The Fourth Republic
BENAZIR'S SECOND STINT IN OFFICE
On October 6, 1993, the nation went to polls for the third time in five years. No political party secured an absolute majority in the National Assembly. However, Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Muslim League (Nawaz Group) emerged as the main players of the electoral game. The PPP with 86 seats was the largest party followed by the PML/N with 73 seats. Religious parties, won just nine seats in the 217-seat house. In the provincial assembly elections, the PPP got absolute majority only in the Sindh province with 56 seats while the Mohajir Qaumi Movement was the second largest party with 27 seats in the 100-member House. In Punjab, the PML/N got 106 against 98 of the PPP out of total 240 seats. In the North West Frontier Province, the PPP secured 22 seats while PML/N got 15 and Awami National Party 21 in the 80-seat House. In the Baluchistan, the PPP got only three out of 40 total seats, while PML/N got 6 seats. Ten seats went to independents, and the rest to other regional political parties.
The October polls conclusively proved that if anyone can threaten the PPP's position, it is Nawaz Sharif. Political observers pointed out that between 1988 and 1993, his vote bank was essentially negative in character as it drew its strength from its hatred of the Benazir rather than love for Sharif. People voted for Nawaz Sharif because he was the only alternative to her. But in the October 1993 elections, one could discern strong positive trends in the Sharif vote. The turnout during the election campaign clearly indicated that the people who supported Sharif in the past, purely because of a hatred for the House of Bhutto, may now prefer to vote against the PPP because they actively support Nawaz Sharif. Nawaz Sharif now commands the confidence of some 40 per cent of the active voters in Pakistan and can claim personal following as devout, even if not as large, as that of Benazir Bhutto.
Benazir Bhutto was sworn in on October 19, 1993, as Prime Minister for the second time in five years. Less than one month later, on November 13, 1993, presidential elections were held, in which PPP's candidate, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, was elected by defeating Wasim Sajjad of the Muslim League. With a party loyalist as head of state, the Punjab and Sindh governments in the bag, and the military establishment more supportive than ever before, Ms Bhutto had few reasons not to enjoy smoother sailing than in her troubled first stint in power between 1988 and 1990.
However, the PPP was able to form its government in the Sindh province only, where it had an absolute majority. In the Punjab, the PPP was forced to align with the Pakistan Muslim League (Junejo Group) to form a government, in which the leader of the minor coalition party, Mian Manzoor Wattoo, (leading only 16 MPAs out of 240) was the Chief Minister. In Baluchistan, Nawab Zulfikar Ali Magsi formed a coalition government since no political party got majority seats. In the North West Frontier Province, Pir Sabir Shah of the PML/N, with the support of the Awami National Party, formed a coalition government.
In a bid to get hold of the provincial governments, the center first successfully tried to topple the government of Sabir Shah in the NWFP through political maneuvering and horse-trading. Eqbal Ahmed gives a graphic account of the overthrow of the NWFP government through undemocratic means on February 27, 1994: "Independent MPAs -- popularly known as Lotas -- were being kept sequestered in Islamabad's WAPDA House by the party in power. They had defected from the NWFP coalition obviously in return for the greater favors from those in power at the Center. Other MPAs from NWFP in the federal government's hands were also held in the capital. When the day arrived for them to drag democracy into the filth of their ambitions, the government ferried them from Islamabad to Peshawar in three helicopters, reportedly belonging to the Cabinet Division. The Federal Minister of Interior received them at Peshawar's Army Stadium. They were guarded and escorted by hundreds of battle-ready soldiers. Later, when Day One's dismal business was done, they were flown back to Islamabad away from their home province and their constituencies.
One and a half year later, in September 1995, the Central government decided to replace Wattoo with a PPP man but despite all the maneuvering and horse-trading, it failed to achieve the goal. Although, Wattoo was sacked by the President but the PPP was forced to accept Sardar Arif Nakai of the PML/J as a compromise candidate for the Chief Ministership since the PML/J chief, Hamid Nasir Chatha, refused to accept a PPP nominee.
In both cases the central government relied on a presidential proclamation of emergency, under article 234 of the constitution, to sort out its opponents in the provinces. Means other than democratic were used to dispose of political opponents in the NWFP and troublesome allies in the Punjab.
Benazir, for all her western education and secular background, had to make concessions to Islamic populism and never more so than at the present time, when things were going badly in Kashmir, Karachi is terrorized by rival gangs and ethnic tensions are rising. It is a strange contradiction of the Pakistani society that while on the one hand, it does not return a purely clerics-led religious political party, such as the Jamaat-i-Islami to power, on the other, it cannot disregard the emotive appeal of religion. In recent elections, the Jamaat lost on all but three seats and was virtually eliminated from Punjab which was otherwise regarded as its strongest base. Yet, at the first opportunity after coming to power Benazir felt the need to appoint Maulana Kausar Niazi, as chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, who announced that within a matter of months, all laws would be brought in consonance with Quran and Shariah.
The PPP cooperated with Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Islam, headed by Maulana Fazlur Rahman. The Maulana, while announcing his party's decision to work closely with the PPP, nevertheless, expressed the view that he regarded the fact of a government being headed by a woman as "un-Islamic". Pragmatically, however, his party decided to cooperate with the government and reconcile itself to the fact that the head of the government happened to be a woman.[
Benazir's government completed two and a half years in May, 1996 but during this period she faced a strong-agitative opposition and a critic press. During Mian Nawaz Sharif's era, Benazir had been following a single-point agenda that was toppling of the government by any means. Now, she faced more strong opposition impatient to overthrow the government through agitation and intensive media campaign. However, like its predecessor, the PPP government continued the policy of political victimization, rampant corruption and political bribery. At the same time, judiciary was tamed through political appointments. The government avoided to appoint the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly to scrutinize the ever-rising expenditure of the government. In short, Benazir successfully contrived to concentrate all powers: judicial, legislative and political as well as financial, unto herself. This is a situation which she deemed "most dangerous" before the 1993 polls.
Federal Anti-corruption Committee, headed by Malik Qasim, who enjoyed the reputation of being a man of integrity, proved sadly ineffective in respect of the very large number of corruption cases that have occurred during the Benazir's second stint. Most of its energies were concentrated on corruption cases pertaining to Nawaz Sharif's tenure as Prime Minister. There was, undoubtedly, a tremendous amount of corruption in Nawaz Sharif's time but the same sizzling tempo of corruption appeared to have fully maintained during the Benazir government's rule. Ad hocism has become the order of the day for processing all major development projects. Nawaz Sharif curtailed the role of the Planning Commission and short circuited long established project scrutiny and clearance procedures in order to ram through his ill conceived motor way and yellow cab projects. After initial severe criticism of Nawaz Sharif's methods, the Benazir government adopted the same faulty line on the plea of cutting red tape and saving valuable time.
JUDICIARY NOT INDEPENDENT
Vendetta and revenge has always been the part of Pakistan's politics. But this time, while launching a systematic and ruthless campaign against its opponents, the PPP government succeeded magnificently in politicizing the judiciary and to that extent curtailing its independence. Following normal practice, when Dr. Nasim Hasan Shah retired as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sa'ad Saud Jan should have rightly taken his place. But he was superseded by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who ranked third in seniority.
The United States 1995 Human Rights report on Pakistan described the judiciary as "not independent in reality." The part of the report on independence of judiciary was blunt and hard-hitting as it gave details of how the courts were influenced. "The constitution provides for an independent judiciary but in reality, however, the judiciary is not independent. Through the President's power to transfer high court justices and appoint temporary and ad hoc justices, the executive branch is able to influence the Supreme Court, the provincial high courts, and the lower levels of the judicial system."
"It has become a standard practice to appoint judges to the high courts and Supreme Court on temporary basis for a period of one year and later confirm or terminate their appointments after an evaluation of their performance. Legal experts say that temporary judges, eager to be confirmed following their probationary, tend to favor the government's case in their deliberations. Judges in the Special Terrorism Courts are retired jurists, who are hired on renewable contracts. The desire to maintain their positions has the potential to influence their decisions.
"Despite the Government's promise to strengthen judicial independence, it took several measures to influence the court for political reasons. The Supreme Court heard the bail application and denied bail to an opposition Member of the National Assembly (MNA) in case where bail would routinely have been granted by a lower court. Mian Qurban Sadiq Ikram, special judge for the Court of Banking Offenses, was removed from the bench on July 31 (1994), a day after he granted interim bail to the father of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif."
In its International Narcotics Control report for 1994, the United States alleged that there is corruption in various government departments of Pakistan, including the judiciary. The allegation was based on the assumption drawn from judgments in various cases. The report cited the case of Rafi Munir for tainting Pakistani judiciary as corrupt. "There were other incidents during the year as well, such as the release of Rafi Munir, which would seem to indicate corruption in the judiciary," it said. The judicial system is on the verge of collapse and has come to the straits where it was ready to punish the innocent but most reluctant to punish guilty. 
"The government brought additional criminal cases against the leader of the opposition, Nawaz Sharif. The Punjab provincial government in June brought treason charges against Sharif and 17 others for their alleged attempt to unseat the province's chief minister in 1995. The government dropped the treason charges in September, following numerous public and editorial statements against them, but other charges against the groups remain pending. At year's end these cases were still pending in the court system.
"The government selectively used criminal charges and arrest to harass political opponents. The government continued to detain one senator from the Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif Group, who was arrested in 1994. Three PML/N members of the National Assembly arrested in 1994 were released on bail in 1995. The opposition alleged credibility that the government put political pressure on the judiciary to deny or delay bail to the arrested politicians. Three MQM/A senators and 11 MQM/A members of the Sindh Provincial Assembly arrested in 1994 on criminal charges continued to be denied bail and remained in custody. In December the courts released on bail one MQM/A Senator."
The report specially mentioned Rawalpindi MNA Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who has been jailed for seven years for keeping an assault rifle. At year's end he remained in custody pending legal appeals, the report added. Only four days after the US report, on March 10, 1996 the Lahore High Court acquitted Sheikh Rashid of charges of illegally possessing a Kalashinkov when the Punjab government did not contest the case. However, Sheikh Rashid had to spend another week in jail before he was granted bail by the apex court in the Lal Haveli firing case on March 18.
Ghulam Hussein Unnar's case symbolizes the height of "state terrorism." The hereditary chieftain of the Unnar tribe contested the 1985 partyless elections from Larkana and was elected. In 1988, elections he stood on a PPP ticket and was again elected to the provincial assembly. During Benazir's second stint he emerged as a popular politician on the wrong side of the fence. He contested the 1993 elections on a Pakistan Muslim League [Functional] ticket and lost by only 2,000 votes. Unnar claimed it was due to rigging. Between November 1993 and February 1994, 17 anti-corruption cases were brought against him, for 14 of which he managed to get bail before arrest from the Sindh High Court, and for the remaining three bail from the special anti-corruption court in Larkana. Between February and June 1994 he was detained four times under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. The blind FIR cycle of arrests was brought into play against him in July 1994, and it kept him continuously in custody until December 5, 1995. He was too sick to be flown abroad and was admitted to the Agha Khan hospital where he expired on January 25, 1996. Chief Justice of Sindh High Court, Nasir Aslam Zahid, on April 3, 1994, ordered that Unnar be examined by a medical board, which was done on April 4. The board recommended that he be hospitalized forthwith and the CJ ordered so on April 8. His orders were disregarded, and a contempt application had to be filed on April 12. CJ Zahid reprimanded the authorities and very ill Unnar was taken to the Larkana hospital on April 15. On April 16, 1994, Justice Zahid was removed from his post as Chief Justice of the SHC and he took his oath as a member of the Shariat Court. It is clear that Unnar was made to pay for his collaboration with Jam Sadiq Ali's government, which persecuted several senior members of the PPP in Larkana, Benazir's home district.
Ironically, it was Jam Sadiq's government which demonstrated that "blind FIRs" as the former Sindh Chief Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid termed them, are a convenient tool to harass political opponents and settle old score. The MQM has also alleged that its senior members and activists have been falsely implicated in several such FIRs, and that no elected member of his party has less than 50 cases to their name.
A blind First Information Report (FIR) is an FIR for which no case can possibly be made. It can be used in the so-called 'blind' system to hold in remand those whom the 'authorities' wish to harass for political or vengeful or other reasons. A cop whips out a dormant case file, asks his obliging magistrate to remand the victim in his custody for 14 days (maximum permissible) for 'interrogation,' at the end of which he pronounces his suspect to be innocent and releases him. But before the victim is freed, another cop takes over and the cycle continues till the 'high-ups' feel that the victim has had enough. The blind FIR system is operated by Station House Offices who have bought their police stations - the purchasing having been acknowledged by none less than the President of the Republic.
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION DIFFICULT
The US report described the overall human rights situation in Pakistan as "difficult" and mainly blamed the government for the failure. Members of security forces committed numerous abuses in 1995. Although the government has publicly pledged to address human rights concerns, particularly those involving women, child labor, and minority religions, the overall human rights situation remains difficult.
"Police and prison officials routinely use force to elicit confessions and compel detainees to incriminate others; the practice has become a standard procedure. Common torture methods included: beating, burning with cigarettes, whipping the soles of the feet, sexual assault, prolonged isolation, electric shock, denial of food or sleep, handing upside down, forced spreading of the legs and public humiliation. Some magistrates and doctors helped cover up the abuse by issuing investigation and medical reports that the victims died of natural causes.
"The overall failure of successive governments to prosecute and punish the abusers, however, was the single largest obstacle to ending or even reducing the incidence of abuse. The authorities sometimes transferred, arrested, or suspended officers, but seldom prosecuted or punished them. Investigating officers generally shielded their colleagues. Persons attempting to bring charges against police officers were often threatened by other officers and dropped the charges."
In March 1995, a contingent of Rangers surrounded the City Courts in Karachi and searched the court rooms. Sixty persons were taken into custody.