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18 August, 2008

Pakistan forces out another military ruler

In 61 years of existence, Pakistan has seen several military rulers. Not one of them could make a quiet exit. They all quit under pressure of circumstances. Ayub Khan and Zia-ul-Haq, who reigned longest, remained in office for 11 years. Pervez Musharraf’s exit comes nine years after he seized power.

Musharraf sent his resignation letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly even as the house was preparing to impeach him. Earlier, all provincial assemblies had adopted resolutions asking him to resign or face impeachment.

In the first military coup, staged in 1955, eight years after Pakistan’s creation, Iskander Mirza, an ex-army man serving as Defence Secretary, became the Governor-General. Later he made himself President. In 1958, he proclaimed martial law and made the army chief, Ayub Khan, the chief martial law administration. Within weeks, Ayub Khan exiled Mirza and took over as President.

In 1969, as public opinion turned against him, Ayub Khan handed over the reins to army chief, Yahya Khan, whom he had earlier promoted over the heads of seven other generals.
The 1971 war with India, which resulted in the emergence of Bangladesh as a free country, sealed his fate. Under pressure of public opinion, he turned over control to Z. A. Bhutto. By 1977, the civilian administration got discredited enough to tempt army chief Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq to seize power. His death in a helicopter crash under mysterious circumstances in 1988 paved the way for another round of civilian rule.

Then came Pervez Musharraf. After wielding authority unchallenged for nearly nine years, he ushered in a civilian government. Before that, while still in uniform, he secured for himself a new term as President. Public opinion forced him to quit the army. On August 7, the leaders of the two largest parties, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League, agreed on his impeachment. Neither the army nor the United States came to his rescue.

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