WHILE almost everyone is aware of it, hardly anybody talks on record about the militarys role in the change of governments in Pakistan. The dismissal this time was no exception.
Even the most radical of leaders thought it best to remain cautious. Benazir Bhuttos first reaction was that the armed forces were neutral and that it was President Farooq Leghari, a few non-political adventurists and some retired army officials who had toppled her. Even Nawaz Sharifs Pakistan Muslim League, whose government was removed through a political formula brokered by the army in 1993, certi-fies that the armed forces had nothing to do with Benazirs removal. Sharif has learnt his lessons. His blunt public remarks in the past have cost him heavily and he is regarded as unreliable and undependable by the military establishment.
There is little doubt that the army knew exactly what Leghari was doing. On the night of the dissolution, an army contingent was moved into Islamabad to take control of important buildings, including the Prime Ministers House. Benazir was told that she could not go out or see anybody without permission.
Nobody dared question the army as to why the dismissed prime minister was not being allowed to move around as a free citizen. Politicians were stopped from boarding flights and their phones disconnected. Yet nobody from any political party had the courage to ask why they were being denied the basic civil rights. That is how the writ and the authority of the armed forces reigns in Pakistan.
Any change of government requires an affirmative nod from the army. "Whatever President Leghari did was not only with the consent but also with all-out support of the army," says Arif Nizami, editor of The Nation, a leading Pakistani daily.
The eventual outcome...