The Fragile Base of Democracy in Pakistan
On 12 October 1999, Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, suspended the national and provincial legislatures, placed the constitution in abeyance, and arrested Sharif and his key associates in a bloodless coup. The military was given both a motive and an excuse to reimpose direct military rule for the fourth time in Pakistan's history by the political leadership's failure to successfully oversee the transformation of the political system from authoritarianism to participatory democracy. From the restoration of democracy in 1988 to the military coup of 1999, despite the presence of elected governments, the constitutional framework remained weak and ineffective, and democratic norms failed to take root. Regrettably, little progress was made towards accommodating internal pressures and demands for socio-economic equality and a pluralistic, participatory system. As a result, Sharif's declining domestic legitimacy gave a disgruntled and ambitious military leadership an opportunity to assume direct control of the state.