1995 Pakistani coup d'état attempt
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (October 2012)|
The Pakistan coup attempt of 1995 was a secretive plot hatched by renegade military officers and against the government of Benazir Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The plotters aimed to overthrow the constitutional government and establish an Military Rule in Pakistan. The plot was foiled after intelligence agencies tipped off the Pakistan Army.
In 1989 members of the ISI (an espionage intelligence agency) were exposed in a sting operation as wanting to overthrow the government of Benazir Bhutto. Major Amir, the co conspirator of the notorious Operation Midnight Jackal said he liked Sharif as a political leader and wanted to make Mr.Sharif the new PM. He said Sharif was a part of his political camp and would continue the agenda of Zia-ul-Haq, the person who had launched Sharifs political careers and given his party access to public funds.
With accusations of corruption in the country and particularly in the government circles, a level of discontent had grown in various circles. UN sanctions designed to stop Pakistan's nuclear programme also began to affect the wider economy. Officers who had been recruited under Zia-ul-Haq's Islamisation were very conservative and anti democracy in nature and would affected some of the army officers who want to end democracy and return to Hardline Islamist Government backed by Military Rule
Gen. Zia-ul-Haq's Islamisation policies launched in the 1980s vastly increased the role of Deobandi Islam in public life and the activities and involvement of Islamist organisations in political circles. General Zia encouraged Fundamentalist Islamic law and religious education in all segments of Pakistani society to build his legitimacy (which had become weak after he had overthrown a popular elected leader and had suspended democracy) on being a good Muslim ruler. Resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was hailed as a religious duty and Pakistani intelligence and military services, with the help of the CIA, recruited, trained and armed Afghan mujahideen to fight the Soviet Army. In the process a vast network of madrases and Hardline Mosques was established. Later this network would be used to keep Zia-ul-Haq in power and suppress Democracy.
The main accused in this failed coup attempt were Major General Zahirul Islam Abbasi, Brigadier Mustansir Billa and Qari Saifullah. While Brigadier Billa was assumed to be the ideologue of the group, the main executor was supposed to be Qari Saifullah. Major General Abbasi was serving at the time as director-general of infantry corps at the Pakistani army high command in Rawalpindi. With the help of sympathetic military officers, the group allegedly began plotting against the civilian government of Benazir Bhutto and the army chief Gen. Abdul Waheed Kakar. It was claimed that they planned to assassinate Bhutto, Kakar, senior cabinet ministers and the military chiefs in order to bring about a corruption free government in Pakistan. Acting on a tip-off from the then Maj. Gen. Ali Kuli Khan Khattak, who was then the director-general of military intelligence (DGMI), the then chief of general staff (CGS) Lt. Gen. Jehangir Karamat, who later became the Chief of the Army Staff suppressed the coup by arresting 36 army officers and 20 civilians in Rawalpindi and the capital Islamabad.
Qari Saifullah saved his neck by becoming an "approver" (government witness) on behalf of the prosecution during the trial. Based on this deal, Qari Saifullah was given freedom in 1996 and he did not face a trial. Without his testimony, it would not have been possible to convict the other officers. While Qari Saifullah gained his freedom, the other alleged co-conspirators were convicted.
Subsequent inquiries and major newspaper reports suggested that some of the arrested army officers were affiliated with the Tableeghi Jamaat, an organization that tries to engender piety amongst the people. Some of the arrested officers were inspired by Mufti Sufi Iqbal, the head of the group who was also arrested for his involvement in the plot. Col. Amjad, one of the arrested officers, was related to the Mufti. Some reports indicate that the planning of the group came from Lt. Gen. Ghulam Muhammad Malik, who was a powerful corps commander and who had frequently invited Mufti Iqbal to deliver religious sermons at the corps headquarters. His views had been a source of inspiration for many officers and other ranks with religious inclinations. However, this allegation was dismissed since Lt. Gen. Ghulam Muhammad Malik was a member of the targeted Corps Commanders's Conference, and would therefore have been a victim too. Therefore, suspicion against him was withdrawn. He retired from the army the following month as per his retirement schedule and has since led a life of devotion to social welfare causes.
The Nation published a report on December 25, 1995 claiming that the investigation into the plot had identified the following religious leaders of Pakistan as being the spiritual guides for some of the plotters: Maulana Muhammad Abdul Qadir Dervi of Dera Ghazi Khan; Maulana Sheikhullah Khan of Jamia Farooqia, Karachi; Maulana Mufti Mohammad Abdus Sattar, Khairul Madrassa, Multan; Mufti Manzoor Ahmad, Madrassa Qasimul Uloom, Multan; Maulana Abdul Hameed, Sheikhul Hadith; Mufti Mohammad Yahya, Nusratul Uloom, Gujranwala; Mufti Mohammad Rafi Usmani, Darul Uloom, Karachi; Maulana Muhammad Musa, Jamia Ashrafia, Maulana Muhammad Yaqub, Jamia Rashidia, Quetta; Maulana Muhammad Yousuf Ludhianvi, Karachi; Maulana Rashid Ahmad Ludhianvi, Maulana Qazi Abdul Karim from Karachi and Maulana Abdul Baqi, Darul Aloom, Quetta.
Professor Lawrence Ziring, former president of the American Institute of Pakistani studies offered a different view of events. In his 2003 book, "Pakistan at the cross currents of history", Ziring said there was "little evidence to implicate the accused" (p. 239). He also suggested that the alleged coup was little more than an attempt by Bhutto to bring the military establishment closer under her control. (p. 239) He also describes Bhutto as lashing out against her critics in November 1995 and accusing (without proof) those involved as having planned to kill her, most of the army command and the president of Pakistan.
Benazir Bhutto was succeeded in 1997 by Nawaz Sharif, who would dismiss army chief Gen. Karamat and Lt. Gen. Khattak. Sharif maintained links with Hardline Islamic groups like Tableeghi Jamaat and provided financial support for the group. He also helped Muhammad Rafiq Tarar — an unknown person in the public domain a supporter of Tableeghi Jamaat — become the President of Pakistan.
The alleged plotters were convicted by a military court and awarded different sentences ranging from 2 to 14 years. The highest sentence was given to Brigadier Billa (14 years). Major Gen. Abbasi was given a 7 year term in jail. His imprisonment started in 1995 and he was to remain in prison until 2002 (7 years). During his period of imprisonment, Abbasi lodged an appeal to Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1997 for a review of his case. This was refused since he had been convicted by a military court, and it was outside the purview of civilian courts. He was not granted release. However based on good conduct during his prison term, Abbasi was given early release from prison by General Pervez Musharraf in October, 1999, i.e. within four years. With his military career over, Abbasi moved to organise a political party with the aim of creating awareness and establishing a Hardline Sunni Islamic law through peaceful parliamentary legislation . Later Abbasi formed another political party called the Azmat-e-Islam party with the same objectives. He leads a quiet life in Rawalpindi, and delivers lectures to audiences on the values of religious life and on political analysis.
Azmat-e-Islam and Bedar Pakistan are in fact two separate parties headed by Major General (R) Zaheer ul Islam Abbasi and Mr Abdul Razaq Mian, respectively.
All of the other alleged plotters have also been released from prison and are now settled in Pakistan leading normal lives as citizens.
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