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ASIA
OCTOBER 19, 1998 VOL. 152 NO. 15


It isn't clear how deep resentment in the military runs. Karamat, nicknamed the "Consensus Man" by fellow officers, was not acting alone when he confronted Nawaz Sharif, according to military sources. He consulted the army's corps commanders, for example, who reportedly pushed him to intervene. Musharraf, by breaking ranks with other generals to take the job, may have increased restiveness inside the military. With Pakistan already technically in default on its international debts, funds for the military--which swallows about 40% of the government's budget--are slowing to a trickle. Moreover, the army isn't happy with Nawaz Sharif's interference inside the barracks. Last year, the Prime Minister altered the constitution, giving himself the power to appoint the army chief (which is why he was able to get rid of Karamat).

The controversy has aroused Pakistani passions. Many had welcomed Karamat's challenge. Displeasure with the government has grown amid new allegations in a British Sunday newspaper, The Observer, that Nawaz Sharif and his family have stashed away more than $70 million in offshore accounts and taken long-term leases on several flats in London's posh Mayfair district. The claims, later denied by Nawaz Sharif, followed the Prime Minister's decision to freeze foreign currency accounts across the country, wiping out ordinary Pakistanis' dollar savings. The move hit the coddled military elite--who like to send their sons and daughters to foreign universities--especially hard. Karamat's challenge had won support from nearly all opposition groups, including ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. Even senior members of Nawaz Sharif's own Pakistan Muslim League publicly conceded that the military's offer might represent Pakistan's only escape from its growing turmoil.

By stripping the generals of their might, Nawaz Sharif may in the process be weakening his own ability to cope with Pakistan's mounting ills. Cautions Maleeha Lodhi, editor of The News, a national daily: "The crisis in Pakistan has so many dimensions that no single institution can solve this." The former military chief, as one newspaper commented, offered his help as a friend, not an enemy. Having refused him, the besieged Prime Minister may soon find himself surrounded by enemies--and very few friends.

Reported by Ghulam Hasnain/Karachi and Syed Talat Hussain/Islamabad

PAGE 1  |  2  



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