6. Military Scandal 1989
In 1989, the media reported a sting operation and political scandal, codenamed Midnight Jackal, in which former members of ISI hatched a plan to topple the Bhutto government. Midnight Jackal was a political intelligence operation launched under President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg, whose objective was to pass a no-confidence motion in Parliament by bribing and threatening parliament members. Lieutenant-General Asif Nawaz had suspected the activities of Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmed, therefore, a watch cell unit was dispatched to keep an eye on him.
This operation was exposed by ISI when it obtained a VHS tape containing the conversation between two former army officers and former members of ISI, from the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The tape was confiscated by ISI director-general Lieutenant-General Shamsur Rahman Kallu, who showed it to Benazir the next day. The videotape showed the conversation of Major Amir Khan and Brigadier Imtiaz Ahmad revealed that Chief of Army Staff General Mirza Aslam Baig of that time wanted to end the government. Though the Brigadier failed to prove General Beg’s involvement, General Mirza, on the other hand, sharply denied the accusation and started a full-fledged courts martial of these officers, with Benazir being the civilian judge of JAG Branch to proceed the hearings. The officers were removed from their positions and placed at Adiala military correctional institute in 1989. The officers were released from the military correctional institute by order of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1996.
By 1990 the revelation of Midnight Jackal lessened President Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s influence in national politics, government and the military. Bhutto was thought by the president to be a young and inexperienced figure in politics, though highly educated. But he miscalculated her capabilities; she emerged as a ‘power player’ in international politics. Bhutto’s authoritative actions frustrated the president; he was not taken in confidence when decisions were made. By 1990 a power struggle between the prime minister and president ensued. Because of the semi-presidential system, Bhutto needed permission from Khan to impose new policies. Khan vetoed many, as he felt they contradicted his point of view. Bhutto, through her legislators, also attempted to shift to a parliamentary democracy from the semi-presidential system, but Khan always used his constitutional powers to veto Bhutto’s attempts.
Tales of corruption in public-sector industries began to surface, which undermined the credibility of Bhutto. The unemployment and labour strikes began to take place which halted and jammed the economic wheel of the country, and Bhutto was unable to solve these issues due to the cold war with the President. In November 1990, after a long political battle, Khan used the Eighth Amendment to dismiss the Bhutto government following charges of corruption, nepotism, and despotism. Khan called for new elections in 1990, where Bhutto conceded defeat.