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DATE=10/12/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=PAKISTAN-MILITARY NUMBER=5-44488 BYLINE=NICK SIMEONE DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The seizure of power by the military in Pakistan is the latest in a series of army interventions in politics since the country gained independence in 1947. Correspondent Nick Simeone tells us the Clinton Administration had been concerned for weeks about the possibility of a coup in Islamabad. TEXT: For decades, politics in Pakistan have been turbulent. Powerful army generals have been in and out of power, ruling the country for nearly half the time since independence 52 years ago. And, in recent weeks, Pakistani newspapers had been full of reports about a widening rift between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the military. Tuesday's military takeover came soon after the prime minister announced the removal of his army chief. But the army's response may have been rooted in Prime Minister Sharif's decision in July to withdraw Pakistani-backed militants from the Indian side of disputed Kashmir province. Former U-S National Security Council official Shirin Tahir-Kheli is director of the South Asia Program at Washington's Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. /// TAHIR-KHELI ACT /// I think what did happen is that once it began to go against international opinion, the prime minister, in order to extricate himself, played that army card and sort of tried to distance himself from the operation. Obviously from the interactions they've had, it has been clear there was tension there. It was an open secret in Pakistan that the prime minister was primed to move against the army chief. /// END ACT /// Over the past few weeks, a deteriorating political climate in Pakistan caught the attention of the Clinton Administration. Washington sent a message to Islamabad last month that it would oppose any attempt to overthrow the Sharif government. The message was prompted by what U-S officials suggested were signs of growing dissent against the prime minister. /// SECOND TAHIR-KHELI ACT /// After he dismissed the president, the supreme court justice, the previous army chief, then people kept quiet saying o-k, now Nawaz Sharif with a mandate is going to do something. But time has passed and he hasn't. /// END ACT /// How the dismissal of the Sharif government will affect Pakistan's relations with India is also a top concern. Last year, the threat of a nuclear exchange in South Asia increased dramatically when the rival countries both tested nuclear devices. Michael Krepon is director of the Stimson Center, an organization in Washington that follows nuclear issues in South Asia. /// KREPON ACT /// Once again, we're looking at a situation where one government is in place and the other government is in flux. If we have a caretaker government coming to power in Pakistan, under the guidance of a military leadership, it's going to be hard for a caretaker government of technocrats to do business with India on very substantive and sensitive issues. /// END ACT /// And, any new government will also have to deal with a nation that has been pushed close to financial default. // OPT // Again, former National Security Council staffer Shirin Tahir-Kheli /// THIRD TAHIR-KHELI ACT /// There's been no coherent economic planning. Economists who study Pakistan have been alarmed at what the prospects look like, not even in the long term but in the very short term. /// END OPT ACT /// Most government spending in Pakistan goes to the military and to debt refinancing, leaving little to help a country where one out of three people live in poverty, a rate that is among the highest in Asia. (SIGNED) NEB/NJS/JP 12-Oct-1999 17:41 PM EDT (12-Oct-1999 2141 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .