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DATE=12/12/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=YEARENDER: PAKISTAN NUMBER=5-44975 BYLINE=SCOTT ANGER DATELINE=ISLAMABAD CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Pakistan has faced another turbulent year in its 52-year history. During 1999, the South Asian nation stood on the brink of war, witnessed the conviction of a former prime minister and rejoiced after its democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup. Correspondent Scott Anger looks back on the year that began with a move toward peace with rival India. TEXT: Politics has dominated Pakistan in 1999. The year began with a historic peace overture by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his counter-part in India. Atal Behari Vajpayee arrived by bus in Pakistan's eastern city, Lahore, and signed a declaration that called for additional talks on peace and nuclear issues. Hopes had been high that a major breakthrough had taken place in Lahore, where Mr. Sharif emphasized a new beginning in Indo-Pak relations. /// SHARIF ACT /// Neither Pakistan nor India has gained anything from the conflicts and tensions of the past 50- years. I would like a Pakistan-India relationship that is free of tensions and based on mutual trust and confidence. We must bring peace to South Asia. We owe this to ourselves and to our future generations. /// END ACT /// But while trying to make peace on the international front, Prime Minister Sharif was quickly making enemies at home. While riding a wave of popularity following the Lahore summit, he intensified a crackdown on his political rivals and critics in the news media. Leading newspaper editor Najam Sethi was arrested during a midnight raid by police and detained for nearly a month. He was released after the government received international condemnation for the action -- no formal charges were filed against him. Several other journalists were also harassed by the government for reporting on Mr. Sharif's alleged corruption. On the political front, the government investigated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Mr. Sharif's political arch-rival. The probes eventually led to her conviction on charges that - while in office - she and her husband received kickbacks on government contracts. Ms. Bhutto has denied wrongdoing and says her conviction was a result of Mr. Sharif's campaign to eliminate opposition political parties. /// BHUTTO ACT /// I could not even keep track of all the cases, because there were so many different litigation against my husband and myself - from tax notices to murder charges and corruption. Two-and-a- half years ago, I was sitting as the prime minister of Pakistan, on top of the world. And how suddenly things can change, and suddenly from being an important person, I have become a totally non-person. /// END ACT /// The conviction of Pakistan's first female prime minister has been a set-back for her party and forced her to live in self-exile. Ms. Bhutto faces arrest if she returns, her husband has remained in jail since his arrest in 1996. Tensions between Pakistan and India resurfaced despite the "bus diplomacy" in February. Months later, Pakistan-backed fighters engaged Indian troops among the Himalayan peaks in Kashmir, destroying any foundation for lasting peace the Lahore summit had built. The conflict in Kargil, on the Indian side of the border, ended after Prime Minister Sharif agreed to withdraw the fighters to the Pakistani side of the Line of Control that divides Kashmir. The Kargil crisis was seen by many in Pakistan as a political setback for Mr. Sharif and an international humiliation for Pakistan. Pakistan's Islamic parties demonstrated against the prime minister, calling the withdrawal from Indian Kashmir a betrayal. Islamic leaders in Pakistan called for Mr. Sharif's removal from office. The prime minister's order to withdraw also angered Pakistan's military, which had orchestrated the incursion. Meanwhile, inflation, unemployment, and lawlessness rose to new levels. By early October, sectarian violence claimed more than 50-lives throughout the country, and tensions between the Sharif government and the military continued to rise. On October 12th, Mr. Sharif removed army chief General Pervez Musharraf from his post, but the decision backfired. Hours later, the military overthrew Pakistan's democratically elected government in a bloodless coup. General Musharraf appeared on state- run television. /// MUSHARRAF ACT /// I wish to inform you that the armed forces have moved in. For the moment, I only wish to assure you that the situation in the country is perfectly calm, stable, and under control. /// END ACT /// The military suspended the constitution and parliament. Nawaz Sharif and a number of his advisors were placed under arrest and taken out of the capital, Islamabad. Following the coup, people danced in the streets, passing out sweets to celebrate the removal of the increasingly unpopular prime minister. Posters of Nawaz Sharif were burned as many people expressed hope that a new beginning had dawned for the country. Five-days after the coup, General Musharraf appeared again on national television to explain the military action. /// MUSHARRAF ACT TWO /// Today, we have reached a stage where our economy has crumbled, our credibility is lost and state institutions lie demolished. We have lost our honor, our dignity and our respect. I chose to save the nation. This is not martial law, only another path towards democracy. The armed forces have no intention to stay in charge any longer than is absolutely necessary. /// END ACT /// General Musharraf has promised to stay in power only long enough to revive the country's economy, root out high-level corruption, and clean up Pakistan's political structure, which he says has not been operating as a true democracy. International condemnation trickled in after the general failed to set a date for elections, but many countries, including the United States, say they are willing to give the general a chance. The general blames former governments for many of Pakistan's social and economic ills. But Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor of physics and a leading social critic, has warned that the roots of Pakistan's problems lay much deeper. /// HOODBHOY ACT /// For those of us who watched television on the 12th of October, we learned that Pakistan is seriously sick. We have hit rock-bottom, said the general, and how could one disagree with him. We have to go beyond all this and ask, what is it that is wrong? It is the weakness of civil society, the inability to create and maintain functioning institutions, such as those of education, health, and local government. And our gradual, but clear, transformation into a beggar state. /// END ACT // General Musharraf has so far kept his word and carried out a campaign to recover billions of dollars lost to loan default in the country. He has arrested a number of politicians and leading figures who failed to pay back massive loans. The general has promised more accountability in the future. Meanwhile, the military government has been building a criminal case of conspiracy, attempted murder, and hijacking against ousted Prime Minister Sharif. /// OPT /// The charges stem from an incident hours before the coup on October 12th when the prime minister allegedly denied landing rights to the plane carrying General Musharraf and 200 others to Pakistan from Sri Lanka. The military says the plane, which had been low on fuel, was forced to circle the Karachi airport and was minutes from crashing, before army troops seized control of the country and allowed it to land. ///END OPT /// During an appearance in court after nearly 40-days of isolated detention, Mr. Sharif spoke to reporters to proclaim his innocence. /// SHARIF ACT TWO /// I am neither a terrorist, nor a hijacker, nor anything else of that sort. I was the constitutional prime minister of the country. From the prime minister's house, I was taken straight into detention. /// END ACT /// Lawyers for the ex-prime minister say the evidence against him is weak and the actions he took were in response to the coup. More than two-months after the prime minister's removal from office, Pakistanis say they remain optimistic General Musharraf can bring change. But uneasiness and criticism is growing. People say they expected more from the military government. General Musharraf reminds critics it took years of corruption and mismanagement by successive governments bring Pakistan to its present condition. The general says it will take more than two-months to get it out. The military has ruled Pakistan for nearly half its 52-year existence. Political observers say past military intervention has added to the country's troubles. They warn that the longer the military rules Pakistan, the worse off the country will be. (SIGNED) NEB/SA/RAE 13-Dec-1999 09:42 AM EDT (13-Dec-1999 1442 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .