October, the 10th month of the calendar year, is almost a fortnight old. Living nations do remember history; learn from the good or bad events taking place every now and then to avoid such things which may lead to further bad developments.

As such, the month of October has somehow assumed a lot of importance in our chequered political history as many events of the sorts had taken place during this month in the past 71 years since the creation of Pakistan.

It was on October 16, 1951, just little more than four years after the birth of a separate country for the Muslims of the sub-continent, that Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was shot dead while addressing a public meeting in Gol Bagh Rawalpindi since named after him as Liaquat Bagh. This was the first political murder in the new-born country. The inquiry report conducted into this mysterious murder has never been made public so far. It is also not confirmed whether the post mortem of the assassinated prime minister was then conducted or not.

During the month of October in different years, two military take-overs by the then Army Chiefs had also taken place .

It was on October 7,1998, that the then President Justice (retired) Muhammad Rafiq Tarar on the recommendations of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promoted and appointed General Pervez Musharrf as the newChief of Army Staff (COAS) . In this way, General Pervez Musharraf had superseded couple of generals who were senior to him. Afterwards, General Pervez Musharraf was also named as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee on April 9, 1999 thus two offices were combined in one person.

The key post had fallen vacant after COAS General Jahangir Karamat was forced to step down by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for floating the idea of a civil-military partnership in power. The same idea was afterwards transformed into reality with the formational of the National Security Council through an Act of the Parliament.

Usually, the Chief of Army Staff is appointed for a period of three years. But the tenure can be cut down or extended depending on the circumstances by the competent authority and whether a civilian or a military ruler is at the helm of national affairs.

It was on October 12, 1999 when an event changed the course of things drastically. The civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was summarily ousted and COAS General Pervez Musharraf had seized the power assuming the title as the Chief Executive and retained incumbent President Rafiq Tarar apparently till the completion of his tenure.

All these developments had taken place in the fateful afternoon and culminated by the evening on October 12, 1999. Firstly, a ticker was run by PTV that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has removed COAS General Pervez Musharraf and appointed then ISI Chief General Ziauddin Butt as the new Army Chief in his place. Couple of hours later another ticker on PTV said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been ousted and COAS General Pervez Musharraf has seized the power. Had the Prime Minister reduced something in writing in this regard on some official file then the things would certainly have been entirely different instead of the developments that so took place.

It is a matter of record that General Pervez Musharraf had promulgated Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) on October 14, 1999 holding the 1973 Constitution in abeyance and suspended the Senate and its Chairman and Deputy Chairman, the National and Provincial Assemblies with their Speakers and Deputy Speakers and also dismissed the federal and provincial governments as well. It was first time ever that the Senate, upper house of the Parliament, was so dismissed, perhaps.

Under the PCO, the National Security Council was established in October 1999 with a mandate to render advice to the Chief Executive (later the President) on matters relating to national security, sovereignty and solidarity of Pakistan.

In October 2001, General Pervez Musharraf had extended his own term as the COAS indefinitely till further orders. Out of three previous military rulers, General turned Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan had relinquished the post of Commander-in-Chief when he had become the President by appointing General Muhammad Musa as his successor and General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan and General Muhammad Ziaul Haq had retained the khaki uniform even after assuming the office of the President.

In accordance with the direction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, general elections were held on October 10, 2002, just two days before the expiry of the three years’ timeframe laid down by by the country’s apex court.

It was also in the month of October that Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated on October 16, 1951 while addressing a public meeting in Rawalpindi and was replaced by Khwaja Nazimuddin, who had stepped down as the Governor General, on October 17, 1958 as the new prime Minister, the second in the list to which new names were being added as the years went by despite frequent military interventions. The democratic process had been derailed and the National and Provincial Assemblies dissolved a number of times. The third Governor General of Pakistan Malik Ghulam Muhammad laid the foundation of foul practice by dissolving the Constituent Assembly on October 1954 just when the draft of the Constitution was ready to be placed before the assembly for consideration and approval.

Pakistan’s third Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra was, however, not dismissed and was asked to run the administration until such time fresh general elections were held. Thus he remained in the office as the Prime Minister but with a reconstituted cabinet.

Cutting the long story short, the general elections for the 9th National Assembly were held on October 24, 1990 as a result of which Nawaz Sharif became the 13th Prime Minister.

Elections to the 10th National Assembly were held on October 6,1993 . Its first session was held on October 13, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani took oath as Speaker National Assembly on October 17 and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto became the Prime Minister for the second time by taking oath on October 19, 1993 as the 17th Prime Minister of Pakistan. By the time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was removed on October 12, 1999, both Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had served two stints was the Prime Ministers in quick succession in about a decade from December 12, 1988 to October 12,1999.

Besides these frequent political developments, more unpleasant than pleasant ones, the nature had also shaken the people of Pakistan when massive earthquake of 7.8 richter scale intensity hit the country on October 8, 2005 causing massive devastation in Islamabad, Azad Kashmir and elsewhere. Billions of rupees have been spent so far but the hard hit large numbers of people in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir have not been fully rehabilitated even after passage of thirteen long years.

This is not all. Developments continue to take place. Only Almighty Allah knows the best as to what is in store for the rulers, political leaders and the people of Pakistan in the coming days, weeks, months, years and decades. There is certainly and surely no harm in keeping our fingers crossed and praying for Almighty Allah’s continued blessings, mercy and good times coming and keeping Pakistan safe, secured, progress and developed for all times to come.

 

The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.

zahidriffat@gmail.com