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Nawaz Sharif’s First Regime (1990-93)
After the elections of 1990, Islami Jamhoori Ittehad managed to form government at the center as well as in all the four provinces. Even in Sindh, Jam Sidiq was able to block the Peoples Democratic Alliance, which won 46 seats in the house of 100, from establishing its ministry. He gathered the support of all the elected independent candidates as well as those from MQM. This paved the way for Nawaz Sharif, the newly elected Prime Minister to operate with comfort and ease. The backing of the President Ghulam Ishaq and the civil-military bureaucracy made things further easier for him. Nawaz Sharif’s major focus was on the developmental project especially in Punjab and hill resorts of Pakistan. As time passed, Nawaz Sharif started feeling that he had gained support amongst the masses, and thus he began to act independently as the “Chief Executive” of the country. He first insisted on the enforcement of his opinion during the Gulf War, then he interfered in the process of the selection of Army Chiefs, and ultimately he tried to bring Constitutional Amendment to restrict the powers of the President given under the 8th Amendment. This was not acceptable for Ishaq Khan and the forces behind him. Nawaz Sharif also developed differences with his close political allies including Jamaat-i-Islami and MQM. Moreover, he was not able to fulfill his election promise of strengthening the economy by enforcing legal and administrative reforms, deregulation and denationalization, foreign-exchange and payment reforms, taxation reforms, etc.
The situation, however, reached its climax on April 17, 1993, when Nawaz Sharif in his television address to the nation openly declared that he would prefer to be a “martyr” than to “surrender” before the establishment. He added, “I will not resign, I will not dissolve the assembly and I will not accept dictation.” As expected, on the very next day, the president dismissed Nawaz Sharif and dissolved the assembly, by using power given to him under article 58-2b of the constitution. Sardar Mir Balkh Sher Mazari became the caretaker Prime Minister and Asif Ali Zardari was inducted into the cabinet. Mazari announced that the next General Elections would be held on July 14, 1993. Political opportunists like Hamid Nasir Chatta, Manzoor Watto, Anwar Saifullah, etc. left the sinking boat of Nawaz Sharif and joined Ishaq Khan’s Camp. Nevertheless, Nawaz Sharif was now not ready to give up. He filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in which he termed the president’s action as an act of revenge. Eleven members full bench, headed by Chief Justice Nasim Hasan Shah, gave a verdict in favor of Nawaz Sharif on May 26 and restored the assemblies as well as his government. The decision, which reads, “On merits, by a majority (10 to 1) we hold that the orders of 18th April 1993, passed by the President of Pakistan is not within the ambit of the powers conferred on the President under Article 58 (2-b) of the constitution and other enabling powers available to him in that behalf and has, therefore, been passed without lawful authority and is of no legal effect”, was a landmark as it went against the doctrine of necessity, which was prevailing since 1954.
Though Nawaz Sharif was restored as Prime Minister by the judicial verdict, yet the political chaos in the country continued. President and the Prime Minister were not even on talking terms and were trying their best to undermine each other. Many loyalists of Nawaz Sharif were switching their allegiance to gain benefits from the establishment. Vote of No Confidence was passed against the Punjab Chief Minister, Ghulam Haider Wyne, and thus Nawaz Sharif’s dominance in his strongest fortress came to an end. PPP also decided to take advantage of the situation and launched a Long March towards Islamabad on July 16. However, the ultimate beneficiary of the situation was the Establishment. General Abdul Waheed Kakar, Chief of the Army Staff, forced Nawaz Sharif to dissolve the assemblies and resign on July 19. The latter, however, negotiated a settlement with the Chairman Joint Chief of the Staff Committee, General Shamim Alam Khan which resulted in the removal of President Ishaq Khan as well. This solved the prevailing political standoff, but it created even a bigger crisis as it left the country without a President, a Prime Minister, and the Legislative Assembly.
Wasim Sajjad, Chairman Senate, became the acting President while Moeen Qureshi, a former Senior Vice President of the World Bank and who had lost complete contact with Pakistan, was asked to become Caretaker Prime Minister. A cabinet of twelve ministers mainly comprised of technocrats, also sworn in to assist the Prime Minister. Though the constitutional mandate of the interim set-up was to conduct free and fair elections in the country on October 6, Moeen Qureshi and his team spent most of their time in bringing extensive reforms sponsored by International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. They devaluated Pakistani currency, increased the prices of daily use commodities, targeted tax evaders, and loan defaulters, and tried to broaden the tax base. They also planned to downsize the administrative machinery of the country, abolished some powers of the Prime Minister, and passed orders to give complete autonomy to the State Bank of Pakistan regarding the running of the Bank business. The interim government’s policies directly or indirectly had a negative influence on Nawaz Sharif and his party as they openly criticized their programs like the Yellow Cab scheme.