News

USIS Washington File

14 October 1999

Text: Inderfurth Calls for Restoration of Civil Rule in Pakistan Soon

(Testifies Oct. 14 before the Senate on the political crisis) (2480)

Assistant Secretary of State Karl F. Inderfurth said October 14 that
President Clinton is sending a letter to Pakistani Army chief Pervaiz
Musharraf, who seized power in the country this week, outlining "our
expectations that democracy and government be restored as early as
possible."

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Inderfurth
said Gen. Musharraf promised a further statement about his plans for
the country after he went on national radio and television and
announced that the government of Nawaz Sharif had been replaced by the
army.

"When his statement is made, we hope that General Musharraf will set
forth clear plans for the restoration of civilian government in
Pakistan," Inderfurth said.

Inderfurth confirmed that the letter from President Clinton will be
delivered by U.S. ambassador William Milam who is returning after
consultations in Washington. "Our view is that the sooner civilian
democratic rule is restored, the better. Better for the Pakistani
people. Better for Pakistan as a nation. Better for Pakistan's
relations with the international community," he said.

After Inderfurth's testimony, CNN reported that Pakistan's army chief
declared a state of emergency early Friday, suspending the country's
constitution and naming himself chief executive.

The Assistant Secretary made it clear that the United States will not
conduct normal relations with Pakistan until a civilian democratic
government is restored. He noted that Section 508 if the Foreign
Operations Act contains a prohibition against a broad range of
assistance to a country whose democratically elected head of
government is deposed by military coup or decree.

While this hearing was taking place, Congress was voting on the
Defense Appropriations Bill that would lift economic sanctions imposed
on India and Pakistan following their testing of nuclear devices this
summer.

"I should note that we have seen no reports of disruption or threats
to Pakistan's nuclear facilities or any other installations,"
Inderfurth said. He added that currently martial law has not been
imposed by the military, however, the federal government and four
provincial governments have been dissolved.

Inderfurth said there does not appear to be a heightening of tensions
between India and Pakistan and the official Indian position issued by
the recently elected Vajpayee government was "low key and cautious."

Pakistani President Sharif's decision to make military incursions into
Kashmir on the Indian side of the Line of Control was a mistake that
led to many people being killed, Inderfurth said. He added that the
serious fighting ended only after Sharif met with President Clinton
over the July 4th weekend.

"Civilian and military leaders alike -- at the highest levels of
government -- share responsibility for that grave error, which set
back the prospects of reconciliation with India, which had seemed so
promising," he said, rejecting the idea that Sharif's withdrawal
caused his downfall.

Inderfurth said that prior to the Pakistani Army's action, the United
States was in contact with the government and its opposition and had
heard stories that the Sharif government was losing popular support
and that there were tensions between the military and government. Each
side was told that the United States would be opposed to any
"extra-constitutional action against the government taking place," he
said.

He also said that Sharif and his brother, Sabbaz and General Ziauddin,
head of Pakistan's intelligence service, are under house arrest. "We
call upon the current Pakistani authorities to assure their safety and
well-being," Inderfurth said.

Following is the text of Inderfurth's testimony:

(begin text)

Testimony by Assistant Secretary Karl F. Inderfurth
Senate Foreign Relations Committee

October 14, 1999

Political Crisis in Pakistan

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I appreciate this opportunity
to appear before you today. We have many issues in South Asia that
warrant our full attention. But none is more important today than the
political crisis in Pakistan you have asked me to address. I look
forward to discussing with you how we can fashion a U.S. response
which promotes a prompt restoration of democracy in that country.

I would like to begin by reading the statement issued last night by
the White House from President Clinton: "The events in Pakistan this
week represent another setback to Pakistani democracy. Pakistan's
interests would be served by a prompt return to civilian rule and
restoration of the democratic process. I urge that Pakistan move
quickly in that direction. I am sending my ambassador back to
Islamabad to underscore my view directly to the military authorities,
and to hear their intentions. I will also be consulting closely with
all concerned nations about maintaining peace and stability in South
Asia."

The Current Situation

Mr. Chairman let me now outline the facts as we know them, with a
caveat that the situation remains fluid, our information is imperfect,
and our understanding of intentions uncertain.

On Tuesday, October 12, the Government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
announced the retirement of Chief of Army Staff Musharraf, who was out
of the country at the time. Musharraf arrived in Pakistan from a visit
to Sri Lanka shortly after the announcement was made. Simultaneously,
military personnel under Musharraf's control placed the Prime Minister
and other civilian and military leaders under house arrest. The armed
forces closed the airports to civilian traffic, took over the state
controlled broadcast media and interrupted some communications
systems.

We listened closely to what General Masharraf had to say two nights
ago when he addressed the nation about the decision and rationale for
why the Armed Forces "moved in" to "reestablish order" in Pakistan,
and why Prime Minister Sharif was removed from office. We also noted
that General Musharraf promised that a further policy statement would
be forthcoming shortly. We are still awaiting that statement.
Apparently he has been consulting with constitutional experts, corps
commanders and prospective government appointees about his next steps.
When his statement made, we hope that General Musharraf will set forth
clear plans for the restoration of civilian government in Pakistan.

Mr. Chairman, that the military has deposed a democratically elected
government is clear. It is, however, unclear whether General Musharraf
intends to remain in political control, even in the short term. While
the Pakistani Army did shut down the parliament building today, and
our Charge Michele Sison was informed that the federal government and
four provincial governments had been dissolved, martial law has not
been imposed.

We understand that Prime Minister Sharif, his brother, the Chief
Minister of Punjab Sabbaz Sharif, some Cabinet members, and General
Ziauddin, head of the intelligence services, remain under house
arrest. Our embassy in Islamabad has not been able to contact any of
these individuals. We call upon the current Pakistani authorities to
assure their safety and well-being.

The situation in Pakistan itself remains calm. Public reaction has
been muted. Airports have been reopened. State run radio and
television have resumed normal programming. The financial markets
remain closed an a "banker's holiday."

I should also note that we have seen no reports of disruption or
threats to Pakistan's nuclear facilities or any other installations.

While Indian forces have gone on alert, this appears to be only a
precautionary measure. There does not appear to be a heightening of
tensions between India and Pakistan. The official Indian reaction --
as expressed in statements of Prime Minister Vajpayee and others --
has been cautious and low key.

We still have no reports of problems for Americans in Pakistan. The
U.S. Embassy notified American citizens of the crisis and urged them
to exercise caution, recommending in particular that they limit
unnecessary movement outside their residences.

The Larger Context

Mr. Chairman, the developments in Pakistan this week represent another
setback in that country's long struggle to establish accountable and
viable democratic institutions. In the 11 years since the Pakistan
People's Party victory in 1988 brought Benazir Bhutto to power, no
elected prime minister has served a full five-year term. She served
only two years of that term. Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League was
victorious in 1990 but he resigned three years later. Benazir Bhutto
was re-elected in 1993 and dismissed in 1996. Prime Minister Sharif
won re-election in 1997 and, up to this week's action by the military,
had served just over two years and eight months. Pakistan's
unfortunate history of interrupted democracy continues.

Mr. Chairman, the political crisis in Pakistan which culminated in
this week's events is a product of Pakistan's history and recent
developments. I do not need to remind you of the two long periods of
martial law in Pakistan. These two periods served both to instill in
the Pakistan military and civilian political class the habit of
military participation in politics and to inhibit the development of a
stable, democratic, constitutional system. Pakistan has yet to develop
a consensus about how to share responsibility among civil
institutions, nor has it forged a clear and accepted divide between
civilian and military responsibilities.

Recent developments did not occur in a vacuum. Many Pakistanis viewed
the current political and economic environment as alarming and getting
worse. For the past year, Pakistan's economy has required IMF
assistance to avert collapse. Pressing needs in education and health
care went unmet in a budget devoted largely to debt service and
defense. Terrorism and sectarian violence were spreading. Pakistanis
were increasingly dissatisfied with the Sharif Government because of
these economic trends, and also criticized it for taking actions that
weakened the institutions of civil society including the judiciary,
the press, and non-governmental organizations.

With respect to foreign policy front, February's euphoria at "bus
diplomacy" and the historic summit meeting in Lahore between Prime
Ministers Sharif and Vajpayee -- had dissipated by summer. The reason
was Kargil, the incursion into territory on the Indian side of the
Line of Control by forces from Pakistan. Serious and deadly fighting
resulted, ending only when Prime Minister Sharif, in a meeting with
President Clinton at Blair House, made the wise and courageous
decision to take steps to encourage the intruders to withdrawal.

Prime Minister Sharif's decision engendered strong opposition at home.
Some argued that it was a mistake to withdraw from Kargil. We could
not disagree more. It was the right thing to do. The mistake was to
launch the incursion in the first place. Civilian and military leaders
alike -- at the highest levels of government -- share responsibility
for that grave error, which set back the prospect of reconciliation
with India which had seemed so promising, and also raised the prospect
of a larger war between two nuclear capable adversaries.

In the weeks prior to the military takeover, a stream of opposition
politicians had visited Washington and warned that the political
situation was approaching crisis proportions. They said that Prime
Minister Sharif had lost the confidence of much of the electorate and
that tensions between civilian and military authorities were high.

In private, we told the opposition and government alike that we
opposed any extra-constitutional action against the elected
government. At the same time, we encouraged the government to permit
the opposition to demonstrate peacefully and to express its views
without hindrance. We also conveyed our views in public.

Just two weeks ago, it seemed that the crisis had been averted when
General Musharraf was made simultaneously Chief of Army Staff and
Chairman of the Joint Staff Committee, and his term extended until
October 2001. Unexpectedly, and for reasons we do not know, Prime
Minister Sharif on Tuesday then decided to remove Musharraf from both
positions, precipitating military action." Let me emphasize that our
understanding of the motives of the parties involved is imperfect.
What we can say is that today the elected prime minister and many
members of his government are in military detention.

General Musharraf and the military are in control. President Clinton,
Secretary Albright and other U.S. officials have expressed both our
deep regret at this severe setback to democracy, and our hope that
they will see -- and do -- their duty to restore Pakistan to civilian,
democratic, constitutional government as soon as possible. The best
response to an imperfect democracy is not to replace it with an
unelected government. The remedy is to take concrete steps to
strengthen democratic institutions.

What We are Doing

Mr. Chairman, until we see a restoration of a civilian democratic
government in Pakistan, we have made it clear we would not be in a
position to carry on business as usual with Pakistani authorities. In
fact, as you know, Section 508 of the Foreign Operations
Appropriations Act contains a prohibition against a broad range of
assistance for a country whose democratically elected head of
government is deposed by military coup or decree. We are now in the
process of making the legal determination that such sanctions should
be applied. As a practical matter, most forms of assistance were
already prohibited for Pakistan under the Glenn Amendment and other
statutory restrictions.

As President Clinton referred to in his statement last night, U.S.
Ambassador to Pakistan, Bill Milam, who has just completed urgent
consultations in Washington, will arrive tomorrow in Islamabad. He
will carry a message from the United States Government containing our
publicly stated expectation that democracy and civilian government be
restored as early as possible. He will seek to deliver this message to
General Musharraf immediately upon his arrival. He will also make
clear that we expect that Prime Minister Sharif, Chief Minister
Sharif, and all other detainees will be treated properly.

Our view is that the sooner civilian democratic rule is restored, the
better. Better for the Pakistani people. Better for Pakistan as a
nation- Better for Pakistan's relations with the international
community.

Mr. Chairman, we and other members of the international community are
watching closely as the situation in Pakistan continues to evolve. We
are consulting with key states regarding the situation. We have a
great many important issues to address with Pakistan, issues which can
best be addressed by a democratic government. These include:

-- Contributing to the development of stable, peaceful relations
between Pakistan and India;

-- Averting a nuclear arms race in South Asia; and

-- Stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan and addressing the
questions of terrorism, human rights, and narcotics.

Pakistan is important. It is important because it can serve as an
example of a progressive Islamic democracy, because it is a link --
both economic and political -- the Indian Ocean and Central Asia,
because it has significant human and economic resources, and because
it has historically been a friend of the United States. It is
important therefore for the United States and other long-time friends
of Pakistan to express their concern, exert their influence, and take
those steps necessary and appropriate so that Pakistan ran resume its
course toward stable, constitutional democracy as soon as possible.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State.)