October 14, 1999
PAKISTAN: 'A COUP IN DANGEROUS TERRITORY'
Editorials from all corners of the globe registered intense worry following the Pakistani military's ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif two days ago. The vast majority of writers determined that the "coup" in nuclear-armed Pakistan had rendered South Asia much more "dangerous." Almost across the board, opinionmakers concluded that "few coups d'etat [could] pose more worry," given the conflicts between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, the perceived rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan and the country's dire economic situation. Writers offered mixed views on the legacy of the Sharif regime and on what might lie ahead for the nation, which, in the view of many, seemed to "stagger from one crisis to another." A substantial number of commentators in the region and in Europe emphasized Mr. Sharif's "depressing balance sheet" as a leader, finding common cause with London's conservative Times, which stressed: "Seldom has a politician so frivolously squandered the goodwill that originally brought him victory.... The outside world, like Pakistan's frustrated voters, may feel that a new government, even one brought in by the army, might be less bad for Pakistan than the distorted democracy it has endured until today." Many, including dailies in Pakistan, neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal, as well as Japan, most European countries and Nigeria, called for a quick restoration of civilian rule. "We cannot do without democracy," declared pro-Muslim League Pakistan. Lahore's center-right Nation concurred, adding: "A great responsibility rests on [the military's] shoulders to put the country back on its rails. And for that elections and a representative government as soon as possible are essential prerequisites." Following are additional themes in the commentary:
'AMERICA FUELED THE FIRE' BUT DOES IT 'CALL THE SHOTS'?: A number of observers held that Washington's "pressure" on Pakistan to withdraw from the Kargil region of Kashmir, and its calls on Pakistan to end its "collaboration with Afghanistan's Taliban" were seen to have "contributed" to Mr. Sharif's downfall. Summing up this view, London's independent Financial Times intoned: "Washington must face the fact that it may at least be perceived to be intricately bound up in the factors that appear to have led to the coup." This view also found resonance in Pakistan, where second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt judged: "America fueled the fire, taking revenge after the five nuclear tests. America also assured him (Nawaz) of its support more than once, showed him the way for action against Jihad forces and so pushed him into a blind alley." That said, many pundits sided with the influential, centrist Times of India, which argued that the coup "blows sky high...[the] fondly cherished illusion" that "Washington still calls the shots in Pakistan," adding: "The Pakistani generals are perhaps confident that after a little pro forma protestation, the U.S. will accept the ground reality and come to terms with a Pakistan ruled effectively by the army."
HOW TO PROCEED NOW? While sentiment was widespread that the West, along with China and Russia, must press the military to "restore democracy," many analysts voiced concern about how the international community could exert sufficient pressure for a return to civilian rule while not burdening the Pakistani people. A Thai paper cautioned that Western powers will have "to think very carefully before slapping Pakistan with sanctions" or taking any measures "that [would] push the military into a corner."
EDITOR: Kathleen J. Brahney
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 61 reports from 24 countries, October 13 - 14. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
PAKISTAN: "Fall Of The Nawaz Government"
An editorial in the center-right Nation stressed (10/14): "The army high command must have really been desperate to defy the prime minister this time, (as) it knew that the international community would disapprove of it and that its move would be challenged in the courts. The army must have also known that its move would do grievous harm to the process of democracy in the country.... The United States' implied warning to the army not to overstep the limits of the constitution was deemed to be a protective armor and (Sharif) threw all caution to the winds. It was wrong, but that does not mean that one wrong justifies another. Another wrong having already been committed, may we now urge caution on the part of the army. A great responsibility rests on its shoulders to put the country back on its rails. And for that elections and a representative government as soon as possible are essential prerequisites."
"The Inevitable Has Happened"
An editorial in Islamabad's rightist, English-language Pakistan Observer emphasized (10/14): "The chronology of events of the Nawaz government's tenure is typically a sorry, lesson-bearing tale of how a popularly and democratically elected leader can go berserk in pursuit of attaining full authoritarian powers, thereby destroying all established democratic institutions.... Repeated attempts were made to coerce journalists and the press who pin-pointed the flaws and mistakes in governance. Vengeance against every dissenting voice became a rule of the day.... In reaction to the assumption of power by the armed forces, the people, already fed up with the state of affairs created by the democrats...have heaved a sigh of relief. For many, particularly the outsiders, a military take over would be questionable and undemocratic, but for Pakistanis who have been groaning under the hardships inflicted on them by the corrupt and mismanaged administration, it is certainly a relief."
"Is The Same Thing Going To Happen Again?"
An editorial in leading, mass-circulation, Urdu-language Jang insisted (10/14): "The imprudence, vendetta, habit of taking quick decisions without proper consultation, and the ambition of our democratic rulefs to expand personal power, created the opportunity for the armed forces to take the extreme, but inevitable, step of dislodging an elected government. The former government tried to create an impression that whatever steps it took, it had the backing and support of the United States. President Clinton personally wanted to see Nawaz Sharif head the government, but the United States also repeatedly emphasized that democratic processes should be respected and the opposition should be granted its rights. The reaction of the United States over the dismissal of the Nawaz government is ample demonstration that it was not surprised by the army decision."
"Regrettable Situation: Change In Pakistan---What the Army Should Do"
An editorial in the second-largest, Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt held (10/14): "The government and the army lacked unanimity on the Washington declaration and many other issues.... The opposition played a role in this respect. America fueled the fire, taking revenge after the five nuclear tests. America also assured him (Nawaz) of its support more than once, showed him the way for action against Jihad forces and so pushed him into a blind alley.... It is to be seen how the Pakistani Army performs its obligation of restoring democracy soonest."
An editorial in the pro-Muslim League, Urdu-language Pakistan judged (10/14): "Repeated experience with martial law has taught us that we cannot do without democracy. Every martial law declaration has had the restoration of democracy as its ultimate goal. Why do we always have to start back at the beginning?"
"Constitution Should Not Be Further Undermined"
An editorial in popular, Urdu-language Din indicated (10/14): "The army chief's dismissal during his absence from the country cannot be described as an action in line with legal and moral values.... We appeal to the army leadership that the best way forward is to restore the constitutional role of the parliament after Nawaz Sharif's resignation, and have the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution repealed in order to restore parliament's independent status. The constitution should not be further undermined; Nawaz Sharif has already done so gravely."
"At The Crossroads Yet Again"
An editorial in the Karachi-based, independent national Dawn asserted (10/14): "The general has moved into an extremely grey area. He has not yet declared martial law nor has suspended the Constitution or the elected assemblies. He has not sought to justify on legal grounds his ouster of an elected government, probably because such things have no basis in law.... The military, unless it declares martial law, will have to act quickly to devise some formula that is both politically and legally sustainable. It has to do so not merely to placate domestic liberal and democratic sensibilities, which flinch at the prospect of military rule, but to satisfy the power centers abroad on whom the country depends for financial help."
"What After Nawaz's Ouster?"
Abdul Sami Paracha had this to say in Peshawar's independent Frontier News (10/14): "The constitutional and legal hawks whose help has been sought to provide some kind of cover to Tuesdays coup staged by a sacked army chief are too in a fix. The army, which has at least mustered the U.S.' support for its move to oust an elected government, seems uneasy to provide legal follow up.... The United States has already given a green light to the army leadership which is a good omen.... The general should take his time but deliver the goods to the nation. His choices can make the future of the country, and at the same time, upset everything so any step should be in the right direction."
"As You Sow, So Shall You Reap"
Hamed Mir penned this op-ed piece in Islamabad's popular, Urdu-language Ausaf (10/13): "At last, exactly what happened was that which the army was trying to avoid. When things started to get out of hand, despite its reluctance, the army had to rein in the elected democratic ruler of the country. What a pity that on October 12, when the army took control of the prime minister's house, the TV station and the airports, people started dancing in the streets and chanting anti-Nawaz slogans.... Whatever happened, the evening of October 12 has saved the country from a great civil war.... The fact of the matter is that Nawaz Sharif, by signing the Washington Declaration on July 4, had himself decided in favor of his political death."
"Address Sans Clarity"
The center-right Nation pointed out (10/13): "The early morning speech by Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf confirming that the military 'has moved in' raised more questions than it has answered.
"The brief speech did not say whether martial law had been imposed. By moving in, has the army taken over to reins of civilian government? And, how will the army constitutionally justify its action, and what about the Constitution? What is the fate of the parliament and whether this country has a head of the government? What would be his own role in the set-up that he did not describe?"
INDIA: "Nawaz's Nemesis"
The influential, centrist Times of India contended (10/14): "The possibility of a military coup in Pakistan--discussed for months in the world media--has finally been translated into reality in defiance of repeated warnings from the United States. This development blows sky high two fondly cherished illusions in this country. The first is the belief that Washington still calls the shots in Pakistan, a view widely shared and propagated both in the United States and India. The Pakistani Army is contemptuous of what it considers to be American naivete and gullibility.... The Pakistani generals are perhaps confident that after a little pro forma protestation, the United States will accept the ground reality and come to terms with a Pakistan ruled effectively by the army.... The second illusion that the coup shatters is about Mr. Nawaz Sharif's political acumen. The ousted prime minister has proved to be as poor a judge of character as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in choosing an army chief who turned out to be his nemesis.... As far as India is concerned, the military takeover in Pakistan will not necessarily exacerbate relations between the two countries. In fact, all coups in Pakistan have been followed by a period of somewhat lesser hostility as the army moved to consolidate itself and focussed its attention on running the country."
"International Community Has Strong Stakes In Democracy In Pakistan"
The centrist, independent Hindu maintained (10/14): "The international community, and India in particular, has strong stakes in the restoration of democracy in Pakistan. The cynical moves by some of Pakistan's opposition leaders--including Ms. Benazir Bhutto--who have actually welcomed the army coup, should be seen for what they are: sacrificing Pakistan's long-term stakes in a democratic future for their own immediate political ends. International pressure, as reflected for instance in the disapproval from organizations such as the Commonwealth, should force the army and its generals to retrace their steps and move quickly to limit the damage. A representative government must be allowed to come into office as soon as possible. Pakistan's troubled civil society can afford nothing else."
"Generals Cannot Be Immune To Pressure"
According to the influential, right-of-center, pro-BJP Indian Express' editorial (10/4): "The military coup in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was dismissed has left Pakistan standing at a crossroad. The world will watch anxiously to see what direction it takes and whether the breakdown of constitutional order will be followed by martial law, an interim civilian government pending fresh elections or a deeper slide into political anarchy..... The political and constitutional crisis in Pakistan is bound to cause deep disquiet everywhere. Pressure is being mounted by Western governments and multilateral financial institutions for the restoration of democracy. The generals cannot be immune for long to such pressure at a time when the country is close to bankruptcy. The outside world fears more militarism and more Islamisation of the body politic in Pakistan. Pakistanis themselves will probably be most concerned about how they are going to get good governance."
BANGLADESH: "Pakistanis Deserve Better"
The independent, English-language Daily Star intoned (10/14): "A hundred and one reasons may be cited in a pedantic after-thought as to how Nawaz Sharif brought upon himself the tragedy that befalls him today, but these cannot take away the stupefying unexpectedness of it.
"It is a shocker of immense proportions. And, as far as we are concerned, those umpteen causes cannot be put in a mellow light, far less provide even the remotest of justification for, the military's trampling underfoot of democracy in Pakistan for the fourth time in its 53-year history.... Yet in the ultimate analysis, whatever may be the dynamics of internal politics in Pakistan, we do not think these edge out the efficacy and value of democracy in that country. Military rule is not in fashion these days. They cannot hold out against the tide of democracy worldwide, just as globalization of the economy surges forward."
NEPAL: "Rape Of Democracy"
The centrist Kathmandu Post asserted (10/14): "The implications of army rule in Pakistan are grave for the region.... It is now clear that the Pakistani Army is smarting from the Kargil conflict and may take the rash decision to re-ignite it. With both Pakistan and India possessing nuclear weapons, the possibility of a nuclear conflagration between the two is very much in the cards. And to that extent, the army coup has rendered the South Asian region a less safe place to live in. The shadow of the coup will no doubt be there when the SAARC summit commences. It will be difficult for civilians to see eye to eye with military leaders. In short, there has been a rape of democracy in Pakistan and all those who believe in basic human freedoms must condemn the Pakistan military in no small terms. Those democratic countries which are in a position to do so must ensure that the Pakistan military returns the country to civilian rule and that the military learns to take orders from their civilian masters, no matter how unpalatable such orders may be."
BRITAIN: "Pakistan Under The Gun"
The independent Financial Times opined (10/14): "The United States and other Western countries rightly set store by democracy and the rule of law. These basic values should apply to Pakistan as much as to anywhere else. Arguably Pakistan needs a period of technocratic government that could revive the economy, act against corruption and introduce new standards of accountability and transparency. But this still needs to be a government endorsed by parliament and accountable to it. If all the military turns out to be doing is to provide Pakistan with a competent government more acceptable to the people than the last, the outside world could again look to providing the financial aid that Pakistan so badly needs.... But the task now is to create conditions in which democracy can work, not to make the failure of Pakistan's democratic governments an excuse for dictatorship."
"Voters, Not The Generals, Must Decide Pakistan's Future"
The centrist Independent commented (10/14): "The military takeover remains more of an almost-coup than a martial full monty. It would, however, be disastrous if the world were simply to shrug at the news of the takeover. Pakistan had a politically dodgy prime minister who was widely held to be corrupt. But the need for a new prime minister is not the same as the need for men in uniforms. Only if the military now sets out a timetable for fresh elections--which, according to the constitution, must be held within three months--is there a chance that things will get back on track. If the generals want to be remembered as patriots, they must accept that stability cannot be a synonym for suppressing democracy. If the generals use the ousting of Nawaz Sharif as an excuse to stay in power in the longer term, the country's problems will only go from bad to worse. The message must be clear: The political and economic freeze-out will be total, if the military tries to consolidate its long-term hold on power."
"A Coup In Pakistan"
The conservative Daily Telegraph argued (10/14): "The [army's] unconstitutional action will make a dire economic situation even worse. Their contempt for elected government plays into the hands of Muslim radicals. Pakistan has simply staggered from one crisis to another."
"Distortions Of Democracy"
The conservative Times opined (10/13): "Pakistan's most powerful institution has, once again, made its presence felt. In almost every way, the fault for Pakistan's latest crisis can be laid squarely with the prime minister himself. Seldom has a politician so frivolously squandered the goodwill that originally brought him victory. In domestic tussles...Mr. Sharif has done little but try to extend his own powers. Internationally, too, Mr. Sharif had done Pakistan little good. Yesterday's turn of events, putting the government of the newest nuclear power in military hands and adding heat to an already volatile region, can be expected to add to American exasperation. Mr. Sharif's sorry record may be why Washington, despite its earlier strong warnings, is taking an unusually softly-softly tack, calling only for the swift restoration of democracy 'if a coup has taken place.' The outside world, like Pakistan's frustrated voters, may feel that a new government, even one brought in by the army, might be less bad for Pakistan than the distorted democracy it has endured until today."
"U.S. Could Face Loss Of Leverage"
The independent Financial Times reported (10/13): "The military coup that seems to have toppled the government of Nawaz Sharif presents the United States with more than the usual set of diplomatic and strategic headaches. In addition to its long-standing fears of destabilization of already volatile relations between Pakistan and India, Washington must face the fact that it may at least be perceived to be intricately bound up in the factors that appear to have led to the coup. U.S. officials seemed especially anxious yesterday to stress that they had no foreknowledge of the coup. But there has been no disguising the concern with which the United States has watched the political troubles that have engulfed Mr. Sharif in recent weeks."
FRANCE: "Into The Unknown"
Pierre Rousselin judged in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/14): "Will the military, which is now in possession of the nuclear bomb, be in a position to put the country back on track, avoid an escalation from Islamic groups and stay away from nationalistic temptations? Will it be able to ensure a transition toward a legitimate civilian and democratically elected government? These unknown factors are major causes for concern.... India is ready to give Musharraf the benefit of the doubt.... As for the United States, it has engaged in double talk. On the one hand, it pressured for Pakistani withdrawal from Kashmir, for an end to the Pakistani collaboration with Afghanistan's Talebans and Islamabad's signing of the CTBT. All this contributed to Sharif's downfall. At the same time, Washington publicly warned against a coup."
"Toward An Islamic Bomb?"
Jean-Marc Bonin remarked in right-of-center France Soir (10/14): "The causes that led to the coup in Pakistan are not good omens for the future. And Pakistan, Washington's perpetual 'client,' is no longer listening to its 'supplier.' Washington can scream all it wants, but for the time being the generals are lending deaf ears. In their hands, the nuclear bomb is frightening an entire continent. The West is exercising some pressure on the military with threats of cutting off IMF aid. But will this be enough? What would happen in the army's ranks if the generals were to give in to the West? The Pakistani army is full of religious fundamentalists."
Paula Boyer declared in Catholic La Croix (10/14): "The West's fear of seeing the nuclear bomb fall into the hands of Muslim fundamentalists is unrealistic.... To date, the Pakistani army has not given in to the fundamentalists' call, except for a very small fraction of low-ranking soldiers."
"The World's Most Dangerous Country"
Dominique Bromberger told listeners of government-funded France Inter radio (10/13): "Pakistan is the world's most dangerous country.... Because of Pakistan's exceptional strategic position, the West has closed its eyes to much of its questionable attitude.... The three major dangers posed by Pakistan can be summarized as follows: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction...an exacerbated nationalism...and religious fanaticism.... Pakistan, with Afghanistan, is a major training camp for terrorists of all sorts.... Now that the army has all the power...we can only hope that its newly acquired responsibilities will grant it a sense of self-control."
Francois Clemenceau remarked on privately run Europe One radio (10/13): "Washington is more than a little embarrassed because Pakistan has been its major ally in the region since the 1970s.... For the United States, Pakistan served as a lookout post in its fight against Afghanistan's Soviets and in its surveillance of India, a country which the United States mistrusts because of its close ties with Moscow. Still, this strategic partnership does not seem to have served Washington...because Pakistan has been helping Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan, because of its nuclear proliferation and its endemic economic corruption. All of those things frighten the rest of the world."
GERMANY: "Coup In A Nuclear State"
Right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine front-paged this editorial by Werner Adam (10/14): "The balance sheet of the civilian government that has now again been replaced by the military is depressing. Pakistan is moving along the brink of bankruptcy, is ravaged by bloody clashes between Sunnis and Shiites, and has, as far as foreign policy is concerned, antagonized India, Iran, and, for the first time, the Soviet part of Central Asia.... In their efforts to achieve regional stability, the Americans are increasingly turning to the Indians. And [with] the latest developments in Pakistan, we can assume that this new shift will continue at the expense of Pakistan. Never before has the argument of the military...been as true as today: The armed forces are the only factor in the country that is able to maintain order. But up until today...the armed forces have not been able to prove that the economic and social situation in the country has improved under their rule. Nevertheless, Pakistan cannot be considered a banana republic. The Islamic potential weighs too much, let alone that the world has now become witness to the first military coup in a nuclear weapons state."
"Coup In Dangerous Territory"
Michael Stuermer held in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/14): "It is not enough to hold our breath and to see what kind of mixture will come out of military rule, Islamism, economic crisis, and the bomb.... It is high time that the United States, China, and Russia give advice to Islamabad which it cannot reject."
"Reason For The Coup"
Karl Grobe judged in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (10/14): "The military ousted a premier whose time was up.
"But they have not yet made up their mind on what should follow now.... And since their coup was based on the view not to stop the military confrontation with India, we must be worried about their military thinking since Pakistan has the bomb.... But the call for the restoration of democracy looks helpless if not naive. In Pakistan...moves toward democracy were destroyed by democratically elected politicians..... This explains the reaction of the people to the coup, but it does not justify the coup. It creates helplessness and conjures up the danger that the military will [stir up an] excessively militarized nationalism. A more devastating judgment of...Mr. Sharif's legacy is hardly possible."
Ewald Stein stressed in business Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (10/13): "Again, Pakistan has pursued politics according to well known patterns. If the military does not like a decision of a civil government, [the military] shows who has the say in the South Asian country.... At any rate, the generals do not allow anybody to change their privileges. How could it then be possible that one of the poorest developing nations on earth spends 4.4 percent of its GNP on arms.... However, this time, more is involved than privileges.... From the viewpoint of the leadership of the armed forces, at issue is the honor of the soldiers. And the focus is not so much on the dismissal of the joint chief of staff but Kashmir, since Premier Sharif prevented the military from...teaching India a lesson. But it was the U.S. government which forced Islamabad to stop the military adventure in Kargil. For strategic reasons, Pakistan continues to be dependent on the support of patrons in the United States. The soldiers, for whom even the slightest concession in the controversial Kashmir region is a sacrilege, feel unfairly treated. This is all the more the case since Premier Sharif expressed an increasing willingness to engage in dialogue with India about Kashmir.... [Mr. Sharif's] intention to defuse potential conflict and avoid nuclear escalation is obvious. But for the armed forces, this counts little. They continue to cultivate their traditions."
ITALY: "U.S. Support"
Roberto Fabbri maintained in leading, rightist opposition Il Giornale (10/14): "One thing is certain: the new Pakistani military leaders will not be able to count on the support of the United States. Secretary Albright, in fact, said yesterday that she 'strongly hopes for an immediate restoration of the constitutional system.'... America also waves the threat of trade sanctions, well aware of the fact that General Musharraf is the leader of the bellicose nationalism which, over the last few months, has supported a war (in Kashmir) that only the strong pressure of the United States succeeded in curbing. Washington has now lost a precious interlocutor, Sharif."
"There Is Islam Behind The Military"
Former UN official Giandomenico Picco insisted in pro-DS (leading government party) L'Unita (10/14): "The United States ability to influence Pakistan is increasingly limited. Perhaps the only countries which are still able to get Islamabad's attention are Saudi Arabia and China. And perhaps it is up to them not to let an important and large country like Pakistan be completely 'Talibanized.'... I can understand the disappointment of General Musharraf.... Last summer, he had almost won in Kashmir and the United States stopped him. In Afghanistan, where his men have a strong influence over the Talibans...the United States also prompted him to change strategy. Furthermore, military and financial aid from the United States has been considerably reduced. So, where is Pakistan going? Will it seek the answer to its social and economic problems, as well as social prestige abroad, in a military, financial and religious alliance with the Saudis? And, in this case, what will be the role of the fundamentalists within the armed forces?"
"Risk Of A Fundamentalist Turning Point"
This editorial by former Ambassador Boris Biancheri appeared in centrist, influential La Stampa (10/13): "Central Asia...seems like an old mosaic of ethnic, political and religious tensions which grew interwined along with two very dangerous situations in recent years: the nuclear capability reached by both Pakistan and India....and the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the region.... During the last few weeks, clashes occurred between demonstrators and the police.... Rumors began that the United States, after having long supported him, lost confidence in Sharif, and even thought that a military government would give more stability to Pakistan.... It is too early...to say that this is true. However, should this be true and should...General Mushammar reassure the United States, it would not necessarily reassure us."
RUSSIA: "What Happens Next?"
Anatoly Shapovalov observed in official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (10/14): "The Pakistani military has little room for maneuver. It will hardly risk getting out of hand, Pakistan's foreign debt of $23 billion being one of the reasons."
"Armed And Unpredictable"
Reformist Segodnya (10/14) front-paged this comment by Vladimir Skosyrev: "Every adjacent country's security has immediately been affected.... The Pakistani military accepting Islamic fundamentalism would make the Talibs' Afghanistan look like Disneyland."
"Serious Test For U.S."
Reformist Vremya-MN (10/14) said in a page-one commentary by Yevgeny Antonov and Arkady Dubnov: "The Islamists in power in Pakistan must be a serious test for the Americans. But Washington, remarkably, is not jittery. Obviously, it believes it will come to terms with any administration in Islamabad."
"Army Can Ensure Stability"
Boris Volkhonsky noted in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant Daily (10/14): "Observers agree that the army is the only force capable of ensuring stability in Pakistan and making its foreign policy predictable. As it criticizes the undemocratic coup, the West is not inclined to bemoan Sharif's departure--his non-transparent policy, an economic and political crisis, and runaway corruption have long since put off investors. The new ruler is reputably pro-Western and pragmatic."
"It's Business As Usual"
Vadim Markushin contended in centrist army Krasnaya Zvezda (10/14): "The military coup has had no shocking effect on the Pakistanis. It is business as usual. Nobody is protesting. Rather than managing Pakistan's far from robust economy, the military only insists on long overdue shifts of emphasis in its policy."
"Nuke Nightmare Close To Coming True"
Reformist daily Vremya-MN (10/13) front-paged this by Yevgeny Antonov and Aleksandr Timofeyev: "The coup in Pakistan has confronted the world with the danger of a nuclear conflict. The West's nightmare about an Islamic regime getting hold of a nuclear bomb has come nearest to reality today."
BELGIUM: "The Coup"
Catherine Vuylsteke noted in independent De Morgen (10/14): "Above all, the coup proves that Washington is not omnipotent and that a prime minister who has the explicit support of the White House can be ousted. Critics even claim that precisely that alliance has caused the fall of Sharif: He looked like a lackey of the United States."
"A Predictable Settling Of Accounts"
Philippe Paquet told readers of conservative, Catholic La Libre Belgique (10/14): "The concern is probably due to the extremist character of General Musharraf, who was defending a hard position on the Kashmir issue.... Mr. Sharif, who was more flexible because of the poor economic situation, finally yielded to Washington's pressure.... A settling of accounts was thus predictable, which explains the American reaction which was as sharp as it was well prepared. It is true that this coup deprives the United States of the little room to maneuver which it still had in Islamabad."
"Fundamentalist Boomerang Effect In Pakistan?"
Agnes Gorissen observed in independent Le Soir (10/13): "Nawaz Sharif is today the victim of the boomerang effect: It is those fundamentalists who have increased the current chaos by massively demonstrating against the government after the defeat in Kashmir this summer. The army--whose relations with Prime Minister Sharif were bad--has decided to bring an end to the Sharif experience. The question is now: to do what?"
"Generals Take Care Of Things In Pakistan"
Asian affairs writer Manu Tassier put forth these observations in independent, Catholic De Standaard (10/13): "The support of the West--and the United States in particular--has always been an important factor for Pakistan. That was also clear in the most recent crisis around Kashmir. In the spring, India carried out a large-scale military offensive against infiltrators on its soil. Washington was scared to death that the conflict might escalate because both countries carried out nuclear tests the year before. Under pressure from U.S. President Bill Clinton, [Prime Minister] Sharif asked the rebels to withdraw from Indian soil. Among other things, the prime minister wanted to placate Washington to make it alleviate the its sanctions imposed after the nuclear tests. In recent weeks, rumors about a military coup prevailed. Washington even felt compelled to announce that it would oppose all attempts to oust the Sharif government with illegal means. That was a signal for the army and the opposition, which increased pressure through mass demonstrations."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Pakistan Makes The World Concerned"
A commentary in leading, economic Hospodarske noviny asserted (10/14): "The bloodless coup that deposed Nawaz Sharif has caught the outside world by surprise, but the Pakistanis themselves were not surprised. They are used to the fact that in South Asian Muslim countries, it is usually the military that decides what democracy is, what the government should do, and how parliament should vote.... Although there is little hope that the world will be able to have an effective impact on current internal developments in Pakistan, [the international community] has started to exert pressure for speedy stabilization and a return of civilian government in Islamabad.... The world has no choice.... The idea of a group of irresponsible officers taking over in a nuclear power is so terrifying that no responsible person can tolerate it."
KAZAKHSTAN: "An Event Fraught With Dangerous Consequences"
Independent NTK TV told viewers (10/13): "This event is fraught with dangerous consequences for the entire international community because Pakistan is a nuclear state.... The world community anxiously waits to see how the Pakistani military who has unlimited power will behave and whether nuclear weapons will be used. U.S. representatives announced they will support the establishment of a democratic regime in Pakistan, but they did not state more precisely if it means [U.S.] military interference."
NORWAY: "Ungovernable Atomic Power"
Independent VG commented (10/14): "A military coup in Pakistan is rarely a big surprise.... But it differs from some of the other ungovernable states, since Pakistan is an atomic power which has a bitter conflict with the neighbor country India.... A great deal is insecure in Pakistan today. But there is almost no doubt that the defense expenses, which are almost astronomic in an already poor country, will increase even more."
"Dangerous Coup In Pakistan"
In Social Democratic Dagsavisen (10/14), Erik Sagflaat wrote: "The military coup in Pakistan opens the way up for a dangerous destabilization of South Asia.... The effective way the coup was carried out tells us something of how well planned it was.... International pressure is necessary to prevent a catastrophe in South Asia.... We must hope that countries like China and Saudi Arabia are concerned enough too, so they can give the coupmakers necessary advice."
POLAND: "The Return Of The Generals"
Ryszard Malik pointed out in centrist Rzeczpospolita (10/13): "It is normal in Pakistan that when civilian politicians cannot cope with the situation, the army steps in to establish order.... Pakistan plays an important role in the region. During the Cold War era, with the traditional Indian-Soviet friendship and Chinese hostility toward the United States, Islamabad was Washington's most important ally in this region of Asia.... In recent years, Washington-Islamabad relations grew cool because of Pakistan's nuclear tests. It was, however, thanks to mediation and pressure from Washington that an accord with India could be forged, thus ending the verbal war which might have led to a nuclear conflict. Now, with the military in power [in Pakistan], and Hindu nationalists in India...a new India-Pakistan conflict is quite a real possibility."
"The Army Against Democracy"
Jan Skorzynski maintained in centrist Rzeczpospolita (10/13): "It is true that because of inefficient and corrupt politicians, Pakistan is in a miserable state. But a good part of responsibility for this falls on the military, which has pushed for nuclear weapons programs and confrontation with India. The most serious sin of the Pakistani Army is that it has poisoned the political life of the country which was established 52 years ago. Constantly violated by the army, democratic principles of public life have had no chance to take root in Pakistan, which is also torn by ethnic and religious conflicts.... Under the rule of law, the government dismisses generals. There will be no democracy in a country where reverse customs reign."
SPAIN: "Foreordained Coup"
In the editorial view of liberal El Pais (10/14): "Former Prime Minister Sharif...began to fall from favor when, under American pressure, he ordered the withdrawal of his troops from the border with Kashmir.
"That decision, seen as extremely humiliating by the military, also cast him into disfavor with radical Islamic parties which accused him of having sold out the disputed Himalayan region.... Another nail in his coffin was the resurgence, after several months of relative calm, of bloody clashes between members of the Sunni majority and Shiite minority sects. Last week certain religious parties called upon the military to 'act to save the country.' General Pervez Musharraf and those around him have answered the call."
"A Nuclear Power Under Army Control"
Independent El Mundo argued (10/13): "Few coups d'etat can cause more worry than the one that took place yesterday in Pakistan, which has been a de facto nuclear power since the 1970s and proved it in May, 1998 in response to neighboring India's nuclear tests.... The overthrow of the civilian government causes special concern because the origin of the tensions between the army and the prime minister lies in the conflict with India over Kashmir, a stand-off for which the country's new strong man favors a military solution.... The U.S. State Department reacted strongly and immediately yesterday demanding the restoration of democracy and threatening the new leaders with commercial and economic sanctions.... This development should be taken up urgently by the UN Security Council, since a nuclear arms race in Asia could be right around the corner."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "Internal Pakistan Situation Concerns The World"
Ding Zi remarked in official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 10/14): "At present, analysts foresee no signs that the military will remain in control, and therefore it is most likely that power will be returned to the civil government after some interim period."
JAPAN: "Military Overthrow Of Sharif Government Cannot Be Condoned"
Liberal Asahi's editorial stressed (10/14): "The military coup in Pakistan, which has not only conducted nuclear tests, despite international opposition but also 'rekindled' the Kashmir conflict with India, could have a serious effect on the security of South Asia. We cannot but entertain deep apprehensions of the situation in Pakistan. The Sharif administration is a democratically and legally elected civilian government. The military's use of force to overthrow the civilian government can hardly be condoned. General Musharraf must normalize the country's political situation as soon as possible. He has to clarify a timetable for holding general elections and handing the reins of government over to a civilian caretaker government. The Sharif government had halted nuclear and missile tests amidst rising international criticism. But now that the military has seized power, we are gravely concerned that it will resume nuclear and missile arms development."
"Pakistan In The Shadow Of Islamic Fundamentalism"
Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri's former New Delhi chief correspondent Usaba judged (10/13): "The crux of the problem is not just the military's dissatisfaction with what was called Sharif's 'weak-kneed stance' on international criticism of Pakistan over the Kashmir problem. In reality, there is a sharp rise in the number of young, middle-ranking military officers who have turned to Islamic fundamentalism and are critical about corrupt government bureaucrats and politicians. Many of these army officers are said to have intense hatred against Sharif, who is eager to prioritize economic development by compromising or siding with international opinion. If the military seizes power, Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalist government will become even more confrontational with India than in the past, leading to an intense nuclear and missile arms race in South Asia or the intensification of the Kashmir conflict."
SINGAPORE: "Setback For Pakistan"
The pro-government Straits Times predicted (10/14): "The coup does not augur well for Pakistan's future. In the short term, it will revive fears of a new war with India, the danger of nuclear conflict, and the rise of Islamic extremism. The peace and stability of South Asia is very much in question now.... All things considered, the army takeover will compound Pakistan's difficulties. The military is in no position to solve its mounting economic problems."
THAILAND: "Implications Of The Coup"
The lead editorial in the independent, English language Nation emphasized (10/14): "Just recently, Washington sent a message to Islamabad that it would oppose any coup attempt by the military or any other form of overthrowing the government through extra-constitutional means. However, such warnings no longer have the effect that they are supposed to. The Pakistani military leaders, rather than taking heed, probably decided to show that they are capable of making independent decisions while at the same time indicating they were willing to bear the consequences. Indeed, within the region, the reactions to such frequently-issued signals from Washington are increasingly being treated in a blase fashion.... With Pakistan a new nuclear power, the military coup leaders...can heighten the Indian-Pakistani border tension once again to divert the people's attention from domestic problems. The Western powers will have to think very carefully before slapping Pakistan with sanctions or taking any measure that will push the military into a corner. It is essential the military is not provoked or given further ammunition to do anything unilaterally."
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
BAHRAIN: "Sharif Did Not Play The Game Right"
Semi-independent Akhbar Al-Khalij featured this commentary by Adnan Bumtaia (10/13): "Nawaz Sharif did not know how to play the game. He wanted to please America and flatter India at the expense of the Pakistani Army. He faced public anger with silence. This hidden anger burst out yesterday when he sacked his chief army general. The return of the army and its tanks to political life in Pakistan is a serious warning and evidence that the country is still immature."
NIGERIA: "Setback In Pakistan"
In the editorial view of the respected Lagos-based, independent Guardian (10/13): "Democracy suffered a major setback in Pakistan yesterday when military troops seized strategic installations across the country.... Military rule in Pakistan poses a clear threat to peace and stability in the subcontinent. Prime Minister Sharif was committed to the option of dialogue as a means of resolving the Kashmir conflict.... The military in Pakistan must respect the constitution and the will of the people. The international community must condemn Musharraf and his cohorts in the strongest terms possible."
CANADA: "Pakistan's Dark Hour"
The liberal Toronto Star asserted (10/13): "Whatever Sharif's failings, and they were many, this cynical coup is not in the best interest of Pakistan's 135 million, mostly poor, people. The millennium should not be ushered in at gunpoint. Pakistan needs a speedy return to civilian rule....
"Democratic government has been usurped by men with guns. Relations with the United States are frayed. Neighbouring India's army is on high alert. Investors and creditors will be shaken. Canada and other Commonwealth democracies must now keep faith with Pakistan's democrats, and push the generals to restore responsible government. Until then, there should be no business as usual."
"More Instability In An Unstable Region"
The conservative National Post intoned (10/13): "It looks as if India, China, the United States, Iran, Russia and local former Soviet republics are faced not only with a military regime but, more worryingly, with the possibility of the Talibanization of Pakistan. In these circumstances--which may, of course, change quickly--the West is right to cut off aid and to withdraw diplomatic support. A Taliban-friendly coup can only add a further element of instability to an already unstable region."
ARGENTINA: "Nationalism And Economic Crisis"
Maria Laura Avignolo, leading Clarin's London-based correspondent, concluded (10/13): "The coup d'etat in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the worst thing that could have happened in the overpopulated subcontinent, with its overwhelimng poverty, ruined economy and nationalistic leaders who aspire to substitute their needs with exaggerated patriotism and nuclear missiles.... The army, which has controlled power since the independence of the country, imposed an infiltration policy in Kashmir, with soldiers disguised as Islamic activists. President Bill Clinton's intervention stopped mutual attacks. Nawaz yielded, which was interpreted as weakness by the...fundamentalist military, who now ask him for an explanation."
"Dangerous Political Turn In Nuclear Pakistan"
Javier Navia penned this column for daily-of-record La Nacion (10/13) "The coup d'etat in Pakistan...represents a dangerous political turn in a nuclear power, [leading to] the likely control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal by fundamentalist sectors--a nightmare feared by the West that suddenly seems to have become real.... In a country dominated by the army and the rich land owners of Punjab, Sharif's reformist projects--supported by the West--clashed with the extremist groups which supported the Taliban's offensive in neighbor Afghanistan and which wanted to grab Indian Kashmir by the use of force.... The coup d'etat in Pakistan opens a question for the future of the country, which could be dragged to a civil war, with a brutal ingredient--a nuclear arsenal. And, for the first time in history, the world does not know who controls it."
MEXICO: "Pakistan: Nuclear Gorillas"
According to an editorial in left-of-center La Jornada under the above headline (10/13): "The coup against Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is cause of alarm for the international community because of that country's nuclear arsenal. One cannot overlook the United States and China's responsibility in their traditional support to the military in Pakistan. The United States had always a strategic ally in Pakistan that shared a border with the former Soviet Union. And China encouraged the Pakistani military's actions against India--a nation with which China has had longstanding territorial disputes. Both the Chinese and the Americans have provided Pakistan over the years with a constant and massive flow of weapons, and there is the suspicion that China provided decisive assistance so that Pakistan could develop the nuclear bomb. The international community faces the difficult challenge of exerting sufficient pressure on the perpetrators of the coup so that they are less aggressive. In addition, there is no desire to increase the suffering of the Pakistani people who are extremely poor and miserable, despite the technological prowess of their defense forces."
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