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The 1999 Pakistani coup d'état was a bloodless coup d'état in which the Pakistan Army and then-Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Pervez Musharraf, seized the control of the civilian government of publicly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 12 October 1999.[3] Two days into seizing the government, on 14 October 1999, General Musharraf, who then-acted as the country's Chief Executive, declared a state of emergency by issuing a Provisional Constitutional Order that suspended the writ of the Constitution of Pakistan.[3]

1999 Military Coup d'état
United Nations's geophysical map of Pakistan
Date12 October 1999

Flag of the Pakistani Army.svg Pakistan Armed Forces

State emblem of Pakistan.svg Government of Pakistan

Commanders and leaders

Flag of the Pakistani Army.svg Pervez Musharraf

Flag of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.svg Nawaz Sharif
Flag of Punjab.svg Shahbaz Sharif
Flag of the Pakistani Army.svg Ziauddin Butt
Javed Hashmi
Flag of Sindh.svg Mamnoon Hussain
617,000 170,000

The martial law occurred due to meltdown of civil-military relations and the simmering tensions between the Prime Minister Sharif and Chairman joint chiefs General Musharraf as Sharif attempted to relieve General Musharraf of his command, who was en route to Pakistan from Sri Lanka after paying an official visit. Instead, General Ziauddin Butt, then-DG ISI, was appointed army chief and the Joint Staff HQ refused to follow the orders of new army chief and the commanders of the army corps decided to defend General Musharraf by having launched an order to arrest and detained to pre-empt Pakistani spymaster Ziauddin Butt from taking the control of the military.:142[4] The pace of the coup startled the observers, within 17 hours, from attempting to relieve General Musharraf by Prime Minister Sharif, the army commanders took control of all key government secretariats throughout the country while placing the Prime Minister Sharif and his civilian cabinet, including his brother under house arrest.[5] The military police took control of the state broadcaster, radio, and the entire critical communications infrastructure and announced that Nawaz Sharif had been dismissed.[5]

The Supreme Court of Pakistan led by Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui validated the martial law in a view of "doctrine of necessity" but provided its legality only limited to three years.:118[6] Meanwhile, Sharif was trialed by the judge advocate general court and convicted him for risking the life of all the passengers on board including the sitting Chairman joint chiefs.:56–57[7] The military court later in their findings decided that all allegations are fact based and Sharif was actually involved in aerial hijacking and it was he, who ordered, the Pakistan CAA for not letting the plane land on Pakistani soil; eventually, the judge advocate general awarding Sharif the life imprisonment.:57[7]

When the decision was announced, it sparked fury in Sharif's PML(N) but welcomed by many of his political opponents.:58[7] By mid-November 1999, a petition was filed by the PML(N)'s leadership, challenging the legality of the coup, proclamation of state emergency, and demanding the release of Sharif as well as reinstating the writ of the constitution.:118[6] In 2000, the Supreme Court of Pakistan led by Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui viewed this coup as a "violation of constitution" and subsequently resigned, only to be replaced by acting Chief Justice Irshad Hasan who acted towards validating the coup as constitutional after hearing the case.:119–120[6]:112–115[8]

On 10 December 2000, Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf unexpectedly issued a pardon of Nawaz Sharif and allowed the immediate members of former first family to travel to Saudi Arabia on a private jet provided by the Saudi Royal Family.:167–168[9]:73–74[10] In 2016, Musharraf later confessed in an interview given to Kamran Shahid of Dunya that "he pardoned Nawaz Sharif from life imprisonment on the request of King Abdullah and Rafic Hariri."[11]

In 2001, General Musharraf issued the executive decree and eventually forced President Rafiq Tarar to resign in order for General Musharraf to assume the presidency.[12] In the light of Supreme Court's verdict, the national referendum was held on 30 April 2002, allowing himself to continue his rule.[13][14] The controversial referendum, which Musharraf won with almost 98% of the votes in his favour, was alleged by many, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, to be fraudulent.[13][14] In 2002, the general elections restored the democracy when the Musharraf-backed PML(Q), the libertarians, were able to form the minority government who would later nominate General Musharraf's for the presidential elections held in 2004. In 2007, President Musharraf eventually imposed another martial law by having suspend the populist Chief Justice IM Chaudhry, leveling charges on corruption and misconduct. Unlike the earlier martial law, Musharraf was widely disapproved, inviting the mass demonstration led by Nawaz Sharif, and eventually resigned in an attempt to avoid impeachment in the Parliament.[15]

In 2009, the Supreme Court acquitted Sharif of hijacking case and quoted that: "Mr. Sharif had neither used force nor ordered its use or employed deceitful mean."[16] In 2014, Sharif was also acquitted from money laundering and corruption cases from an accountability court.[17]

According to the historian, Mazhar Aziz, the 1999 coup d'état in Pakistan makes a "striking example in the case study of civil military relations" in a post–Cold War era.:76[18]


Events leading towards the martial lawEdit

Relief of General Jehangir and Kargil debacleEdit

In 1997, Nawaz Sharif and his conservative Pakistan Muslim League-N won a landslide victory in the general elections, resulting in a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly– the lower house of bicameral Parliament of Pakistan.[19]

His second tenure was marked with serious legal confrontation with the Supreme Court courted by Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah over the legality and technicality of Thirteenth Amendment and the Ehtesab Act, 1997 (lit. Accountability Act, 1997).[19] Chief Justice Shah had been battling in the Supreme Court for his legitimacy due to many senior justices had seen his appointment as "inappropriate and political", having being appointed by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1994.[20] On 29 October 1997, Chief Justice Shah and his bench decided to hear the petition filed by the Pakistan Peoples Party's lawyers and suspended the implementation of bills.:45–46[21] Prime Minister Sharif reacted angrily by the Court's actions, issuing an intemperate public diatribe particularly against Chief Justice Shah.:45–46[21] On 2 November 1997, Chief Justice Shah summoned Prime Minister Sharif for contempt of court but this order was viewed "null and voided" when two senior justices at the Supreme Court issued a counter-order.:45–46[21] On 30 November 1997, Prime Minister Sharif appeared before the Supreme Court but his partisans stormed the Supreme Court Building forcing Chief Justice Shah to remove the finding of contempt against Sharif.:190[22] While the Police gained control of the situation to restore law and order, the whole nation witnessed traumatizing and terrifying scenes on their television screens broadcast by the news media all over the country.:190[22]

Subsequently, the Supreme Judicial Council took up a case against the appointment of Chief Justice Shah on 23 December and declared Chief Justice Shah's appointment "illegal and unconstitutional" that eventually forced him to resign from his office on 2 December 1997.:46[21] President Farooq Leghari who supported the cause of Chief Justice Shah also had to resign when army chief General Jehangir Karamat and Chairman joint chiefs Air Chief Marshal Feroze Khan intervened to resolve the crises.:175–176[23] Prime Minister Sharif eventually appointed his Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui based on merit qualification and offered presidency to former supreme court justice Rafiq Tarar who was elected in 1998.[19]

In 1998, Prime Minister Sharif effectively relieved Chairman joint chief General Jehangir Karamat from the command of the military when General Karamat delivered a college lecture at the Naval War College in Karachi.:107–108[24] At this lecture, General Karamat called for establishing the National Security Council (NSC) which would be backed by a "team of civil-military experts" for devising policies to seek resolution ongoing problems relating the civil-military issues; also recommended a "neutral but competent bureaucracy and administration of at federal level and the establishment of Local governments in four provinces.:66–68[25]

Relieving of General Karamat plummeted Sharif's own public approvals and his relations with the military, as even his senior Cabinet ministers were in disagreement of Sharif's decision.[26] Many political observers were taken in complete surprise since the dismissal of four-star rank general was never happened before in country's short history.:145–146[27]

Eventually, Sharif chose then-Lieutenant-General Pervez Musharraf over two senior army generals for the appointment to post of the army chief and acting Chairman joint chiefs.:64–67[28] A year later, the civil military relations took a sharp turn in the opposition of Sharif when he invited and received Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee in Lahore for peace talks, much to agitation of General Musharraf who did not welcome outcomes of Lahore Summit.:150–151[29]

In 1999, the Pakistan Army soldiers secretly crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and infiltrated in Kargil on the direct orders issues by General Musharraf, bringing the two nations at the brink of war.:118–121[30] The Indian Army reacted with launching of full-fledged military coordinated military operations while Indian government effectively put diplomatic pressure of Sharif's government to withdraw the soldiers from the Kargil sector.:25–31[31] Both Sharif and General Musharraf held each other responsible for the actions in the Kargil, charging each other of lying and hiding details of war to the nation.[32]

At the public circle, Sharif assigned blame for the political/diplomatic disaster on General Musharraf, and Musharraf placing the blame of disaster on Prime Minister Sharif.[33] On September 1999, General Musharraf forcefully retired Lieutenant-General Tariq Pervez who was known to be close to Sharif and cousin of Raja Nadir Pervez, the Communication minister.:39[34]

Upon meeting with Sharif, General Tariq Pervez had ultimately warned Sharif of "making any move against General Musharraf or the army would strike.":39[34]

Revolt of the AdmiralEdit

The revolt of Admiral Fasih Bokhari, the Chief of Naval Staff, over Sharif's public decision of extending General Musharraf's tenure as chairman joint chiefs until 2001 was another issue that saw the breaking down of civil military relations. About the Kargil war, Admiral Bokhari was not of the view of supporting Pakistan Army's engagement with Indian Army as appropriate and subsequently lodged a powerful protest against General Musharraf's grand strategy while recommending the constitution of a Commission to completely probe the Kargil issue.[35]

At the country's news media, Admiral Bokhari publicly questioned the effectiveness of the military strategy behind the Kargil infiltration and was very critical of General Musharraf's unilateral decisions involving the national security, as chairman joint chiefs, without considering the opinions of chiefs of staff of air force and the navy.[36]

In 1999, Sharif quarrelled with Admiral Bokhari and his Navy NHQ staff over the merit-based appointment of General Musharraf to the Chairman Joint Chiefs that was only meant to be temporary and it was hoped that Admiral Bokhari would be appointed to the post.:contents[37][38] On August 1999, there were rising tensions between Admiral Bokhari and Prime Minister Sharif over issue of incident took place in Sir Creek, although both had kept the working relations on good terms.[39]

On September 1999, General Musharraf had sent a message Prime Minister Sharif that "anyone in the Navy and Air Force can become the Chairman Joint Chiefs as I did not care.":111[40] General Musharraf reportedly backed Admiral Bokhari's bid for the Chairman Joint Chiefs but he was oversaw by the Prime Minister who confirmed and extended General Musharraf's term until 2001.[41]

The civil-military relations were further damaged when Admiral Bokhari lodged a strong protest against this decision in the news media and reportedly revolted against Prime Minister Sharif's appointment for the Chairman joint chiefs in 1999.[42] Admiral Bokhari abruptly tendered his resignation to the Prime Minister Sharif and noted to Sharif that since General Musharraf was his junior and often referred to him as "Sir."[42]:1265[43]

On 5 October 1999, Admiral Bokhari resigned from the command of the Navy as the news media construed Admiral Bokhari's resignation merely as unhappiness over not being appointed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.[42] Admiral Bokhari's revolt saw the meltdown of the civil-military relations between the elected civilian government and the military leaders that eventually led to the military overtaking the civilian government by dismissing Prime Minister Sharif on 12 October 1999.:63[44]

The coupEdit

Jinnah International Airport, where Musharraf landed in Karachi, ca. 2006.

In the aftermath of the Kargil War, followed by the Atlantique incident, there were widespread rumors and media speculations in the television news media about the either possible military takeover or resignation of General Musharraf on September 1999.[45]

On October 1999, General Musharraf paid an official visit to Sri Lanka on an invitation of Sri Lankan Army Commander Lieutenant-General C. S. Weerasooriya. Ultimately, Prime Minister Sharif dismissed General Musharraf from the command of the military and nominated Lieutenant-General Ziauddin Butt, the DG ISI, over several army officers on 12 October 1999.[46] Developments came when General Musharraf, alongside with Major-General Tariq Majid and Brigadier Nadeem Taj, returned to Pakistan boarded on a PIA 777-200.[47]

According to the sources, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was ordered by Sharif to divert the plane to India but then it was rerouted to Nawabshah.[47] When this was failed to comprehend by the pilot, the CAA was ordered to close the runways by turning off the edge lights at the Jinnah International Airport in an attempt to refuse the landing.[47] The units of military police led by Lieutenant-General Muzaffar Usmani sealed the civilian airport and seized the control of the control tower, allowing the plane to land on a runway. The military police seized the control of the state-run media television headquarters and encircled the Prime Minister Secretariat building while gaining control of the international airports and cutting off the international phone lines.[48][49]

There were four army generals who were central in staging the coup against Sharif's government that included General Musharraf Aziz Khan, Mahmood Ahmad and Shahid Aziz. They played a crucial role in installing General Musharraf as Chief Executive while they detained Sharif in a local prison.:185-185[50] On 14 October 1999, Musharraf appeared on television to declare a state of emergency and issued a Provisional Constitutional Order that ultimately suspended the writ of the Constitution of Pakistan and dissolved the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies, although they left Muhammad Rafiq Tarar in office as President.[51]

However, General Musharraf strongly objected the wordage use of "martial law" or "coup d'état", instead insisting that: "This is not martial law, only another path towards democracy."[52] The ISPR also confirmed that "here is no martial law in the country."[53]

Text of Proclamation of EmergencyEdit

Soon after taking over the country, emergency was declared in the country. Following is the text of the Proclamation of Emergency declared by Musharraf:[54]

Text of Provisional Constitutional Order 1999Edit

Following is the text of Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) promulgated by Musharraf. After its proclamation, the order was modified on multiple occasions:[55]


Upon hearing the news of Sharif's arrest, the PML(N) partisans and the party leadership led by Javed Has in Lahore and Mamnoon Hussain in Karachi called out and led massive street demonstrations and protests in the streets of Lahore, Karachi, and other cities.:2432[56] The conservative supporters of Nawaz Sharif did not welcome this coup and saw this event as a conspiracy but many of Sharif's rivals welcome this coup, eventually holding celebration parties around different parts of the country.[20] Although, there were reports of unconfirmed media blackout of Sharif-aligned conservative media but no restrictions were imposed on the liberal/libertarian news media.:416–418[20]

There were reports of repression and human rights abuse taken place by the authorities under General Musharraf, as the pro-democracy demonstrations were forcefully and effectively crushed by Musharraf's regime.[20]

Legality and legitimacy of the coupEdit

The Supreme Court of Pakistan courted by the Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui partially provided the legality of the martial law in a view of "doctrine of necessity" after Musharraf's lawyer Sharifuddin Pirzada argued for the martial law on technicality, but its legality was only limited to three years.:25[6][57]:118 Meanwhile, Sharif was tried by the military judge advocate general where allegations of corruption, terrorism, and money laundering were leveled against him.:56–57[7] Eventually, the military court's inconclusive rulings found him to be guilty and convicted him for risking the life of all the passengers on board including the sitting Chairman joint chiefs.:57[7]

On 15 November 1999, the Supreme Court of Pakistan decided to hear the petitions filed by PML-N's lawyer Zafar Ali Shah on behalf of Sharif and Aitzaz Ahsan requesting a supreme court's intervention to declare the military takeover "illegal and unconstitutional", and order the restoration of Sharif's government and reinstatement of the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies that were suspended.[58] The PML(N)'s lawyers began their court battle with the Musharraf's lawyers when additional petitions were filed by PML(N), Muslim Welfare Movement, and Wahabul Khairi, an advocate challenging the legality of the coup.[59]

On 1 December 1999, a five-member bench of Supreme Court was constituted to hear these appeals and as lawyers of each side to present cases of their clients. The bench headed by Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui and head Justice Bashir Jahangiri, Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice Abdur Rehman Khan and Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed as other members.[59]

Provisional Constitutional Order judges oathEdit

As the hearing progressed at the Supreme Court, the legality and legitimacy of the coup became an important issue while Sharif's lawyers successfully argued for reinstating the writ of the constitution. Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui alongside with other chief justices were in clear view of this coup as a "violation of constitution" as Sharif's lawyers made a ground base for finding Musharraf of treason.:119–120[6][60]

On 26 January 2000, Chief Executive Musharraf, acting on the advice of Sharifuddin Pirzada, quickly promulgated the Provisional Constitutional Order and asked Chief Justice Siddiqui alongside other justices to take a new oath under this provision.[61] Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui and other nine judges of the thirteen Supreme Court justices refused to take oath which became an issue identified as the "biggest challenge" to the new government.:112–115[8] Eventually, Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui and other nine judges resigned from their respected appointments, followed by number of other High Court justices also refused to take the oath. :24[61] The Provisional Constitutional Order disallowed challenging any actions made by the military led by General Musharraf, and many judges who refused to take the oath cited infringements upon the judiciary system such as this as their reasoning for refusing.:115[8] The Provisional Constitutional Order provided Musharraf a legal protection of his actions in regards to the military taker over and bared any court in the country for taking any legal actions against Musharraf or those who were responsible for the military coup.[3]

Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani lawyer and human rights advocate, reportedly quoted: "The military rulers are doing their best to erode the independence of the judiciary. I salute those judges who have refused to take the oath."[3]


Pardon of Sharif and 2002 ReferendumEdit

On 09/10 December 2000, Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf unexpectedly issued a pardon of Nawaz Sharif and allowed the immediate members of former first family to traveled to Saudi Arabia on a private jet provided by the Saudi Royal Family.:167–168[9]:73–74[10] Details were soon emerge in successive years of this pardon that resulted in a forced sign an agreement that put him in exile for a decade.:366[62][63] However, this agreement was voided in successive years when Musharraf himself went to court to bared Sharif from returning to Pakistan in 2007.:366[62]

In 2016, Musharraf later confessed in an interview given to Kamran Shahid of Dunya that "he pardoned Nawaz Sharif from life imprisonment on the request of King Abdullah and Rafic Hariri."[11]

On 12 May 2000, the Supreme Court of Pakistan courted by Chief Justice Irshad Hasan finally legalized the coup but ordering to hold a nationwide elections to restore the writ of the government.[64]

In 2001, General Musharraf issued the executive decree and, in which, President Tarar was of the view that such decree was unconstitutional and illegal. Eventually, Musharraf forcefully removed President from his office when the latter forced President Tarar to forcefully resigned from the president.[12][65] In the light of Supreme Court's verdict, the national referendum was held on 30 April 2002, allowing himself to continue his rule.[13][14] The referendum, which Musharraf won with almost 98% of the votes in his favour, was alleged by many, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, to be fraudulent.[13][14]

Allegations of illegitimacyEdit

The Right groups such as Amnesty International Pakistan and Human Rights Commission and others had denounced the referendum as extremely fraudulent in 2002. The Reuters journalists claimed to see ballot stuffing and pressure to vote being placed on governmental employees.[14] Ibn Abdur Rehman, director of the Human Rights Commission, dismissed the referendum as "farcical", also claiming that votes were stuffed.[14] The Amnesty International Pakistan and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated that the voting irregularities "exceeded its worst fears".[14]

The PML(N), backed by the Human Rights Commission, challenged the results of the referendum but Chief Justice Irshad Hasan Khan dismissed the petitions while rejecting the challenge and upholding the results.[13] Information Minister Nisar Memon dismissed allegations of fraud as propaganda created by the opposition and stated that "Those who opposed the referendum preferred to stay at home and didn't create any problem."[13]

Credibility of the claims of illegitimacy is added when American Pattan Development Organization conducted a gallup survey that founded that the "people are likely to elect either Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif as the next prime minister" in preference to President General Pervez Musharraf.[66] According to the survey, Musharraf had only 9% public approval as opposed to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.[66]

Foreknowledge about coupEdit

In 1999, Tariq Pervez, the FIA agent, had ultimately warned Nawaz Sharif of military take over if Musharraf was dismissed from the command of the military.:39[34] In the television news media and the political pundits had long speculating of military takeover in the country as soon as General Karamat was dismissed by Prime Minister Sharif, and General Musharraf himself had sent a secret message of serious repercussion if he was to be removed.:111[40] It is claimed by authors that Prime Minister Sharif had well political intelligence on Musharraf's intention and had sought US President Bill Clinton's helped against the military intervention.:63–64[67]

In 1999, Benazir Bhutto held all blames on Nawaz Sharif of the military takeover and criticized him of "the man is violating every rule of law and, there is no-one to stop him."[68]

In 2002, Admiral Bokhari quoted that: he knew about General Musharraf's plans to topple [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif and did not want to be part of these "Dirty Games".[69] Admiral Bokhari also noted that a power struggle between an elected Prime Minister and appointed-Chairman joint chiefs ensued and relations were severely damaged after the Kargil war.:37–38[34]

Admiral Bokhari testified in media that:"The two men could not work together, both were preparing to take active actions against each other. I could see that there now two centers of power on a collision course".:37[34] At an informal meeting held at the Navy NHQ in September 1999, Chairman joint chiefs General Musharraf indicated his displeasure with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's handling of the country describing Prime Minister Sharif as "incompetent and incapable of running the country.":38[34] Admiral Bokhari firmly got the impression whether General Musharraf was sounding out to rely on the support from the Navy in an events of the coup and Admiral Bokhara discouraged the Chairman joint chiefs from doing so.:38[34]

In 2003, Musharraf squarely blamed Nawaz Sharif for the military take over and held responsible for the martial law against his government while accused him of being an autocrat and weakening the might of the military.[70]


Political opposition and dissentsEdit

In a views of historian, Mazhar Aziz, the military coup d'état is seen as an "striking example in the case study of civil military relations" in a post–Cold War era.:76[18]

In 1999 and in 2004, Sharif extended his apologizes to various journalists and reporters for any wrongdoings and worked towards mending better relations with influential conservative news media after his exile.[26][52] In 2001, the PML(N) and its rival PPP reached a compromised when the formed democracy restoration alliance in a view to oust President Musharraf.:58[71] Major agitations took place in 2005 against President Musharraf's anti-terrorism policy and controversial amendments made in the constitution.:58[71] In 2006, Sharif joins hand with Benazir Bhutto in opposition to Musharraf when both signed an agreement to restore parliamentary democracy in the country.[72]

In 2006, the PML(N) issued a white paper concerning the Kargil events and Nawaz Sharif personally apologized to former Chief Justice Sajad Ali Shah and the former president Farooq Leghari for his role and his party's actions.[73] Sharif also extended his apology to General Karamat and Admiral Fasih Bokhari for overlooking him for the appointment of the Chairman joint chiefs.[73]

In 2007, Nawaz Sharif with his family, accompanied by his daughter, returned to Pakistan with thousands of his supporters receiving Sharif family.[74] In 2008, Sharif spearheaded the judicial activism in order to protest the suspension of Chief Justice I.M. Chaudhry by Musharraf.

Opposition and dissent within the MilitaryEdit

In 2001–03, the principle four army generals, Gen. Aziz Khan, Lt-Gen. Mahmud Ahmed, Lt-Gen. Ali Jan Aurakzai, and Lt-Gen. Shahid Aziz later regretted their role in bringing Gen. Musharraf in power when all four generals were forced out from their service due to opposition showed to the President Musharraf's policies.:184[75]:156[76]

See alsoEdit


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