML(Q) and M. My chief of staff, Lieutenant General Hamid Javed, also participated. These were tough negotiations, and I realized that the MMA was anything but straight. Its members tended to be devious in the extreme, changing their stance regularly. The sensitive issues involved included my remaining president for another five years, my remaining in uniform or not, the creation of the National Security Council, and restoring to the president the power to dissolve the National Assembly. I give full credit to the PML(Q) team led by Chaudhry Shujat Hussain and my chief of staff, who after a laborious and often very frustrating series of parleys finally thrashed out a joint strategy with the M.
We agreed to present the seventeenth constitutional amendment as a bill in the National Assembly after (as proposed by the MMA) taking the National Security Council out of the bill and proposing it separately in the National Assembly as an act, which the MMA would support. As a quid pro quo, and in good faith, I also gave my verbal commitment to retire from the army and remove my uniform by December 31, 2004. Thus the seventeenth amendment to the constitution of Pakistan was passed with more than a two-thirds majority. No sooner was it passed than, as agreed, the act to allow the NSC was proposed. The clerics showed their hypocritical face by turning against it. However, the act was passed because it needed only a simple majority, which we had. Our reforms were now constitutional and legal, and I could constitutionally hold the two offices of president and chief of the army staff until 2007.
I was quite serious when I announced that I would remove my army chief’s hat by December 31, 2004. But events that soon began to unfold started putting doubts in my mind. On the domestic front, not only was the MMA continually reneging on its promises, the Maulanas also started to adopt a very confrontational approach. The war against terror was also heating up in South and North Waziristan, with the army entrenched and fully involved. Over and above all this, Pakistan in general and Dr. A. Q. Khan in particular came into the international limelight on the sensitive issue of nuclear proliferation, which needed the most careful handling. As all this was happening domestically, the conflict in Iraq had gathered momentum and Pakistan was being asked to contribute troops. This situation too needed deft handling. Finally, after the ten-month Indo-Pakistan border standoff in 2002, there was a thaw in our relations when Prime Minister Vajpayee agreed to visit Pakistan in January 2004. This process needed to be taken forward with great sensitivity.
With all this facing Pakistan, with so many pulls in different directions, there was a dire need for unity of command in governance. By this I imply a single authority over the three important organs of government-the bureaucracy, the political system, and the military. Whether anyone liked it or not, circumstances had vested this command in me. In the changed environment, I thought that removing my uniform would dilute my authority and command at a time when both were required most. Therefore, much against my habit and character, I decided to go against my word. I decided not to give up my uniform.
In the we of the elections of 2002, the PML(Q) elected Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali as leader of the parliamentary parry, and with the additional votes of its coalition partners, he was elected prime minister. For the first time Pakistan had a prime minister from Balochistan, its smallest province. He was very personable, and I certainly liked him.
When I took over the reins of Pakistan I already held two offices-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) and chief of the army staff. Soon after the takeover I assumed the office of chief executive of Pakistan. I also took over as president of Pakistan on June 20, 2001. Thus I was wearing four hats. I became president for two reasons: one was protocol, because of my regular contacts and dealings with the leaders of other states; the second was that after the elections in October 2002, I would have to vacate the office of chief executive-it would disappear, in favor of the elected prime minister. I had already taken off the hat of chairman of JCSC in October 2001, appointing General Aziz in my place. I was then left with only two hats: president and army chief. The entire electoral college comprising the Senate, the National Assembly, and the four provincial assemblies confirmed me as president of Pakistan by giving me a vote of confidence on November 16, 2002.
Although I had followed democratic and constitutional norms to retain the two offices, my remaining in the post of army chief gave Pakistan’s detractors an excuse to doubt my intentions, and to question the credibility of our democracy. But I listen to my conscience and to the needs of my country. I do what I do if I think it is best for my country, not to get certificates of approval from foreign organizations and media. I do what I think will make my people happy.
Normally, the leader of the largest or majority parry in the National Assembly becomes prime minister, but it was decided to separate these two offices so that Chaudhry Shujat could get on with the crucial job of consolidating the PML(Q). Also, Shujat did not wish to be prime minister, not least because of his indifferent health.
Jamali soon formed his cabinet, and the government started functioning. The cabinet was large because all partners in the coalition had to be accommodated; this is one of the detrimental features of a coalition government in the parliamentary system. Jamali’s government chugged along as best as it could till 2004.
During this period serious differences developed between Jamali and his party president, Chaudhry Shujat. The differences spread to the extent that the parry started feeling that the prime minister and party chief were working at cross-purposes. I tried my best to resolve their differences, but failed. I also felt that Jamali could not cope with the demands of his office. People started jockeying for his position, realizing that he might not last. The nation was once again faced with uncertainty, which, given our recent economic upswing, we could ill afford. There were all sorts of rumors, including one that I would dissolve the National Assembly. I had no such intention, of course; but facts have never stopped wild speculation from running rampant. Worse, the party could not agree on a replacement prime minister. When matters came to a head, I had to intervene. I had come to the conclusion that Shaukat Aziz, our successful finance minister, would make the best prime minister. But the difficulty was that Shaukat was in the Senate, and the prime minister has to be a member of the National Assembly. It was therefore decided that Jamali would resign as prime minister; that the parry president, Chaudhry Shujat Hussain, would become prime minister for a couple of months; and that Shuakat Aziz would run in two by-elections (two for the sake of caution) for seats voluntarily vacated for him in the National Assembly.
I did not discuss any of this with Shaukat Aziz. He was simply presented with a fait accompli. On the day Jamali resigned, Shaukat was in Rawalpindi, setting a huge cache of narcotics on fire. Driving back to Islamabad, he received a call from my chief of staff, who, without telling him why, asked him to go immediately to Chaudhry Shujat Hussain-“And good luck to you,” my chief of staff said at the end of the conversation. Shaukat was nonplussed. When he got there, Chaudhry Shujat remained mum, because I had told him not to reveal anything until Jamali formally announced his resignation. Shuukat Aziz was told only that the prime minister had resigned.
I had also requested that when Jamali announced his resignation, he should inform the nation that Shaukat Aziz would be prime minister and Chaudhry Shujat would hold the office for only an interim period. This Jamali failed to do, for whatever reason. I telephoned Shujat and told him to call a press conference immediately and give the whole plan to the nation. That is when Shaukat discovered that he had been ear-marked for the second hottest seat in Pakistan, something that was brought home to him with a bang when the assassination attempt was made on him.
That evening I attended a small dinner at a friend’s house, where Shaukat was also to be present. The dinner had been arranged days in advance, and not everyone present knew then that on this day Shaukat Aziz would be named as the future prime minister. When it came time for dinner, a woman asked, “But aren’t we going to wait for Shaukat?” Obviously she hadn’t heard the news. I could not help smiling, and I
said, “Shaukat will be coming late.” He actually arrived after dinner. When he did, I stood up, embraced him, and asked all the guests: “Let us give a good round of applause to the new prime minister.”
To the credit ofJamali, I would like to say that he was extremely loyal to me and his cooperative role in the changeover was most praise worthy. In him I have a good friend. After the change I had a family get-together with him, at his house, where I expressed my gratitude to him for his services to Pakistan.
Our party system is still evolving. There were innumerable factions of the Pakistan Muslim League that had splintered away at different times and for various reasons. There were also a number of other small par-ties. It was always my desire to consolidate like-minded political parties, so as to have a smaller number of them. I started an effort in this direction, approaching several friendly factional leaders. I was very glad to see a positive response. The finale of this exercise was my calling all the concerned leaders and asking them to give up their small fiefs in favor of one Pakistan Muslim League. They were all gracious enough to agree.
Who was to be the president of the parry? I felt very honored when all the leaders said that they would accept anyone I nominated. After due consideration of all the pros and cons I decided in favor of Chaudhry Shujat Hussain. The participants, without exception, agreed with my choice again.
As I said, our system still has a long way to go before achieving stability and true democracy. But we are making progress, slowly but surely, from election to election. True democracy will dawn when each political parry introduces genuine democracy within itself, when a parry’s federal and provincial council members are elected by parry workers and in turn elect the various parry office holders.