Third Democratic Era (1988–1999): Benazir-Nawaz PeriodMain articles: Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Indo-Pakistani War of 1999, Chagai-I, Chagai-II, Atlantique Incident, Civil war in Afghanistan (1996–2001), and 1992 Cricket World Cup
Democracy returned again in 1988 after the general elections which were held after the death of General Zia-ul-Haq. The general elections saw the victory and return of Peoples Party back into the power politics. This period, lasting until 1999, introduced the parliamentary system and two-party democracy in the country, featuring a fierce competition between centre-right conservatives led by Navaz Sharif and centre-left socialists directed by Benazir Bhutto. The far-left politics and the far-right politics had disintegrated from the political arena with the fall of global communism and the United States lessening its interests in Pakistan. Pakistan was ruled by elected civilian governments, alternately headed by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who were each elected twice and removed from office on charges of corruption and issues regarding the national security.
|“||The Pressler amendment was a veto in the hands of India— a tool and a club in the hands of those who stood against America and with the Soviet Union for fifty years ... The United States "ethically" should honour its "contractual obligation" to Pakistan, legally and morally ...||”|
—Prime minister Benazir Bhutto, 1995,
As a result of 1988 elections, Benazir Bhutto became the first female prime minister of Pakistan and the first female head of government in a Muslim majority country. At first, Prime minister Benazir Bhutto adopted pro-American policies and supervised the troop evacuation of Soviet Union from Communist Afghanistan. After Soviet withdrawal, the alliance with U.S. came to end - when the secret of a successful clandestine atomic bomb project was revealed to world, it led to imposition of economic sanctions by U.S. (see Pressler amendment). Benazir Bhutto responded aggressively after hearing the news of sanctions and relations with U.S. became cold. In 1989, she ordered a military action in Afghanistan that brutally failed, leading her to depose the directors of the intelligence services. Also, economic situation in the country got worsened and the currency of Pakistan lost the currency war with India. Poor economic situation and national security concerns led the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto's first government by the conservative President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
The new elections were held in 1990 and saw the success of centrist and right-wing conservative alliance, the Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA) led by Nawaz Sharif. The conservatives, for the first time in history, came to power under a democratic system under which Nawaz Sharif was appointed the Prime minister. Nawaz Sharif and conservatives inherited economic challenges and issues regarding internal security.
In November 1990, Sharif made a secret visit to U.S. and adopted a policy of deliberate ambiguity; he announced that "Pakistan doesn't possess an atomic bomb" but vowed to develop nuclear power for economic reasons. Sharif launched a large-scale industrialization programme on the capitalist model. When he controversially ordered an operation against the liberals (the MQM) in Karachi (see Operation Blue-Fox), it led to the halt of his policies. Institutional problems arose with president Ghulam Khan, who attempted to dismiss Sharif on the same charges as he had pressed on Benazir Bhutto. Prime minister Sharif turned to Supreme Court that reconstituted his government. Sharif and Benazir Bhutto allied together to force President Ishaq Khan to resign from presidency but, Sharif too was forced to relinquish office later in weeks.
Upon Sharif's resignation, the new elections were held in 1993 which saw the return of Benazir Bhutto and the Peoples Party for the third time. After securing the plurality, Benazir Bhutto formed the government and appointed a hand-picked president for the presidential office and a new cabinet. Then, starting with the military forces, all four-star chiefs of navy, air force, army and chairman joint chiefs were handpicked. The internal policies were exercised on tough stance to bring peace in the country, starting first in Karachi and later in western Pakistan. She launched the integrated space weapons programme in 1993, supervising the construction of Shaheen and Ghauri systems. The military reforms and development programmes were launched by Benazir Bhutto in 1994 when she succeeded the agreement of the technology transfer of AIP technology. She drove her economic policies on the model of social democracy - limited nationalization and deregulation of industries while disbanding the labour unions; the economy was highly centralized and the proponents of social democracy and national pride were supported at an extreme level. Her actions earned her a nickname "Iron Lady" by her rivals. During the late 1990s, Pakistan was one of three countries which recognized the Taliban government and Mullah Mohammed Omar as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan. Allegations were made of Pakistan and other countries providing economic and military aid to the group from 1994 as a part of supporting the anti-Soviet alliance. It is alleged that some post-invasion Taliban fighters were recruits drawn from Pakistan's madrassahs.
Relations with India worsened in 1995 when Benazir Bhutto learned the news of Indian attempt to conduct nuclear tests for the second time. At multiple occasions, Benazir Bhutto aggressively attacked India and pushed India on to take defensive positions on its nuclear programme. Under her second term, the atomic bomb programme was aggressively pursued, modernized and expanded despite U.S. objections, even though she tried to normalize relations with the United States and other Western world and strengthened relations with socialist states.
However in 1996, the popularity of Benazir Bhutto waned after her husband became allegedly involved in the controversial death of Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto's younger brother. Many public figures and officials suspected even Benazir Bhutto's involvement in the murder, although there were no proves. In 1996, seven weeks passed this incident, Benazir Bhutto's government was dismissed by her own hand-picked president on charges of Murtaza Bhutto's death.
In the 1997 election that returned Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister, conservatives received a heavy majority of the vote, obtaining enough seats in parliament to change the constitution, which Prime minister Sharif amended to eliminate the formal checks and balances that restrained the Prime Minister's power. Institutional challenges to his authority - led by the civilian President Farooq Leghari, chairman joint chiefs general Jehangir Karamat, chief of naval staff admiral Fasih Bokharie, and Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah - were put down and all four were forced to resign; Chief Justice Shah doing so after the Supreme Court was stormed by Sharif partisans.
Problems with India further escalated in 1998, when the television media reported the Indian nuclear explosions. It was the second nuclear test, codename Operation Shakti, conducted by India since 1974 and with it India declared itself a nuclear power. When news flooded in Pakistan, a shocked Sharif called for a national security meeting in Islamabad and vowed that "she (Pakistan) would give a suitable reply to the Indians ...". After reviewing the effects of tests for roughly two weeks, Sharif ordered PAEC to perform a series of nuclear tests at the remote area of Chagai Hills in 1998 itself. The military forces in the country were mobilize at a war-situation level on Indian border.
|“||Today, we have settled a score and have carried out six successful nuclear tests"||”|
—Prime minister Nawaz Sharif announcing the tests on May 30, 1998,
Internationally condemned, but extremely popular at home, Sharif took extensive controls in his hands, to protect economic assets of the country, starting from centralizing the economy. Sharif ordered to mobilize all the defence assets of Pakistan and closed all airspace routes by giving red-alerts orders to PAF and Pakistan Navy. Sharif responded fiercely, and defused the international pressure by targeting India for global nuclear proliferation while gave great criticism to the United States for atomic bombings on Japanese cities of Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:If had wanted, she would have conducted nuclear tests 15–20 years ago ... but the abject poverty of the people of the region dissuaded ... from doing so. But the orld, instead of putting pressure on (India) ... not to take the destructive road ... imposed all kinds of sanctions on for no fault of her.....! If (fellow) Japan had its own nuclear capability.. (cities of) ... Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not have suffered atomic destruction at the hands of the ... United States ... —Nawaz Sharif—Prime minister,
Without any exception, Sharif's popularity heightened up, a wide scale approval for his decision by the civil society which strengthened his public mandate. Under Nawaz Sharif's leadership, Pakistan became the seventh nuclear power country, the first country in the Muslim world, as well as a declared nuclear-weapon state. The conservative government also adopted environmental policies after establishing the environmental protection agency.
However this political achievement was short-lived. Economic growth declined towards the end of nineties period, hurt by the Asian financial crisis and economic sanctions imposed on Pakistan after its first tests of nuclear devices in 1998, shortly after India tested its nuclear devices. The next year, Kargil attack by Pakistan backed Kashmiri militants threatened to escalate to a full-scale war and increased fears of a nuclear war in South Asia. When this strategic infiltration led by Sharif's appointed Chairman joint chiefs General Pervez Musharraf brutally failed, it led to an undeclared but full-scale war with India in 1999 (see Kargil war). Internationally condemned, the Kargil war came on a bad juncture for the prime minister and was followed by Atlantique Incident also in 1999. Sharif's mandate had no longer a hold on the country as the public support for him had collapsed.
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